Have you ever set a goal and then gotten a burst of energy or been so excited about taking on some new challenge that you set another goal, and another? Before you know it, you’re feeling overwhelmed, your free time is non-existent and you realize that you haven’t actually gotten much headway on anything; or that you’re still paying for a subscription for that meditation app that you haven’t used in 2 months and that you haven’t actually sat on the stationary bike in weeks.
This is what usually happens to a lot of women after the excitement of New Year’s resolutions where off and you realize your goals like losing weight, learning how to crochet, reading every night to your kids, and joining that virtual book club are nice ideas, but unrealistic. It doesn’t even have to be a New Year’s thing; it can happen at any time during the year where you get the urge to set a bunch of goals.
This desire to set big and small goals can be challenging for accountants because we are encouraged to continually grow in our professional development, often getting bombarded with emails offering CPE classes in every area you can imagine. It’s like having a never-ending buffet table to choose from, promising to make us more valuable in our accounting careers, to our companies, and to our clients.
Then there’s also the tendency for mothers to set certain goals for our children, not wanting them to be left behind and always looking to help them advance to the next level of their personal development. From early childhood until early adulthood, as mothers we often feel the need to set big and small goals for our children because society’s message is “That’s what good mothers do”, but then their goals become our goals.
And lastly, there’s also the challenge that most women face with being accepted and feeling worthy. Things like our weight, our hair, our wardrobe, and our wrinkles, are all under scrutiny, therefore, we feel like we should be focusing on improving ourselves in one or more areas otherwise we’re failing in the successful woman department.
Don’t get me wrong – goals are great! I’m a big proponent of setting goals. I highly recommend having a vision for what you want and taking the steps to make it happen, but unfortunately the issue becomes when you have too many goals, as well as the reasons why you have so many goals.
Loving the sense of accomplishment when you set and achieve a goal is great, but the problem is when just setting one goal at a time isn’t enough; when you feel a sense of urgency and impatience with yourself, your career, or anything else in your life. Not only do you wind up spreading yourself too thin, but you also decrease your ability to succeed at your goals.
When you can harness your desire and enthusiasm towards one thing at a time, you actually achieve what you want in less time with less effort. Not only that, you also improve your self-confidence because you learn how to honor your commitments and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
This week I’m going to discuss the importance of constraint and how to use it to achieve whatever goals you have both personally and professionally.
The importance of constraint
The topic of constraint can be challenging for accountant moms because we’re so used to having to do so many different things, constantly juggling various balls, and striving to keep them all up in the air without dropping one. You might pride yourself on being able to multitask, but when it comes to goals, you need to switch gears.
Here’s the thing when it comes to having goals – just because you CAN juggle different goals, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Just because you’re able to be both an accounting professional as well as a mom, doesn’t mean that focusing on more than one goal at a time is a good idea or a good use of your time.
While it can be tempting to take on different goals, you have to first ask yourself why:
- Is it because you’re feeling pressure to look, feel or be better?
- Is it because you want to prove something to others?
- Is it in order to feel more worthy or valuable?
- Is it because you’re bored?
- Why not just take on one goal at a time?
Really start to pay attention to why you’re setting more than one goal at a time. Start to look at your reasons and if you like those reasons.
For myself and many of the accountant moms I talk to, we know we’re smart and capable so why not set various goals and go after achieving them? The truth is that when you practice constraint by focusing on one goal at a time, you actually increase your success rate tremendously and you save yourself a lot of time and effort.
One of the most important things to consider is that when you constrain, you eliminate the decision fatigue that goes along with trying to decide which goal you want to focus on each time. And instead, no matter what new goal your brain tries to tempt you with, you know that you have already made your decision ahead of time.
Basically constraint means limiting the number of choices available to you, deciding ahead of time what options you have, and then only giving yourself those options. If it sounds restricting, I assure you it’s not; it’s really where all your power lies because it requires making decisions with the higher part of your brain and then harnessing all your energy and focus on that one thing.
Unfortunately, when you have too many goals, you create confusion and indecision for your brain. When you feel confused or indecisive, you then waste a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what’s next or what’s important right now.
So if time management or saving time is important to you (and I don’t know any accountant mom who wouldn’t like some extra time), then constraint is really going to be your secret weapon. The more you can use your higher brain to plan for one important goal at a time, as well as the actions necessary to achieve the results you want, the easier the execution of the plan will be and the quicker it will be achieved.
When you use constraint, you allow your brain to work optimally by allowing your higher brain to do what it does best, which is deciding and planning, and then you allow your lower brain to do what it does best, which is executing the plan. If you want to go after any goals, both personally and professionally, you’re going to want to use your female brain in the best way possible.
Think about how often you’ve spent time resisting, negotiating or arguing with yourself about various goals you have – constraint removes all that. It takes away the confusion and overwhelm, allowing for clarity, motivation and momentum to take over.
When you set a goal, it’s usually to do something you’ve never done before or to do something better than you’ve done before. For example, you might have a goal of losing weight and want to use intermittent fasting for the first time or maybe you’ve tried leaving the office at 5:30 pm before but now you want to make it a goal and really make it happen this time.
The issue is that when you are creating a new habit due to setting a new goal, your brain is initially not onboard because it likes consistency and familiarity. It doesn’t want to expend energy having to deal with anything new; it likes when behaviors are on a “rinse and repeat” cycle..
