Have you ever had the experience where you set out to achieve a goal, begin to have some success (like a week or two) and you seem to peter out along the way? You fall off the wagon, get an injury, something upsets the routine; there is always something. Then discouragement creeps in. Your mind floods with all the recent attempts and fails and you think, “Why bother? I’m never gonna get there anyway.”
Can I just say, I have lived this cycle more times then I care to admit! Ugh….(shoulders slump).
Click….you just turned on the light switch. Electricity flows to light up the globe. You turn the dimmer switch clockwise and, you have gradually illuminated the room. I love dimmer lights…what a great invention! They transform a room’s ambience incrementally, or in a moment, from cozy and romantic to super bright and ambient.
How does that apply to goals? You have a desire, a target the click…..fires your inspiration to do something, or be someone a bit different and the buzz of energy starts you off in a direction. You turn the dial full bore and, away you go on a new running routine, a new diet, some new behaviour with the hope that this is the ticket to the super bright and ambient future, or self you desire.
But, the cycle of discouragement kicks in over a hiccup, and your bright and ambient future slides down to dim, or even dark.
How do we stop the cycle?
My experience would say it has a lot to do with what Dr. Carol Dweck would call a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is an all or nothing approach. It is the belief that I am what I am, and cannot change; my talent and intelligence are pre-determined. In contrast, a growth mindset acknowledges the journey, focusing on our effort and practice. I can grow my talents and intelligence.. In this analogy, it would be the difference between seeing our goals, or even our selves as a “switch” rather than a “dimmer”. You are either “off” or “on” – I am/this goal is a success or a failure, rather than a dial that can slide incrementally one way or the other – I am/this goal is a work in progress.
It is inevitable, we are going to experience setbacks or discouragement, the dimmer has slid down and the room is now darker. But rather than seeing them as the end, perhaps we should embrace them as part of the process. The electricity is still on! The desire is still there – otherwise you wouldn’t feel discouraged, right? So leverage the desire by sliding the dimmer up, even if it is just incremental. Two steps forward, one step back is still progress.
How do we motivate ourselves to get going again?
- Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Treat yourself like you would your friend in the same situation. How would you spur them on toward their goal? Remember that a growth mindset encourages us to focus on the effort and the journey, that we are capable of growing, being more skilled and better with practice. You are a work in progress…..before you can run, you needed to learn to crawl, then walk. Be patient with yourself.
- Cultivate positivity – reflect on a win you have had, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Reminding yourself of even the smallest accomplishment is like sliding the dimmer up. Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory says that positive emotions have a heliotropic effect, like a flower that is drawn and opened up toward the sun, positive emotions open us up to new possibilities, we become curious and open to new solutions and ways forward. Our thought-action repertoires are more extensive with positivity. Whereas negative emotions, like discouragement, have a limited thought -action range…..they drag us down, inward and we want to isolate ourselves. What have you done well lately? What is a recent win? What strength, or character trait did you draw on to achieve that? How can you leverage that again in this situation?
- Reframe the setback as an opportunity to build “bounce back” – if setbacks are inevitable, then the ability to bounce back is an absolute must if we want to see our goal come to fruition. Setbacks can be our fiercest ally! Our ability to bounce back will be the catalyst to real progress. Turn the setback, or discouragment on its head……look it in the eye and say….”Awesome! You have just given me an opportunity to be bouncier, and I need that if I am going to get where I want to be.”
Your bright and ambient future is only a dimmer switch away, so go on!…Dial it up!
If you would like to receive our newsletter: Subscribe to our mailing list