This post was written by Holly Ashby, a writer who works for the London meditation centre Will Williams Meditation. They introduce people to meditation and help them become happier and healthier through their beginners meditation course.
Very few of us are completely contented with the way our lives are now, with no ambition or hope to achieve more in the future. We all have goals – from losing five pounds to starting our own business – and it’s these aspirations which add drive and interest to life. However, sometimes it can feel like our goals are always just that little bit out of reach.
It’s frustrating when our ambitions are sabotaged by the demands of everyday life or difficulty in finding the motivation and willpower needed to see it through. We can blame ourselves and think the only reason we aren’t getting we were want to be is because we lack the ability to do so. But this is far from the truth, and by learning how willpower works and being kind to ourselves, we can make achieving our goals easier.
Treat willpower as a limited resource
We often blame ourselves for having no willpower, believing that if we were just more hardworking and determined we could boost our willpower and use it to transform our lives. However, research suggests that far from being something we can force, willpower is actually an easily exhaustible resource. It takes mental effort to make good choices and do the things we’d rather not do, and adding something else into our routine can be truly draining.
This means that you should pick your battles, and not try to do everything at once. For example, if you’ve got an important meeting one day that you have to prepare for, perhaps you shouldn’t hit the gym that night. Make the things you want to do as easy and automatic as possible, so you don’t have to fight with yourself to find the effort – such as leaving your running shoes by the door, or having your desk set up in a nice part of the house you like spending time in.
Make small changes you can keep up with every day
One of the surest ways to put a barrier between you and achievement is attempting to do everything at once. For example, if your goal was to get fitter and stronger over three months, you might plan to run every morning, overhaul your diet, lift weights three times a week and swim in the evenings. However, this is far too much for anyone to squeeze into their schedule overnight, and having such high expectations will exhaust you before you’ve even begun.
Instead, you could begin your lifestyle change simply by giving up one unhealthy food item you usually overindulge with (such as your weekly take-out pizza) without changing anything else about your diet. Then, instead of embarking on a punishing fitness regime you can’t possibly sustain, you could go for a half an hour walk every other day. A few weeks down the line, you can adjust your routine a little more, and continue in this vein until your whole lifestyle has transformed.
By managing your expectations and making small changes, you can slowly but steadily commit to the life you want without facing a huge initial effort.
Set a schedule, not a deadline
When you commit to these small changes, it’s best not to put too much time pressure on yourself. Actually making the adjustments required to set you on the path to your goals should be the initial aim, and you should congratulate yourself for every step forward, rather than berating yourself that you haven’t made it yet. This way, you can enjoy and appreciate the journey as well as the destination, and if life throws you off into another direction, you’ll be more open to new ideas rather than rigidly sticking to your preconceived objectives.
Be aware of burnout
Whether you want to start a small business alongside your day-job, are aiming to have a novel published, want to get rid of your debts or learn a new language, you have to be aware that if add too much stress into your life you could be in danger of burnout. The vast majority of us are extremely busy, with families, hobbies, jobs, housework and life admin to manage in what always feels like not enough time.
It’s important to have ambitions and to make strides to fulfil them, but committing to too much too soon, or putting an unbearable strain on an already busy schedule, will achieve nothing but exhaustion.
It’s often recommended that people who want to achieve something should share their goals because the idea of letting friends and family down will spur them on. However, this can actually be something of an emotional burden, and it may well be better to share where you’ve made progress instead. Even if it’s a small step forward, the celebration and encouragement that comes from others can be hugely motivating.
By taking a little care of yourself, utilising the encouragement of others, and making small but steady changes, you could find a goal that seemed far off and distant is achieved before you know it!
*This is a collaborative post.