How to Reach Your Goals? Get Started!

Orlando Counselor Krista Bringley shares 4 action step you can quickly and easily take to move you in the direction of meeting goals and completing projects that you may have trouble getting started on.

Krista Jean Bringley, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Do you have trouble getting started on a project or a goal, perhaps feeling paralyzed by how big it feels?  Is procrastination your middle name?  Perhaps you get set up to start working and suddenly find yourself cleaning your home, reading social media, or 3 episodes into a Netflix binge?  It’s tough to get started, especially on things that are really important to us, in part because we don’t want to fail.  “If I go to the gym and still don’t lose weight, what then?!?”  Unfortunately, not starting is the surest way to not get where we want to go… and then we can get into that self-deprecating cycle, which only makes things harder…

If this cycle is familiar to you, there is hope!  Here are some tips to help you reach your goals by getting started!
1.  If you’re trying to start and not starting, stop and notice how you feel!  Spend a few minutes trying to figure out what’s going on with your feelings.  Perhaps you’re frustrated with yourself, nervous about the outcome, or sad or angry that this goal is necessary?  Whatever your feelings, spend a minute noticing them and acknowledging that they are present.  You might be tempted to just push those feelings to the side and say “that feeling doesn’t make sense” or “that feeling isn’t helpful!”  Instead, just try to notice and acknowledge those feelings.  Whether they make sense or not, they are there.  Next, notice that although the feelings are uncomfortable, they can’t actually stop you from doing whatever you choose to do.  If you can do something to help the feelings (like give yourself a hug), go right ahead!  Then, tell the feelings that it is ok for them to exist AND you’re going to take a step forward at the same time.
2. Help yourself take a small step.  This project or goal probably still feels intimidating, and if we never start we’ll never finish, so the next step is to make any kind of movement towards progress.  Break it down to the smallest step you can think of.  Considering a workout program?  Put your workout clothes on (or buy them or find them in the back of the drawer).  If that’s all you do today, no worries, you did step 1!  Next time, put your workout clothes on and go to the place you’ll workout.  Just that!  If you do more, great!  If not, no worries, you did step 2!  Trying to write something?  Step 1:  Open a new document or get pen and paper.  Maybe step 2 could be writing down a couple words or ideas you know you want to include – it doesn’t all have to be organized or in order yet!  Or maybe step 2 could be working for a certain short amount of time, depending on the task (A plank?  Maybe 10 seconds.  Writing?  Maybe 2 minutes.).  The point is, focus on beginning, on doing something, even if it doesn’t feel like much.  If you work on that project for 5 minutes a bunch of times, you’re that much closer to done (and I bet sometimes you’ll tell yourself 5 minutes and actually get into a groove).  If you think about Mount Everest, it is tough to get started.  If you walk to the mailbox, you’re that much closer to ready for Mount Everest.
3. Give yourself breaks as you need them.  Just help yourself so that a break doesn’t turn into an hour or three – consider setting a timer or an alarm for 2 or 5 or 20 minutes (again, depending on the task) to remind yourself to go back to work.  The alarm goes off and you’re not ready to go back?  I get it.  Use steps 1 and 2 again to help yourself get back to it while the discomfort is still there.
4. Create an environment that helps you.  Notice what tends to distract you or pull you away from your goal and see what you can do to minimize its impact.  Are you distracted by your phone?  Consider putting it on silent while you do step 1, and allow yourself to check it on breaks.  Putting it on silent not enough?  Consider leaving it in another room or giving it to a trusted person while you do step 1.  Distracted by social media?  Consider removing the app, signing out so you have to sign back in whenever you want to look at it, or even using a browser extension like Nanny or StayFocusd to allow you to only have a certain amount of time on those sites (Here’s a way to learn about those:  Consider also leaving yourself reminders of what you’re trying to achieve, so you’ll see those when you move towards a distraction.  A post-it note that says “Take the next step” or “Begin anywhere” or “It will feel so good to accomplish this!” might help you remember to go back to these steps!
Hopefully these ideas will help you get started so you can get where you want to go!  Remember that, like anything, you’re not going to be a master of these techniques right away!  Expect it to be uncomfortable sometimes, and give yourself the compassion to work on it, one step at a time.  If you’d like help applying these techniques or learning others to help with procrastination and meeting your goals, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378.  The techniques I described come from mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and our Orlando counselors can help you learn more!  Now, go take your next step!