I'm not going to say I've uncovered a hidden formula for being perfect at reaching goals. Honestly, I've got a bunch of unfinished projects and plans that I'd love to finish one day. You might not believe it, but I really suck at keeping goals. People used to call me lazy during my teenage years, and I was always known as the "late bloomer." I used to think it was all my fault, but it turns out my neurodiversity made setting and achieving goals a real challenge. But guess what? Over time, as I worked on myself and sought out help from others, I found so many helpful tools and techniques that made things a lot easier! Now, I'm super excited to share my discoveries with you, especially these four steps that have made a huge difference in my life.
Don't Work on Goals
I used to struggle a lot with reaching my goals because of their overwhelming complexity. It was seriously daunting and discouraging, and it held me back from making progress. But then, I learned to make things simpler by breaking my goals into smaller parts. I started by focusing on my behaviors, which is the first step in my process.
1. Pick a behavior to work on
When I talk about behaviors, I want to make it clear that they're different from goals. They're not those big, challenging tasks or goals that take up your whole day or need a ton of effort. Instead, behaviors are the smaller, easy-to-handle actions or habits that you are fully capable of performing right here and now.
The definition I learned when I first encountered the concept of behaviors explains it quite well:
A behavior is an action you can perform right now for two minutes with what you have on hand, without trying to control someone else outside of yourself.
For example, what if your goal is to become a proficient programmer?
Mastering a programming language isn't a behavior, because it's not something you can do in a mere two minutes! Plus, depending on how complex the language is, you might need a super in-depth understanding of concepts and syntax. And, asking a friend or coworker to teach you programming isn't a behavior either, since that would mean controlling someone else's actions.
Just think of it this way: writing a line of code, finishing a coding exercise, or fixing a tiny bit of code are all behaviors. You could also try setting aside a few minutes each day to learn a specific programming language. That's a behavior too! Assuming that you currently have access to a computer or a phone (and if not, I'd be curious to know why you chose to print out my article), you can start working on these right now within just a couple of minutes.
These are all simple, manageable behaviors that you can begin immediately. The best part is that, over time, all these doable little behaviors will add up to your ultimate goal of improving your coding skills. By focusing on behaviors, you'll make significant strides toward your goals, and you'll most likely be astonished by how much you've actually achieved!
Just to sum it up, since it's super important: Goals are large and complex objectives that may seem daunting at first glance; whereas behaviors are the building blocks that pave the way to conquering those awesome achievements. By breaking your goals into smaller, more manageable behaviors, you'll make steady progress toward your goals without feeling swamped or disheartened.
2 . Just Show Up
Remember, it's all about taking small steps. Set aside time to sit at your computer and learn coding. Find a cozy and motivating spot to focus on improving your coding skills. And if you're not in the mood, no worries! Just try to do one easy thing, like looking at Hashnode headlines. But if you can't, that's totally fine too.
You don't need to accomplish your entire goal in one attempt. The key is to simply show up and be present, which is a significant achievement in and of itself.
Just by showing up consistently, you're seriously boosting your chances of diving into even a tiny part of your intended behavior! And guess what? You might even amaze yourself by doing WAY more than you first thought possible! This approach lets you make steady progress toward your BIG goals without feeling swamped or discouraged. It's all about turning those big, scary tasks into smaller, achievable baby steps!
3. Be kind to yourself
Perhaps you didn't quite achieve the goal you were working towards within the time frame you had in mind, or maybe you didn't manage to show up at all.
Again, no worries! There's no need to beat yourself up over it, not even a little bit.
Remember it's totally fine if things don't go as planned! The moment you start shaming yourself, you'll link your behavior with negative emotions, and that makes it even harder to reach your goals in the future. This is super important to keep in mind, especially for those of us who have been shamed time and again for not meeting others' expectations because of our neurodiversity, which can also introduce trauma into the mix. Let's not add any extra stress, so be gentle with yourself!
Instead, give yourself a huge pat on the back, even if you didn't quite accomplish your intended behavior because you know what? It's still a win! After all, you might not have achieved the behavior, but you've now learned that maybe the behavior you were aiming for wasn't quite like the one we discussed earlier. And that's fantastic! Now you have even more valuable information to work with as you decide on a brand-new behavior to focus on, which brings us to the final step.
4. Assess, then give it another go
Once you reach the end of your set time frame, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, "Did I manage to accomplish the behavior I was working on?"
If it was a piece of cake, go ahead and challenge yourself a bit more. If you practiced programming for 30 minutes a day, why not bump it up to 45?
On the other hand, if it was a bit too tough, again, Hakuna Matata (no worries, for those of you who haven't seen The Lion King)! Simply make it a bit easier. Maybe instead of practicing programming for 30 minutes daily, switch it to every other day, or cut it down to a breezy 15 minutes daily.
No matter what adjustments you make, choose a new time frame and continue working on your new behavior by revisiting these four steps. You got this!
I used these four steps for programming in my examples, but they can totally work for anything else in your life too. It was these very four steps that helped me wake up one day with my bachelor's degree, leaving everyone who knew me amazed! I mean, I almost dropped out of high school at 17 because of my ADHD, depression, and anxiety made it so hard for me to achieve my goals. But these four steps made things so much easier and helped me finally achieve big goals.
It's amazing how breaking down big, complex goals and focusing on smaller, super manageable behaviors works. Just focus on those little steps, show up every single day, be your own cheerleader, and keep track of your progress. 🎉 Give it a try, and I bet you'll soon be crushing that quitting mentality and reaching your goals! 🎉
So please, please, please share with me if you've picked a behavior to work on and what it is! I genuinely mean it, too. I'm super excited to hear how it goes! I'm rooting for you! 💪😄
Thanks for reading!
P.S., If you're still struggling, even with these four steps I've shared with you, don't feel like you're a failure. This process is something I had to learn over time, and I'm certainly not perfect at it even now. I want to encourage you to recognize your accomplishments, no matter how big or small. There were some days when my biggest accomplishment was getting out of bed, which is just as important as anything else I have achieved over the years.
These steps will always be there for you when you're capable of doing them, and you're allowed as many tries as you need because the two most important steps are being kind to yourself and giving it another go. Without these two, the process won't work.