Goal setting would be easy if it weren’t for all those obstacles that get in our way. Usually soon after we’ve made a decision to do something, the universe as if wanting to test our resolve throws a completely unexpected obstacle. These obstacles can often seem insurmountable and make what you previously thought as an easy task an impossible challenge. Getting sick right after starting a commitment to exercise. Unexpected bills right after you decide to quit your job. Having a computer meltdown right when you need to finish a project.
The deadlines for software are frequently the butt of jokes for being completely unreliable and unrealistic. I once remember hearing a software developer say the general rule of thumb for the actual deadline is to, “Double the time you think you need to finish it, then add six months.” Complex projects often fail to take into account the high likelihood that an unexpected obstacle will crop up in front of the many variables required for a successful execution.
In all this uncertainty, some people hesitate to set deadlines for their goals. If a random act could completely throw off the schedule, many people wonder whether a specific deadline isn’t just a recipe for stress and disaster. Using goals and setting hard deadlines doesn’t have to be a game of chance. It is possible to set realistic deadlines in spite of obstacles that come up at inconvenient times.
The solution is to shrink your obstacles down. Rarely are the obstacles to our goal as immense and colossal as they originally seem. By shrinking your obstacles down, routes around them will begin to appear. Although the quickest path between two points is a straight line, rarely can our goals go along so smoothly. By shrinking your obstacles we can ensure even big challenges are never a dead-end. I’d like to share with you my own method for shrinking down obstacles so that my goals are still reachable.
Set an Unbreakable Standard
To successfully bypass your goals you must first build within yourself an unbreakable standard. This unbreakable standard means that you will not give up on your goal. The power of your goals is directly proportional to the quality of persistence and determination. If you allow for the option of quitting to enter your mind, then you will be powerless to shrink the obstacles that come up.
This means no rationalizations or excuses. Every time you excuse yourself out of a goal you not only sabotage your process for that goal but your level of self-discipline and persistence takes a hit of an incredible magnitude. Some cases may seem logical to quit. If you are sick and are in the middle of an exercise trial it may make sense to quit and start again when you feel better. Unfortunately this action has an enormous cost in terms of your ability to persist on any goal thereafter.
Building an unbreakable standard takes time. If you have had trouble committing yourself before, then chances are your discipline muscles are a little weak. Start by building this ability through easier challenges. Just as excuses deal an incredible blow to your ability to persist, determination through a difficult challenge creates incredible power. If you can continue your goal despite massive obstacles you will have courage and discipline to face even bigger ones.
Although most people understand that they need to set an unbreakable standard few ever do. Understand that I am not using the term “unbreakable” lightly. For most people their standard is breakable after a certain threshold. A certain amount of temptation, difficulty or obstacles and they will abandon their decision. Unbreakable means that you either find a way or make one. It can take time to create this standard within yourself, but once you have it you can push through gigantic obstacles that seem impossible to others.
No Obstacle is Infinite
In order to really create your unbreakable standard you must have another belief that says that no obstacle is infinite. That means that so long as you are still cognitive of the words I am writing you still have the ability to work around your problems. Infinitely large obstacles don’t exist, and every single one of them has a route to go from one side to another.
Creativity is a muscle that is only used when it is absolutely necessary. With an unbreakable standard and a belief that no obstacle is infinite your brain can always create a possible path to your goal. This path may be very different than your original intention but one always exists. You get what you believe. If you believe your obstacle has no solution, then it doesn’t.
With this belief in hand you can begin to brainstorm for possible alternate routes around your obstacle. Your commitment to exercise when you are sick may be a difficult obstacle but it is far from infinite. You may decide to replace your exercise routine with lighter conditioning. You may also decide to try stretching or flexibility training. You may also decide that you can still exercise when sick and it isn’t that bad.
Begin your brainstorming session with a blank sheet of paper. Write the obstacle out in the form of a positive question. For example, you may write, “How can I continue my exercise plan while sick?” Start writing down any possible ideas that could have even a remote chance of getting you to your goal. Your purpose in this brainstorming session is not to analyze the feasibility of your ideas, idea volume is your goal. Analysis uses the left half of the brain and creativity uses the right half. Focus only on the right half in your search for answers, use the left half once you have sufficient ideas.
Don’t just get one answer to your obstacle. Shrinking your obstacle down doesn’t just mean having one route around it, it means finding dozens. With dozens of possible routes around your obstacle you can regain your motivation and confidence in your ability to reach your destination. You need to rebuild your confidence by finding many routes around your problem. This will restore your faith in your decisions and commitment.
Become stubborn in your pursuit of an answer. Don’t let the thought of the obstacle being insoluble or infinite even enter your mind. If you start thinking negative thoughts about your ability, quickly refocus your mind to the positive and solutions. Ask yourself questions like, “How can I accomplish this goal in spite of my obstacle?” or, “What other life experiences can I use to prove I have overcome larger obstacles than this one.”
Make Strict Intermediate Deadlines
If you are setting a longer range goal that will take over a few months, you will need to set intermediate goals and deadlines towards its accomplishment. Deciding to lose fifty pounds or to earn three times what you are currently earning are longer range goals that can’t be accomplished overnight. Effectively utilizing your intermediate goals can ensure that you major deadlines remain unscathed.
When you first set your goal, you will have to come up with a deadline based on your estimation of the time it will take you to achieve the goal. If you decide to lose a pound per week, then losing fifty pounds should take a little less than a year. If you made this decision in January you may decide to set the deadline for your long range goal to be the next New Years Eve. Now completely forget about your long range deadline.
Start setting intermediate goals that are more rigorous than the long range deadlines. Your weight loss goal for the first month might be seven pounds which exceeds the 4-5 necessitated by the long range deadline. Your purpose in this is to create incredible urgency early on in the goal so you don’t get caught scrambling in the last few months.
Most people completely ignore the possibility that an obstacle could stall their progress. They plan their goal out in increments that have absolutely no room for error. By planning to achieve your goal ahead of schedule you can take on larger obstacles that would impede your progress. Using strict intermediate deadlines ensure you move fast even when you aren’t sure an obstacle is on the horizon.
My final point about obstacles is simply this. People can do amazing things when they are forced to. The power of human beings is largely untapped unless a real set of impending circumstances force it out. Many people fear unleashing their full potential on an obstacle because they are worried about their self-image if they fail. I argue the opposite. Giving your all to a problem and failing to meet a deadline is a sign that you are finally tackling challenges worthy of you as a human being. Even if everything in the environment is telling you that you won’t succeed, give 110% anyways. At the very least this experience will cause you to grow immensely, regardless of the final outcome.
Shrinking your obstacles can allow you to overcome them. This must always start with an unbreakable standard and commitment. A belief that all obstacles are finite and solvable is essential in brainstorming the correct answer to your problem. Finally, by focusing your efforts on strict intermediate deadlines you can create some extra room for your goals to absorb even the most challenging obstacles. Facing an obstacle down can only make you stronger, win or lose. Don’t hide or shy away from your problems but give them everything you have. In the end, it isn’t the obstacles that shrink, it is simply that you have become bigger.