Your brain’s natural default is to create confusion and overwhelm in order to keep things status quo, especially when setting goals. When you’ve set too many goals, your brain can’t handle the overexertion of changing a habit or learning new things, often creating avoidance or procrastination instead.
Now imagine having more than one goal and how resistant it will naturally become. When your brain’s attention is divided between too many goals, it can easily become overwhelmed, distracted and stressed because change is unwelcome and to be avoided whenever possible according to your lower brain.
This is why constraint and focusing on only one goal at a time is so much more effective. It gives your brain a chance to put its energy into one thing at a time, decreasing the likelihood of overwhelm and frustration, and increasing the ability to achieve that one goal.
Although having more options seems like it would mean more freedom, honestly the opposite is true. If you want to simplify your life and create amazing results, constraint is going to be your best friend.
In a world filled with so many choices and options, it’s important to see how much stress and overwhelm that’s creating. For a more balanced, stress-reduced life, constraint is one of the most helpful tools you can use.
How to use constraint
If the idea of constraint seems restricting, I’m going to bet that you are already practicing constraint without realizing it. With all the unlimited options we have today, I’m pretty sure you’re not driving 100 mph in a school zone, allowing your young children to watch adult content, or looking to score the latest illegal drug.
The fact is that you’re already limiting what you choose, even though you might be faced with many, many options. For example, if you’re in the market to buy an auto, you’re not looking at every single make, model or type of auto that’s available; you’re narrowing it down to a certain category, and then narrowing it down even more as you get closer to choosing the best option for you.
Lately one of the concepts that a lot of people are grappling with is FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Whether it's personally or professionally, if you allow yourself to give in to FOMO, you’re going to create incredible overwhelm and an added layer of unnecessary stress for your brain.
Having one big goal at a time allows your brain to spend so much more time thinking about just that one goal and how to achieve it. Just like having a closet overflowing with clothes and not being able to choose what to wear, you need to get rid of all the clutter that comes with having too many goals and go all in on that one goal.
By using constraint, you can expect to have increased focus, commitment, discipline, productivity, and eliminate all the decision fatigue and overwhelm. As soon as you make a decision to go after one goal at a time, you free up your brain to concentrate on just that one thing.
So in order to use constraint, think about an area of your life you’d like to achieve a certain goal, typically where you are struggling, or where you feel overwhelmed or frustrated. It can be related to your health, relationships, money, career, personal development, physical space, work/life balance or any area where you are either spread too thin or would like to improve in some way.
Once you’ve chosen the area, choose one thing in that area that you’d like to work on. For example, if you want to work on your professional development, choose one area like technology, time management, or something industry specific, and choose just one thing to work on in that area.
Then I suggest you commit to this new constraint for the next 30 days. If the idea of constraint has caused you frustration and overwhelm in the past, you are going to experience the pressure to tackle more things, but don’t let that uncomfortability mean anything because it’s completely normal.
Stick to your decision, don’t negotiate with yourself, allow yourself to feel the discomfort, feel the urge to stop or do something else, and don’t act on it. When you put constraints on your life, you’re going to reveal the relationship you have with yourself and whether you are willing to honor your commitments and say no to other things that might be vying for your attention.
For example, if you chose the area of time management to focus on, you might have decided that you are going to calendar your time and follow that calendar, without exceptions, everyday for the next 30 days. The best thing about constraining to this one goal is that you’ll get to experience and handle all the resistance that your brain will offer, as well as grow in your commitment to your one goal.
You have to be willing to be all in on the one thing you’ve chosen for at least 30 days because every excuse your brain can offer you is going to come up and you’re going to have a front row seat to why having too many goals isn’t helpful. You’re going to be able to watch the distractions, frustrations, and negotiations that normally come up, but this time you’re going to choose to not give in.
When you constrain to one goal at a time, you get to see the sneaky way your brain wants to sabotage your efforts, and thankfully you get to manage it all. The great thing with having one goal to focus on, is that it’s easier to hear the chatter in your brain and then decide to recommit to your goal as often as it takes to get you the result you want.
Make sure that you give yourself credit when you’ve honored your commitment to your one goal. As you build the relationship with yourself, where you do what you say you’re going to do and follow through, you will learn how to 10X the results in your life.
As you reduce the decision fatigue that naturally comes with having too many goals, you’re going to stop negotiating with yourself and start having so much more discipline and confidence in yourself. Then when things come up in your future, you’ll naturally gravitate towards constraining to one goal at a time.
I promise you that as you practice constraint, your life will become much simpler, less stressful and will offer you so much more freedom. Your ability to subtract, instead of always feeling like you need to add, will help you to create the balanced life you really want.
- Loving the sense of accomplishment when you set and achieve a goal is great, but the problem is when just setting one goal at a time isn’t enough; when you feel a sense of urgency and impatience with yourself, your career, or anything else in your life.
- One of the most important things to consider is that when you constrain, you eliminate the decision fatigue that goes along with trying to decide which goal you want to focus on each time.
- If you want to simplify your life and create amazing results, constraint is going to be your best friend.
- I promise you that as you practice constraint, your life will become much simpler, less stressful and will offer you so much more freedom.