Part of what makes the process of change difficult is that the path is so crooked. We set goals, face obstacles and battle setbacks, and then try to adjust our mindsets accordingly. It’s not easy to adjust a plan — especially since it’s natural to see anything different from our original goal as something bad.
But rather than view an adjustment as a failure, it’s actually useful and important to refine your goals along the way. As you work toward your end result, the powerful process of making adjustments will not only help you stay motivated, but also make your efforts more effective.
So as you move forward on whatever goals you’ve set, here are 4 steps you can take to help refine your goals and strengthen the durability of your plan. Let’s get to it!
1. Be your own optometrist
The writer George Saunders once offered a great quote about the act of revising his own work: “The artist,” he wrote, “is like the optometrist, always asking: Is it better like this? Or like this?”
If you’re working toward a goal or making a change, asking yourself tactical questions along the way will help you see things more clearly and find more success. Let’s say your goal is to walk three miles every day. (Good for you!) Maybe you imagined yourself reaching this goal in the mornings, but haven’t tried walking in the evening. Or splitting one long walk into two shorter ones. Or taking Wednesdays off and going for longer walks on the weekends.
The point is that regularly assessing your progress and asking questions about your techniques are great ways to learn about yourself and how you work best. It’s also a good way to find new motivations. Don’t think of it as breaking your plan so much as refining it to fit you better.
2. Make variety your friend
If your goal is to bring your lunch to work every day, but you can’t imagine eating one more tuna sandwich, it’s probably time to add some variety in the mix. This may seem obvious, especially when it comes to tuna, however, it becomes easy to lose momentum when a routine get dull over time. Sometimes, it happens without you even realizing it.
So if, for example, you’ve committed yourself to reading the newspaper front-to-back every morning, don’t be afraid to test out a new paper or sprinkle in some fiction or nonfiction from time to time. You’ll learn more about what you like and it’ll keep your plans fresher than that tuna sandwich.
3. Scale up or down as needed
Expectation is one of the biggest obstacles a person faces when taking on change. This is why keeping a beginner’s mindset and focusing on incremental changes are so important to the process. But sometimes, it’s simply necessary to refine your goals.
If you find it’s unrealistic to keep the pace you’ve set, whether you’re learning Mandarin or saving money, don’t be afraid to slow things down. (It’s certainly better than giving up!) Similarly, if you sense that something is too easy, don’t be afraid to push yourself a little. The important thing is to tinker with your approach whenever you need a boost and then see how it feels after a few times.
4. Refine your goals again and again
One of the most difficult parts of being human is that people hate uncertainty. So naturally, it’s frustrating to have one goal or plan in mind and then choose to change course. However, once you adjustments become part of your process, everything gets easier. You start looking for ways to be more efficient and, in the end, the results are more fulfilling.
Here’s another way to think about it: No goal or plan is one-size-fits-all. Ultimately, one sure-fire way to make a challenge meaningful is to make it your own.