How many times have you set out towards a goal, only to have life throw an obstacle in your path? Did it stop you, slow you down, or send you in a different direction? I can’t count the times that I’ve set a goal, committed myself to it, made it public……only to have something get in the way. When I first went to college, I was determined to finish…..only to have personal and financial circumstances get in the way. I set a goal to run a marathon…..only to find myself woefully under-trained just a couple weeks before the event. I made the commitment to purchase my first house….only to lose my job just months later.
Has anything like that ever happened to you?
If you’re human, (and I’m guessing you are), you’ve had something just like that…or even more serious happen to you. Life happens – usually while you’re making other plans. Circumstances and obstacles will get thrown in your way that make putting off, or even abandoning your goal seem like a much more sensible choice.
Sensible? Maybe….but not necessarily the best choice. Sometimes, it’s good to remember why you set the goal in the first place. I’ve found that if I keep the goal in front of me, circumstances may alter my path, but the destination remains just as clear. Just like an aircraft will make hundreds of course corrections on the way to its destination, it’s good to remember that you can make course corrections too….even if they have to be 180 degrees.
After I left college, I kept the goal of graduating in front of me. It took an enlistment in the Army to help pay for it, but I gained a couple more years of maturity, some significant financial aid….and the drive to not only finish, but to go on to a graduate degree. Even though I had under-trained for my first marathon, I kept the commitment, and finished. It REALLY hurt, but I finished. When I lost my job, it was bleak for a time, but I got a better job in a short time, and was on a better, higher paying career path.
Knowing that obstacles will come your way, here are three ways of preparing for them.
1) Keep the goal in front of you.
If you’ve done a good job of choosing the goal, and made it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-focused), it is much easier to get back on track after being derailed. Knowing what you have to do makes it more likely you can take the time and effort to make up for any detour.
2) Remember WHY you want the goal.
If it’s YOUR goal, (not one someone else thinks you should have), it’s easier to remind yourself why you’re going after it in the first place. Many times, it’s not the goal itself, but what we become by putting in the effort to achieve it. Last year, I made the goal to re-join Toastmasters and get my Competent Communicator award – not because I wanted the pin…but because I wanted to be a better speaker. That’s why I’m continuing to go after bigger goals in Toastmasters – to get better. The recognition is a side-effect, not the primary reason.
3) Know how to get back on track.
Planes and rockets have an internal guidance system that keep them focused on their destination, no matter what happens. Winds can shift, the earth rotates, but they still keep correcting towards their goal. You can do that, too. When an obstacle comes your way, you can go over it, under it, around it….or right through it, but the goal stays the same. Work on improving your internal guidance systems…and you’ll get to your desired destination much more often.
I still have obstacles thrown at me every day – Sometimes work will flare up, traffic is crazy, I’ve got a cold….you name it, it’s going to happen. Still, I keep setting goals. Progress may not always be a straight (or even uninterrupted) line…..but I’m going to keep moving forward.
When you encounter obstacles, how do YOU get back on track?