How to Stay Focused when Pursuing Long-Term Goals
The idea that the first step is always the hardest isn’t necessarily true in all cases. Consider your long-term goals. Even if it took you your entire academic career (or even longer) to figure out just what you want to do with the rest of your life, planning to reach goals in the distant future is probably a lot easier than actually committing your life to attaining them. Let’s face it, the work-a-day world can sap your enthusiasm and energy for working toward anything beyond a long evening bath. Losing your commitment to your long-term goals is simply a consequence of limited resources (time, energy, money) in the present. But by tweaking your mindset, you can recommit to those once cherished goals and steer your daily habits toward them despite the pressures of the material world.
A problem many people encounter when reaching complex goals that take years to attain is an all-or-nothing mentality. We can feel that if everything is not done just right then the whole endeavor is a failure. But, a bit of backsliding or procrastinating does not mean you have failed in your pursuit forever; it just means that you fell down a bit and need to get back up to where you need to be. That’s it. Don’t over-dramatize the little bumps and stumbles along the way. As long as you are committed to realigning your life with your goals you are headed in the right direction.
Regardless of your long-term goal(s), you have committed to a course for many reasons. Get those reasons down on paper to remind yourself why you are chasing your goals in the first place. And keep track of the benefits of your pursuits. When you see what you have gained already it is easier to push forward so that you can see even more.
When you are taking a long trip somewhere it is pretty smart thinking to plan your itinerary in as fine of detail as possible. You wouldn’t fly to Europe on a whim without an idea of where you were going to stay and what you were going to do, would you? Such an excursion would be more inefficient, expensive, and much more stressful than a well-planned trip. The same holds true for your long-term goals; you have to know what you need to do before you need to do it. Keep a record of the daily tasks you need to complete to eventually realize your goals.
One of the best motivators for reaching any objective is accountability. It is much easier to hit the metaphorical snooze button when you only answer to yourself. Tell someone about your goals and allow them to hold you accountable for your actions, or lack thereof. A supportive friend may be enough to keep you pushing ahead, but partnering with someone who has similar goals leads to a reciprocal relationship that equates to even greater accountability and commitment.
It is never too late to re-commit to your long-term goals, be they career goals, health goals, or any goal that helps you live a healthier and happier life.