There you are…feeling like it’s time to give up. You’re not making progress on your goal, despite how hard you fight. You don’t even know whether you want to make progress anymore. Surely, it’s time to throw in the towel; definitely time to quit.
Or is it?
It’s easy to end up in this position because there are multiple dimensions to actualizing goals. For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on the What, Why, And How of goals.
The “What” is simply the objective you’re trying to accomplish. In the best cases, this is expressed in some desired outcome like “make $2,000 per month by selling this product;” in less ideal scenarios, it’s “make money by selling this product.” The difference between the two is that with the former, progress is measurable, whereas in the latter, no matter how much money you make, you never know if you’ve accomplished your objective.
The “Why” is the reason why you want to accomplish the objective. The other words that fall into the “Why” camp are purpose, end, and intention. The tricky thing about ends is that they’re often nested – for instance, the reason you want to sell a product is so you can make money so you can put food on the table. When you get to many “so’s” running amok, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something.
The “how” is the way you’re going to accomplish your objective – it’s your plan. Having the objective and intention to “make $2k per month by selling this product” is an idle daydream if you don’t have a plan for making that objective come about. More on this in a second.
So, goal setting consists of knowing what you’re trying to do, why you’re trying to do it, and how you’re going to do it. Easy enough, right?
If you’re at the point where you want to throw in the towel, it’s time to start from the beginning and ask yourself some constructive questions.
What is really going on?
There are a lot of ways a project can go wrong. Figure out what the chief problems are making you want to quit and make a list of them. Don’t stop at the top level problems, either. Dig in and address the emotional reasons that are coming up for you.
Has your goal changed?
It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to decide if this was a goal you wanted to accomplish for the right reasons. Now, your right reasons are probably different than mine, but it’s safe to start with your initial intentions. Which leads to the next step…
Why did you pursue this goal in the first place?
When I’m assessing the “Why” portion of goals, I always ask “Do you actually want to accomplish this?” A “yes” means “pass go, and go to the ‘What’ of the matter;” a “no” yields a “Why not?”
Here’s where things get complicated
I usually start with the “Why” of the matter when I’m working with clients, talking to people, or trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Intentions drive everything, and if you’re not motivated to actualize the plan or to accomplish the goal, there’s no point in addressing the rest.
What’s tricky here, though, is that people’s reasons for doing something shift in time. Along the path to actualizing a particular goal, you may learn things about the process or about yourself that lessen your desire to accomplish your goal. In these situations, many of us fail to honor that our reasons have changed and instead try to “finish what we start,” despite the fact that we really don’t want to finish it and know that finishing it won’t actually make us any better off.
Nested ends make this even more problematic. While working on one particular project, you may find that there’s an alternative way to accomplish the same goal. Returning to our example above, you may find that you can make $2,000 per month without finishing the project you started on due to serendipity. Or you may find that you have a better opportunity develop, but you can’t do both at the same time.
Priorities shift and change. Goals aren’t stagnant. Have you been holding on to a project in the name of “finishing what you started?”