Why is it hard to keep a long term goal? Logically, if you complete 1/365th of a task every single day of a year, you will complete your goal. When I started my year of blogging, I thought it would be easy to commit 30 minutes every day, in the morning, to writing a post, and then after a year I would have 365 posts. How it actually happened was a few weeks of consistency, a few days of nothing, a few days of double, triple, or even quadruple posting to catch up or get ahead, and no regularity or discernible pattern throughout the entire process.
Realistically, there is so much variation in our lives, it almost impossible to make the same progress day by day, week by week, or even month by month. Situation variation, it’s just the way it is.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – The only constant is change. No matter what you are working on, there will be times when other commitments will grow larger and prevent you from pushing toward your goal. But on the flip side there will be times when you can push harder and make more progress. Being open to the variation and prepared for the inevitable chaos is what makes all the difference between keeping on track or letting your goals fall away completely.
I wonder if this is another reason why most people fail when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. We finish up work and take a few days off, major projects are done before the holidays, after the break we get everything in order, and so we jump into a new year with less to commit to. So we add in the time for goals, which inevitably disappears when the year gets going as we have more commitments, and the resolutions fade away because we just couldn’t manage them.
So how do we manage the variation?
Part of it is setting a reasonable goal in the first place, leaving yourself the wiggle room to take on a bit more without dropping the time you’ve committed. The other part of it is being open to bad days, knowing that some days you may feel like you’re making no progress, or you had a bad week, or this month wasn’t as productive as last month. The realization that comparing progress to progress is futile, because you’re still moving in the right direction. Too many people give up because they aren’t making the same strides they did at the start, even if they are still making strides. So be open to the lulls, and keep focused, you’ll average them out with great days, amazing weeks, and spectacular months down the road.
The other major issue with variation is the seasons. Our lives naturally vary with seasons, and this can be to our benefit or detriment depending on the goal, especially if you live far from the equator, where the amount of daylight can vary quite a bit. In dark Winter, most Canadians hibernate to a point. We have less energy, we eat more, and we don’t spend much time on big projects. This flips completely in Summer. With extra daylight comes more energy, less desire to sleep, more fresh air, and more freedom to tackle big projects. But this shift in time can easily cause us to let go of our goals, especially because we made them in a different season that we can barely remember.
Tied to seasonal changes are holidays. If your goal is healthy eating holidays are one of the worst things. You go out with friends and family, or on vacation, or to celebrate, and suddenly your self control isn’t as sturdy as it was when you could cook your dinner at home with the ingredients you kept in the house. These are the times when your metal is tested.
But I find it’s easier to stick to seasonal and holiday variations in the same way we manage time variations: Be open to the slow progress, keep chipping away, and don’t ever quit.
It always comes back to persistence, to continuing after a failure, a setback, or a hiccup. Those who persist will always push through the situation variation, because no amount of variation can stop them. No holiday or season is treated differently, they still push forward. And even if they don’t see progress, they still persist. Persistence is the power to overcome all.
Keep that in mind.