Starting a new project can you give you a temporary high. Whether you’re working on achieving a new level of fitness, trying out a hobby, building a relationship, or starting a new semester in school, the beginning of something new is always exciting. You feel basically invincible.
But then come the actual tasks that are going to lead you, step-by-step, to your goals… and soon, they get harder and less shiny. It’s not long before there are times when you just want to give up. If you’re starting to give yourself excuses—”Oh, I can’t find the time,” “I’m trying too many things, and it’s overwhelming,” “I’m not immediately good at this!”—then don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Here are five hacks anyone can use to break through to the next level:
1. Wake up and do the thing.
Playing the “I don’t have time” card? Then do your task as soon as you wake up in the morning. That first hour after waking is the time your mind and body are most ready to tune into bigger possibilities. When you focus on your goals early, you’ll feel more set up for the day.
Begin by making your morning time a non-negotiable, and make it easy for yourself by deciding you’re not going to check your email or social media accounts for the first 60 minutes of your day. This means you won’t spend your day feeling like you’re being sucked into other people’s agendas. Rather, you’ll start your day with intention and make your dreams a priority.
Instead of scrolling through Facebook first thing, take out a piece of paper and write down:
-The project you want to work on today
-One person you want to reach out to today
-One task that can bring you closer to achieving your dreams
-Do this each day before you start checking your inbox and you’ll find yourself being more strategic and proactive—rather than reactive and distracted.
2. Think big.
When you’re focused on the immediate task you’re committed to that day, it can feel like a total drag. Some days it’s just so hard to hit the workout mat, prep that green smoothie, or sit your butt down to complete that next module of coursework. So when you’re lacking motivation, focus on the bigger picture: Remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve, what your longer-term goal is, and how good you’re going to feel when you get there!
When you shift your focus to the bigger picture of why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll feel much more motivated—and more likely to stick with your commitment.
3. Work slow and steady.
Sometimes we find ourselves doing so well that we want to put our progress on fast-forward by adding on even more. On some level, it makes sense—let’s say you’ve decided to give the Paleo diet a go. But when you combine that with intermittent fasting, suddenly starting HIIT workouts, and going for a promotion at work… it all becomes too much. When we make too many changes all at once, we end up setting ourselves up to get overwhelmed. This can make us want to quit faster than if we’d stuck to going slow and steady, and taking things step-by-step.
Instead of going all-in on several projects at once, recommit to a couple of changes, give them all you have, and then, when you’re feeling solid with those results, try the next one.
4. Give yourself space.
If you’ve hit a plateau and it feels like you’re not getting anywhere, take a break. Give yourself some time to recognize the progress you’ve already made and allow the new things you’ve been learning to sink in. Sometimes these ideas just need a little time to marinate and bubble back up to the surface of your conscious mind.
And when I say “take a break,” I don’t mean “go stare at your phone for 30 minutes.” I mean get out into nature and leave your devices behind. Exposure to nature has actually been demonstrated to help increase satisfaction, well-being, and relaxation.
5. Visualize achieving your goals.
Of course, I still struggle with achieving goals. But when it feels like there’s no way forward with my current project, I think back to another ambitious undertaking I thought I just couldn’t finish—my college thesis.
I had this deep, sinking feeling, with only few weeks left to go, upon seeing my research still strewn all over my parents’ dining room table. I knew the critical points were all outlined in there, but I still had to write the thing!
The turning point, for me, was when I envisioned my thesis completed. Each morning and evening—and every free moment in-between—I began visualizing what it would feel like when I could hold the finished document in my hands and walk onto campus with it. I imagined how good it would feel, seeing each of my chapters appear on the screen—and the happy dance I’d be doing when polishing my conclusion.
Visualization is what got me into the flow-state to actually write my thesis…. and the magical “First-Class Honors” result that followed. When you think you want to give up on that task in front of you, you can do the same thing: Envision your project completed and whole. Feel into the magic of what that feels like and let that vision guide you.
Emma Bathie is a health and happiness coach and writer. Learn more about her work here.