Not moving toward your goals? Try these 6 simple next steps.

Not moving toward your goals? Try these 6 simple next steps.
Photo by Gabin Vallet / Unsplash

What if you could have a fulfilling career?

What if you could enjoy a thriving marriage and strong friendships?

What if you could be in the most incredible shape of your life?

It's impossible; I've tried to reach all those goals and keep falling flat. I feel stuck. Momentum has depleted. I don't know how to break through this roadblock. <– that's you.

The good news is that there is a simple solution. 

The bad news is that it sounds scarily technical. 

Behavioral activation is one of the best-supported treatments for feeling stuck.

In simpler words, actions lead to motivation.

Even when you don't feel like it, the best thing you can do when you feel stuck, lonely, or overwhelmed is to act toward your goals.

Sounds simple, but it takes work. 

Give yourself grace when you mess up. You will snooze your alarm, snap at your kids, or work through an entire pint of molten chocolate ice cream. 

You're human and this work is hard. 

Part of compassion is understanding how our minds work and creating conditions that set us up for success. The sheer force will not get you closer to accomplishing your goals. Neither will guilt, cheating, or reading inspiration boards on Pinterest. 

All those things run out over time.

What you need is a strategy for when you face roadblocks. 

Here are 6 practical approaches to work through goal roadblocks. 

1) Make your tasks rewarding.

If you don't enjoy the task, you will quickly lose interest. Running consistently three times a week is an excellent goal unless you despise running. If you dread lacing up your running shoes, your mind will create every excuse not to do it. 

Instead of depending on sheer willpower, try adjusting the task to something you enjoy. 

  • If weight loss is the ultimate goal, running is not the only task to get you there. Prepping healthier lunches, recruiting a neighbor for nightly walks, or joining the pickle-ball craze.
  • If a more robust faith is something you want, but you find yourself distracted every time you sit down to read your Bible, there are other approaches. Practice a morning prayer that's 2 sentences, or download a Bible app for daily Scriptures. 

If your motivation is low, you're likely doing an activity that isn't right for you. If you are facing roadblocks, make your tasks more enjoyable.

2) Break your big tasks into smaller steps.

Another reason we can feel paralyzed with our goals is because they feel daunting. I talked with a friend yesterday about a work project looming over him. 

12 files needed to be converted, each taking about an hour to complete. He needed to find 12 hours, 720 minutes, and additional hours in the next 2 weeks to complete the project on time. 

Instead of looking at how big the project was, I told him to break it down to as small as possible. 1 hour every day for two weeks, will complete the project before the deadline. 

  • Finding 720 extra minutes in two weeks felt impossible. Finding 60 minutes every day for two weeks seemed doable. 

Don't be afraid to make pieces as small as it takes to get started. For yard work, find your work boots. For writing your book: write 100 words today. For strong relationships, send 1 encouraging text every day. 

Remember, starting is the most important thing in any goal. 

3) Be specific with your time, not your outcome.

You need to set aside time to accomplish your goal to move closer to completing it. Jon Acuff refers to this next tactic as a "Calendar Heist." Take back the time that has been taken from you.

What takes our time? Social media, Love is Blind, frantic work, and traffic. 

The average American spends 7 hours and 4 minutes looking at a screen daily. Let's do basic math. That's

  • 49 hours a week.
  • 196 hours a month.
  • 2,352 hours a year. 

What if I told you that you could use 2,352 hours this year toward the things that matter to you more than mindless scrolling? Just cut that daily screen time in half and get 1,176 more hours. 

You cannot control outcomes. So many factors play into goals: disasters, priorities, and energy. But you can control how you fill your calendar. So be specific when you are going to work toward your goals. 

First thing in the morning. On your commute to work. While you wait in line to get a haircut. Capturing 15 minutes at a time moves you 15 minutes closer to the life you want. 

4) Hold yourself accountable.

I love a reasonable deadline. 

"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt.

Deadlines give me an end in sight; they help me focus my energy. This is a form of accountability for me. That deadline looms, and I strategize all I need to do to complete it.

You may hate deadlines. 

That's fine. There are other significant forms of accountability. Waking up at 5 a.m. to get my morning workout in is much easier these days. Why? Because I know my buddy Zack will be pulling in my driveway at that time to run together. 

A few people in my mastermind send daily videos of their to-do lists to hold themselves accountable. I know another friend who began going on lunch walks with their co-worker. Another sends a "how I'm doing today" text to their sister to keep their mental health in check. 

These are all examples of accountability. 

Who comes to mind when you think of someone who could hold you accountable for your goals and help you break down the roadblocks?

Send them a text today. 

5) Focus on the flower.

That might not make sense to you because it is language from my new book, A Story On Purpose. There is a scene with a young man struggling to find meaning in his life and who keeps falling back into old habits. He goes all in when allowed to try something new, only to hit a roadblock and fall flat on his face.

An experience all too familiar, huh?

So he's venting his frustrations to a friend while working in the garden. "Focus on the flower," his friend encourages. It's about as strange advice to my main character as it was for me to give you moments ago.

What it means is to focus on completing one task at a time. When working in a garden, you cannot plant all flowers at once, but you can focus on one flower at a time. 

If you are worried about the future, remember that the only thing you need to do right now is precisely what you're doing. This singular focus will help you accomplish more than you could ever imagine. 

6) Address thoughts that are unkind, unhelpful, and untrue. 

Our actions are closely tied to our thoughts and feelings. 

Hannah caught herself thinking, "I'm feeling really nervous and lonely right now; I don't think going out with the girls will make me feel better." When she thought about it more, she remembered many times when being with her friends did raise her mood. She enjoyed the community and decided to go out for dinner with them as an experiment, seeing if it might actually help her at that moment. 

These toxic thoughts can also diminish the accomplishment of completing something: "It wasn't that big of a task. I'd probably not be able to handle anything bigger." Every step in the right direction (because direction is the most important thing to know) is getting you closer. 

If you are plagued with negative thinking: review, replace, repeat. 

Here is some homework

Roadblocks are terrible contributors to progress. These 6 tricks will give you simple ways to reengage with life and lift your mood.

Practice makes perfect, so here are a couple things you can do to set yourself up for success with future roadblocks and setbacks. 

1) Create a Best Moments List. This regular list (on your phone, in a notebook, with sticky notes) lists all the best moments you have had. Anything counts. 

Here are a couple of mine. 

  • The day I received a cover art for my book, the dream became a reality.
  • Going to Disney with Darian and Arlo
  • Catfishing with dad and papa
  • Quiet moments in my backyard with the wind blowing.
  • When we moved to Florida,
  • When I could finally say my book was finished
  • When I walked across the stage with my Masters degree
  • Seeing Darian smile and joke with Hollis.
  • Uninterrupted board game sessions
  • Building the backyard fence with dad
  • Traveling to the Holy Lands at the beginning of my faith.

These lists can be all over the place, but they are yours. They are reminders of how much you have done and of where real value exists in your life.

2 ) Develop Easy Goals for the upcoming week. Easy goals are ones that are absolutely unimpressive to most people but move you closer to your goals. 

Here are a couple examples:

  • Send 1 encouraging text a day.
  • Set your running clothes out where you can see them.
  • Write 50 words a day.
  • Read 1 book to your kids every night.

These tasks will feel too easy. That's when you know you're in the sweet spot. 

Don't quit your goals in shame. Refrain from allowing roadblocks and setbacks to keep you from your potential.

Use this as a guide to get more out of goals and ultimately more out of your life.