We've all been there. It's that pivotal moment when we realize the thing we have been working towards, dreaming of, and talking about seems doomed. Worse, we feel doomed. Even if circumstances did not allow it, we feel disappointed in ourselves and ashamed. Then comes the good old thrashing, and all the negative messages we heard about ourselves growing up come rushing back in. What's worse? We actually take the bait and buy into it.
You are probably sitting there thinking, well, of course. What else am I supposed to do? I just couldn't lose the weight, or I got passed up for the promotion, or I tried, but my partner didn't do his part, so it all failed.
If you are finding that your goal just doesn't seem achievable for whatever reason, start with what you should not do:
1. Don't give it up entirely: It's too easy to throw in the towel and head in the opposite direction. Instead of losing the 10 pounds you hoped for, you decide it's futile and eat every Twinkie you can find. Extreme behavior begets extreme behavior. Perhaps the real key is that the goal was too ambitious for you at this time, or the rewards are too far away to make you feel motivated. It's okay to decide that this isn't something you want or need right now, but abandoning your vision is not the answer.
2. Don't beat yourself up: Why would you add self-criticism to disappointment? Think about what you would say to your best friend if he had set a goal for himself that he could not achieve. You would not berate him. You wouldn't advise him to lose all hope. On the contrary, you would urge him to be compassionate with himself. The same should apply to yourself. If you find yourself criticizing, speak to yourself in your mind the way your most supportive friend would talk to you.
3. Don't lose faith: If what you aimed for was easy you would have done it already. Just because you haven't done it so far, doesn't mean you won't do it. Consider it a set back instead of a failure. It is helpful to look at other people who have achieved similar goals and remember that they too had moments in which it all felt hopeless. That is the true test. The moments in which you doubt are critical because they ultimately will project you forward.
So that's what you shouldn't do, but the real question is what should you do. The answer is actually quite simple. Get excited about it. Go back to the point when you first thought of the goal and achieving it, and how that made you feel. In other words, don't necessarily ask yourself why you want to achieve the goal. That will only get you back to the unhappy, uncomfortable place you started. Instead, ask yourself how you will feel when you get there. Spend a few minutes each morning really visioning how your life will look once you achieve this goal. That is the fun part, but it is also the part that keeps us focused and leads to unconscious and conscious decisions that will help us get what we want in life.
If you find that the goals are too high and don't feel believable to you, go back to the past three articles in this series and re-work those goals until they seem feasible.
Setting goals and achieving them isn't necessarily a linear process. We fall; we get up; we fall again. It doesn't have to be painful, and it doesn't have to require great sacrifice. On the contrary, it is a process that should excite and inspire you. Let the falls be what they are: the best lessons you will ever have on the path to getting what you want.
Elisa Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For more information, contact her at 305-296-5437 or visit http://www.elisalevy.com.