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Verified by Psychology Today

Motivation

How to Get Unstuck and Achieve Your Goals

Get out of your rut and make changes in your life.

Key points

  • Becoming aware of the power of negative thinking is important because it's easy to get trapped by it.
  • Clearly visualizing one's goal and breaking it down into steps can help to inspire progress.
  • Keeping a journal and marking milestones are good ways to celebrate progress made toward a goal.
Eilis Garvey on Unsplash
Source: Eilis Garvey on Unsplash

It happens to many of us at some point in our adult lives. We feel like we are in a rut. We are living in survival mode, going to work, and getting through each day dragging our feet. We have goals that we want to accomplish, but we are either too tired at the end of each day or too discouraged by the challenges of life to move forward. Negative thoughts often convince us that we can’t do anything more than we already are doing. If you are feeling like this, there are some practical steps you can take to get unstuck and headed in the right direction to live your best life.

Identify negative thinking and recognize its power

First, take stock of your thoughts. Some negative thoughts seem to be on constant replay in our brain. We don’t want them to take up permanent space, but we must identify them and be aware that they are partially responsible for keeping us stuck and spinning our wheels. If one of your thoughts goes something like “you don’t have time to do anything else” or “it’s too hard to make changes right now” recognize those as all-or-nothing thoughts. It’s not a matter of where you can or can’t make changes; rather it’s that every change happens with steady progress. It is true that change takes time and effort. But it’s also true that even big changes start with a small step.

Set a goal and break it down into a series of reasonable steps

Taking hold of negative thinking and being aware of its power is the first important step. Next is clearly defining what you want to change and identifying the specific actions necessary to make it happen.

Perhaps your goal is to declutter and organize your home. That doesn’t get done in one big action. You take one room at a time, starting by making yourself a safe and cozy space to relax at the end of each day. Once you have your safe haven, you can go into the other rooms to do work. Make a timeline and attack one room or even one side of a room at a time. Even with a busy life, a full-time job, and children at home, this can be accomplished.

It starts with believing that you can do it and then coming up with a strategic plan. Maybe the change you want to make is to travel more. It starts with a dream of going to the places you most desire to see. Allow yourself to visualize what it would look like to be on that trip and then break down the steps necessary to make it happen, such as coming up with a budget, deciding when to go, and finding a place to stay.

Avoid comparing your goals and accomplishments to others

This is important because we can get caught in this trap easily with constant access to social media. Scrolling through amazing vacations, picture-perfect weddings, and storybook family photos makes life seem really easy for everyone else. This is because we only see the outcome. We don’t know what they went through before they found the right person to marry or landed a great new job. And we see snapshots of the best of their lives. People rarely photograph themselves unhappy, they delete photos of relationships that didn’t last, and they don’t post pictures of bad vacations.

Enjoy the process and look forward to the outcome

Consider the accomplishment of your goal as only one aspect of the process to be enjoyed. While everything you have to do to reach your goals may not be fun, you can still appreciate the small changes you make or the steps you take along the way.

Give yourself credit for getting started and for being persistent. Once you start, you are in motion, so celebrate the new beginning and take pride in your journey. Keep track of your progress, perhaps by keeping a journal, marking milestones, and planning a celebration when you’re finished. Generating some excitement around doing the project or making the change will keep you motivated and give you small victories along the way.

Taking these steps will help you make consistent progress. You can achieve goals and make changes if you set your mind to it and plan. A clear vision is important, but it’s not enough. After you figure out what you want to do, you have to figure out how you’re going to do it.

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