So did you set any goals for this year? Did you join the gym, start a new diet, or set a financial goal? Each year we are encouraged to take time in December to reflect on the previous year, and to decide to set goals in January for the upcoming year, but unfortunately we’re often frustrated about our goals by mid-February and ready to give up. Has that ever happened to you?
As those who regularly go to the gym can attest, like my husband, most people tend to start out strong at the beginning of the year, but somewhere around the 45 – 60 day mark, the gym starts looking less crowded. By mid-March it’s typically back to the “regular” crowd – those that haven’t given into to goal impatience.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen in workout or exercise-type settings – this happens with so many of us when we set any type of goal. We’re excited about the possibility of reaching a goal, we’re taking the steps to figure out how to reach the goal, but then we become impatient and the excitement fizzles out somewhere along the way.
Maybe you’ve set a goal to find a romantic partner, you’ve put yourself out there, gone on various dates, but the person you’re looking for just isn’t showing up. Or maybe you’ve set a goal to find a new job or go out on your own like our franchisees, but you feel like it’s on hold because the day-to-day reality of your life means that other things are requiring your attention right now.
Whatever your situation is, the feeling of impatience can truly dominate your emotions, making you incredibly frustrated at the lack of forward momentum towards achieving your goals. It can often feel like you’re standing in quicksand, being stuck here when what you really want is to go there.
Believe me, I get it – patience has never been one of my virtues either, especially when it comes to achieving goals that really mean something to me. Sometimes I’m even afraid to set a goal because I’ve grappled with goal impatience in the past and it’s not a great feeling.
Besides the feeling of impatience and frustration, there’s also the self-judgement that gets piled on top as well. Judgements like “See, you never follow through with anything” or “Here you go again, setting a goal and then giving up when it gets hard”.
I have had so many times in my life that I dealt with goal impatience, but thankfully that was before I learned what I’m going to discuss with you. Once I learned how to successfully deal with goal impatience, there have been many less goals that fizzled out and many more goals that either came to fruition, or I’m still working on to make them a reality.
So if you’ve struggled with achieving goals and dealing with goal impatience, stay tuned. There’s no reason that you can’t go after what you want this year when you learn how to deal with goal impatience.
This week I’m going to discuss why patience can be such an issue, especially when working on achieving a goal, and what you can do to deal with goal impatience.
Why patience can be such an issue
When my son was much younger, like most children, he had such a hard time waiting to have something that he really wanted, whether it was a piece of candy or a toy. When he was really young and he wanted a toy, I would say, “Put it on your Christmas list”, even if it was March, hoping that the promise of Santa bringing it to him at some point would reduce his whining about having it now.
Once he got a little older and a little wiser to my “Put it on your Christmas list” trick, I had decided to teach him about delayed gratification – that it’s okay to want what you want, but that you need to come up with a plan as to how you’re going to get it, and that sometimes it means you just have to wait. He understood the concept, but didn’t like it.
One day we were in the dollar store and he did his typical “I want this; I want that”. Before I could say anything to him he shouted, “And DON’T say ‘delayed gratification!’” There was a mother standing nearby and she busted out laughing – she knew what I was going through, as only another mother could.
I share this story because it’s completely normal, whether we’re 5 or 55, to want what we want, when we want it. You’ve probably experienced the same thing for yourself and with your children, especially in this age of technology and next-day shipping – companies are vying for our need for immediate gratification, they’re happy to oblige, and we’re happy to take them up on it.
The truth is that our brains are hard-wired for immediate gratification, so it’s no wonder we struggle with impatience when we want something we don’t yet have. When we set our sights on something, whether it’s a relationship, a health goal, or a financial goal, our brains are looking for a quick reward because that quick hit of dopamine our brains release with immediate gratification feels so good to our brain.
Maybe it's just me, but when I’m deciding whether to buy something online from a company that has normal shipping or order it from Amazon with free, two-day shipping, whether I need the item in two days or not, I almost always opt for the free, two-day shipping with Amazon. I’ve gotten so used to immediate gratification myself, that I can now relate to why my son was so bothered by the concept of delayed gratification when he was younger.
Besides the fact that our brains are hard-wired for immediate gratification, there’s also the issue with our belief that “there” will be better than “here” which also adds to our impatience. It makes total sense because anything we want is because we believe we’ll feel better in the having of it or the achieving of it.
The issue is that even though there are some things that will be great once you achieve a goal, there are also going to be things that will probably stay the same or might even be more challenging. For example, you may have a goal of losing 50 pounds, and while achieving that goal might feel great, you’re still going to be faced with things like how to maintain the weight loss and even how to afford to buy an entire new wardrobe.
A lot of people that have achieved the goals that you want, can attest that there were struggles before and there were struggles after the goal was achieved. Just because we’re rushing to get to the finish line doesn’t mean that the achievement is going to feel amazing or that you’re going to miraculously change everything that led you to wanting to set the goal in the first place.
That’s why it so important to understand that goal impatience is typically an indication that you believe “there” will be better than “here”, but the truth is that, if you don’t deal with how you feel “here”, you’re going to feel the same, or some version, when you get “there”. With the example of losing 50 pounds, you can’t hate yourself along the way to losing 50 pounds and expect to love yourself when you reach your goal – it just doesn’t work that way.
