There comes a time when working towards a goal when no one else can do anything else to help you. The bribes, the rewards, the threats, the accountability: It means nothing. The only thing that matters is looking yourself in the mirror and getting deep-gut honest. If you find yourself continuing to procrastinate after working through the other hints in this report, maybe it’s time for a heart-to-heart.
Sit down in a quiet place, take off your mask of professionalism, unshoulder your responsibilities, and get down and dirty. Ask yourself these questions:
Why am I having trouble following through on my goals? Number a sheet of paper from 1 to 20 and write answers for each line. Don’t stop until you’ve filled the sheet. The real answer will come somewhere around #16 – after you cut through all the superficial BS.
Are these really my goals or someone else’s? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a goal you have for yourself and one someone else has had for you, particularly if it’s been around a long time. If you really don’t want to hold that goal anymore, wouldn’t you rather own up to that fact now, rather than 10 years from now? The only thing worse than a 40-year-old frustrated stockbroker/lawyer/tennis coach is a 50-year-old frustrated stockbroker/lawyer/tennis coach.
Have these goals outlived their usefulness? Sometimes one goal was necessary to move you outside your current situation, but once the immediate danger has passed, the goal fades. For instance, you think you want to go back to school to get your masters of fine arts. You quit your job, enroll in grad school, and realize what you really want to do is teach writing to inner city kids – and you don’t need two more years of school to do that. You needed the goal of the MFA to get you out of your job (going back to school seems safer than starting your own non-profit). But once you’re out of the stifling job, your real goal comes to light.
What am I scared of? This is another number-your-paper-from-1-to-20 exercise. Start listing what you’re afraid of, and once again, the real meat will come at the bottom of the page.
You may discover that you are pretty darned happy right where you are, right now. You don’t need to get a raise, get a degree, make more money, or buy a bigger house. Your “now” is just fine. And that is okay! Not everyone needs to own Trump Tower to feel satisfied. The key is to recognize it and accept it. Own your ideal life. And if your ideal life is what you have now, more power to you.
But you just might find you’ve been hiding a few things from yourself. Get honest, now. There’s no time like the present.
Sometimes, pushing harder just doesn’t work. You can threaten yourself, punish yourself, browbeat yourself, and feel bad all you want, but it just doesn’t make a difference. So what do you do?
You take a break. Take an hour, afternoon, or even a whole day off. Do anything BUT what you’re supposed to be doing – without guilt. And then come back and try again.
This method works especially well when it comes to creative pursuits. While I don’t believe in writer’s block per se, I do believe the well can run dry. You can use up all your ideas, and if you don’t replenish the source, you’re going to have trouble coming up with fresh material. And the more you feel guilty about your inability to produce, the more performance anxiety you have. Actors, writers, singers, comedians, and pretty much any creative-type feel this way more often than they’d like to admit:
  • “What if I can’t come up with any more jokes?”
  • “What if I don’t have ‘it’ anymore?”
  • “What if people don’t think I’m funny?”
  • “What if my second book isn’t as good as my first?”
  • “What if I forget how to sing/act/paint?”
If you keep pushing, you get nowhere. The solution is very Zen: You must accept the uncertainty and fear and move with it to get through it. If you fight it, it lasts longer. But if you just give yourself permission to rest, you can recoup your strength and emerge on the other side renewed and refreshed, ready to create again. You’ll have new ideas and new material to draw from, and the creativity will return.
Breaks are also great to reward yourself with at the end of a big project. You have accomplished something momentous, and you need to relax and regain your strength. Just as a marathon runner wouldn’t sign up for a 10K the morning after the Boston Marathon (unless he’s Dean Karnazes), we business-types also need time to recharge the ole’ batteries.
One word of warning: Your breaks shouldn’t last longer than your periods of productivity. If you find yourself constantly “on sabbatical,” take a good, hard look at what you’re doing. And read the next section of this report.  
Not ready for the scorn and ridicule you might face, were you to make your goals public and then fail to achieve them? Then maybe what you need is a partner rather than a whole community of people monitoring your progress. There are a few types of partners, so let’s review the different kinds and the advantages of each:
1.    A Buddy. A buddy is someone who’s in the same situation as you and is striving towards the same goal. You might be working to launch your first internet businesses, or lose weight, or train for a 5K. The key is, you’re doing it together. Buddy partners are great because they understand exactly what you’re experiencing, because they’re going through it, too. You can help each other over the obstacles you encounter, and you work to motivate and inspire them as much as they motivate and inspire you. The one drawback is that you might come up against challenges that neither of you really knows how to handle.
2.    An Accountability Partner. An accountability partner is like a buddy, but you’re pursuing different goals. You meet regularly to talk about your respective goals. You’re not aiming for the same ultimate goal, but you still might be able to help brainstorm or provide perspective.
3.    A Mentor. A mentor is someone who’s walked the path before you and can give you the benefit of their experience. Mentors are typically not paid, but are a more personal, informal relationship. But because it’s a little bit loosey-goosey, you may find that when you need your mentor the most, you can’t “demand” their time.
4.    A Coach. A coach is basically a paid mentor. Because the relationship is a professional one, there are better-defined boundaries and expectations. You know you can rely on him or her for a certain amount of time, a certain day of the week, or via e-mail. The drawback is obviously that you pay for the relationship, but most people will testify it’s well worth the investment. Often, people will feel more accountable to a coach because you don’t want to waste your money (think about paying for a personal trainer; you’re less likely to skip your workout if you know you’re paying either way!).
There are many options for finding a partner that’s right for you. You may even find having a few different kinds of partner relationship make you that much more motivated, as each person will bring a different skill set to the table.