You’ve wanted to start a business for a year now. You’ve read articles about it and told your family and close friends – yet you still haven’t finished a business plan. Or perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book for a few years yet have only written a few pages. Or maybe after an inspiring run earlier this year you decided to train for your first 10K – but you’ve barely been out running since. Having enthusiasm is precious, and experiencing ‘childlike’ excitement as an adult is an amazing feeling. However, the idea of doing something is vastly different from actually working on it and doing it. For some, it’s enough to daydream; for others, it can be extremely frustrating and demoralizing to get caught in a vicious cycle of leaving goals and dreams unfinished.
The most common reason for this happening is that ‘there just isn’t enough time’. Sometimes it’s true; when we’re overwhelmed and exhausted by our present circumstance, it can feel impossible to put energy toward something other than getting through the day. However, even when you need to prioritize other things, don’t lose sight of your end goal or postpone it for too long. Time moves swiftly and the longer you stay in one place, the harder it is to move. Working at a slower pace is may be necessary, but not working at all on something you care about means, sadly, you won’t make progress. Success requires patience and persistence and is almost never achieved overnight (or everyone would be successful).
“It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishments rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
How To Finish What You Start:
1/ Make sure you really want it. Having an idea that inspires you is thrilling. However, before diving in, be sure that your end goal is something for which you’re willing to work. The thought of doing or accomplishing something is generally more glamorous than the process, so your desire and motivation need to be high and remain high. Though the amount of work required will depend on your particular goal or circumstance, be sure you’re in love with the end goal enough to take real action over time.
2/ Test the water. Once you feel sure of what you want, it’s generally helpful to start by doing some research and possibly consulting with others. For instance, if your goal is to launch an internet start-up, The Lean Startup is a must-read. If your dream project is to write a book, you don’t necessarily need to read about it (though it may be helpful), but you do need write regularly for a few weeks to be sure it’s a good fit for you. Taking preliminary steps will help you discover a lot; perhaps you’ll decide you want to partner up with someone in your project. Meanwhile, if your goal is to run a road race, ‘testing the water’ is pretty simple – run several times each week for a few weeks and see how you feel before really commit.
3/ Decide on a game plan. You’ve thought about it and taken some baby steps; now it’s time to make a list of actions you need to make toward reaching your goal. Create a calendar with target dates and projected deadlines. Think long-term but plan short-term. For a road race, there are plenty of free online training programs and you can check out local running clubs in your area to find training partners to help motivate and push yourself. For business goals, speak with other entrepreneurs in your desired field for more information on how to develop a tentative timeline. Set goals that are challenging yet realistic according to your personal availability – in order to avoid burn-out or feeling discouraged because you’ve set unattainable goals. Your game plan will likely need adjusting over time according to how things evolve. However, goal-setting along the way is invaluable.
4/ Commit to it. Hold yourself accountable to your game plan, even as it changes. Your commitment will be the key factor in determining your follow through, so make sure you stay motivated and disciplined about ‘doing the work’ required to achieve your goal. Acknowledge before it gets tough that hardships, sacrifice and overcoming obstacles are a necessary part of the journey toward success. There is beauty in the struggle.
5/ Keep your final goal present + visible. Sometimes to arrive at your end goal of point C, rather than going to directly from points A and B, you need to travel to points F, Q and R. As with life, the journey toward a successful accomplishment is often not a straight line. During these moments, be sure to remember and stay focused on your final goal. This will help you avoid being distracted and losing perspective along the way.
6/ Stay flexible. Being ready to adapt is so important: be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes goals shift in surprising ways; even your end goal can morph into something different and more interesting to you — that you wouldn’t have discovered had you not attempted a first goal. Keep focused while staying flexible and open to new possibilities.
7/ Celebrate Small Steps. As we all sometimes need reminding, life is about the journey — and the same goes for your path toward achieving a personal goal or dream. Having a game plan and staying true to it (while making adjustments along the way) helps us stay aware of our progress. Each step toward a goal is a success, no matter how small and insignificant it may feel to you in the present moment. Be proud of yourself and of your progress!
8/ Don’t Force It. This one is difficult to acknowledge, especially when you’re really dedicated and passionate about a goal. It can be an incredibly painful decision to stop working on something you care so much about. However, we feel it necessary to include this on our list because, unfortunately, sometimes even when we give 100% to something – things outside our control block us from moving forward (this pertains to very challenging goals). There’s no such thing as failure when you’ve had the courage and persistence to go for it. New and even more interesting opportunities will arise; trust in your journey and in yourself.
* Song To Get You In The Mood: “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush.
Powerfully heart-moving, inspiring — you can feel the forward movement. Don’t let your dreams and goals be water under the bridge. Build the bridge.
Related Links & Sources:
“How To Finish What You Start”, article in Personal Excellence: http://goo.gl/60Ag0V
“10 Essential Tips to Finish What You Start”, article in Lifehack: http://goo.gl/22xlG0