You may have a few moments of pride, but if you haven’t dealt with goal impatience, you’re going to beat yourself up in other ways. For example, you may have mean girl thoughts like “Why couldn’t you have done this before?” or “It’s about time you reached this goal”.
Although our brains want to speed things up, to get that hit of dopamine from immediate gratification, we have to pay attention when that happens and deal with goal impatience before it derails the things we’d like to work towards for the future. If you experience goal impatience, what I’m going to share next will make it easier to deal with.
What you can do to deal with goal impatience
So how do we handle goal impatience when we’re surrounded with so much immediate gratification? We don’t even have to leave our homes to watch the latest movie release because we’ve got everything streaming at the push of a button, so how do we grow patient in a world that supports so much impatience?
We’ve got fast food, fast service, and the speed at which we can Google any information we need, is unprecedented. Once you’ve set a goal and you’re waiting to get from here to there, what can you do to make sure you don’t give in to goal impatience and either rush to get to the finish line or give up too soon?
You have to first become aware of the fact that you’re being impatient and then you have to deal with that impatience. No matter what your goal is, here are 3 ways to channel your brain and your energy to where you are going, and not lose your patience in the process:
- Stop focusing on the “how” – one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to setting and achieving goals is being so fixated on how you’re going to get to the end. I see this all the time with accountants – our analytical brains need to know how we’re going to achieve a goal, often before we’re willing to even set the goal.
So instead of focusing so much energy on “how”, shift your attention to what you CAN do right now, today. Don’t focus on the end point of the journey, but on the one simple step in front of you.
Focus on how you’re going to show up each day to achieve your goal, not on how you’re going to go from start to finish, or on all the obstacles that could get in your way. The truth is that, even if someone gave you great advice, that doesn’t mean that they’re “how” is necessarily your “how”.
Ask yourself what you are willing to do today – what’s one thing you can plan to do today that you can follow through on? Your goal’s achievement resides in the little things you do each day, not in figuring out the “how” of the whole thing. Just spend more time in the “what” rather than the “how”.
In the example of losing 50 pounds, the achievement of losing those 50 pounds resides in planning what you’re going to eat today, sticking to the plan, and not giving into urges. The achievement of that goal is not in how you’re going to handle the next 6 months or the Memorial Day barbeque in 4 months. You only need to plan to take action today.
The actions you take along the way will give your brain the immediate gratification and that dopamine hit that it looks for, so give yourself daily satisfaction and pride rather than trying to figure out how to reach the end. Remember, how you think and feel about “here” will help get you “there” when you’re not rushing.
- Patience is a lot easier when you are mastering skills – when it comes to setting and achieving goals, the better you are at allowing your brain to learn, the easier it will be to not have goal impatience. You’ve probably experienced this already where you want to achieve a goal but when you’re learning something new that supports the goal, it’s as if your patience increases to learn this new thing, helping you to focus on the learning more, than on how far you are from the achieving of the goal.
The reason this is important is because as your brain learns new things, it looks at that as progress. It gets that immediate gratification it craves, which in turn decreases impatience because the act of learning or mastering a skill provides the stimulation.
The truth is that when your brain is mastering a skill, it thinks it’s making progress toward something. But when you stop learning, your brain gets impatient again for the end point of the goal – it gets hyper focused on the goal because you’re not giving it anything on a day-to-day basis to focus on.
So think about some of the skills that you are willing to learn and master. What are some of the skills you’d like to get better at as you work towards achieving your goal? Give yourself 30 days to master a skill, make a plan for each day to take action to master that skill, and watch how much your goal impatience improves.
- Don’t do your goal alone – have you ever set a goal with a partner or a group and found that you weren’t as impatient as when you were doing it alone? The reason is because when you are around other people who are doing something similar to you, it allows for more patience because you’re all working towards something.
Sometimes someone needs some motivation and sometimes you do – it’s more of a collaboration to get to the end. The reason it’s important to not do your goal alone is because it allows you to start getting more focused on the day-to-day actions and the concept of support allows your brain to have more patience.
When you can see what other people are thinking and struggling with, it allows your brain to slow down and not be in a rush. By having the support of others, you step out of your brain and choose optional ways of looking at the steps to reach your goal.
You can always achieve a goal on your own when you apply the first two ways – stop focusing on the “how” and mastering skills – but when you can add this third option, not doing your goal alone, you’ll be amazed at how much your goal patience increases.
So hopefully you now understand why patience is such an issue when it comes to setting goals and you also have 3 ways to better handle goal impatience. While it’s normal to have a lack of patience when it comes to something you want to achieve, just remember to do the work to manage your mind along the way from here to there.
- Whatever your situation is, the feeling of impatience can truly dominate your emotions, making you incredibly frustrated at the lack of forward momentum towards achieving your goals.
- Besides the feeling of impatience and frustration, there’s also the self-judgement that gets piled on top as well.
- There’s no reason that you can’t go after what you want this year when you learn how to deal with goal impatience.