In some form or other, we all have something in our life we’re trying to accomplish. Whether it’s a formally stated goal or just a loosely defined dream, you’ve probably spent at least part of this year working towards something like weight loss, more happiness, a promotion at work, getting fitter, or saving up for something special. And if so, you’ve probably noticed that in some form or other, we all face obstacles and/or distractions that tempt us away from what we mostly know we should be doing (that burger looks so much more attractive than the salad and the bar sometimes calls your name louder than the gym).
This is not a new phenomenon; in fact in researching this article I stumbled upon this great quote from none other than Christopher Columbus…
By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.
So how do we prevail over all obstacles and distractions? How can we stay focused on what ever it is we want to achieve especially at this time of year when there are even more temptations and distractions thanks to Christmas and New Year? How can we have some fun (because as you can imagine, as the Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute I’m a pretty big fan of fun!) but still stay on track?
Well, it gives me great pleasure to proffer the following suggestions:
- Consider following the 80/20 rule. That is, if you do what you want to do or “get it right” 80% of the time then don’t be hard on yourself for not being perfect all the time (which is, after all, an impossible expectation)
- Savour the good times and really have some fun; but then put reasonable limits on this (and only you can define “reasonable”) so you don’t set yourself up for failure and guilt
- Remind yourself often, loudly and regularly, not just of what you’re trying to achieve but also why you’re trying to achieve it
- Try not to allow short term pleasures over ride longer term, meaningful outcomes
- Make what you’re trying to do fun (e.g. exercise or eating well) so it doesn’t seem like such hard work
- Foster positivity and optimism by focusing on what you can do and on what you are doing and on how great you’ll feel if you stay focused and keep persevering
- Enlist the support of family and friends; get an exercise buddy or a partner who’s also trying to achieve something similar to what you’re trying to achieve
- Use your strengths to ensure you’re getting the most out of yourself (read a list of 24 character strengths here and how to use them effectively here)
- And finally, take it one step at a time (even if you stumble, your next step is what really matters and you can choose, every minute of every day, whether you allow one mistake to “ruin everything” or whether you recover and re-start in the next moment)
So there it is; balancing pleasure and persistence is the key to staying focused on what you want to do and be. Allow yourself some fun and pleasure but make sure you also work on tasks that will ultimately provide satisfaction and accomplishment.
Dr. Timothy Sharp is a clinical and coaching psychologist who’s sometimes known as Dr. Happy! He’s the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute and you can find him regularly tweeting at @drhappy.