Have you ever had a goal in mind and felt at times like you would never get there, but at other times that you were riding the crest of a wave and the route to that same goal couldn’t be any smoother?
Goals by definition aren’t easy to achieve. If they were, who knows what we’d be. To make that goal a reality there are things we need to learn, obstacles to overcome, investments of time and money to be made.
The graphic above is my crude attempt at describing some of the trends that go in 4 key areas as you work towards achieving a goal: Learning, Experience, Motivation and Confidence. There are others, but for today I’ll focus on these to illustrate how each impacts on the other as you ride that roller coaster towards a goal.
Imagine you’re heading into your first day of working towards a new goal. Your Confidence is high and your Motivation is higher. There are probably a few nerves in there due to heading into a relative unknown, but generally the feeling is great.
The Learning Phase – Part 1
These feelings aren’t uncommon when you start a journey towards something new and they’re always worth remembering – you’ve worked hard to get into this position, you made an informed decision to pursue this goal, you deserve to enjoy it.
As the first few months progress though, Motivation and Confidence start to drop in what feels like a very dramatic way, as Learning takes over and more and more questions are asked that you don’t immediately know the answer to.
I’ve experienced these feelings myself many times and have seen them manifest themselves in others I’ve coached over the years. What’s key to remember is you’re in the ‘learning how to tie your shoelaces’ phase of achieving your goal.
The Learning Phase – Part 2
The low feelings can often come across when talking to friends you trust. “Why did I do this?”, “I wish I could go back to the way it was before…”, “This isn’t what I thought it would be” are a typical statements which you’ll want to make, and they’re important in the first instance as they help you recognise exactly what’s frustrating you.
Here’s where it’s worth taking stock of your Experience relative to your goal.
Your Experience relative to the goal is low. You’re learning about the new environment you’re in, gaining knowledge on how the system works, who makes the decisions and when, what information is driving their decisions, establishing new relationships.
It is important to remember in this phase that everything you learn, whether it be positive or negative, will help you achieve your goal and will come with accompanying waves of Motivation and Confidence.
You’re building a solid foundation that you can walk forwards confidently from in the future, which you can’t do without your shoes tied properly.
So in this phase, ask yourself “What have I achieved so far which will help me achieve my goal?”. The answers might surprise you and are definitely worth taking note of.
The Practice Phase
Phase 2 is the ‘learning how to walk’ phase and your confidence is growing more and more every day. You can answer a good proportion of questions in an instant; you’re even starting to ask some that test the environment yourself. Things you had to think about doing in the Learning Phase are second nature.
What’s interesting here is you may feel that your Learning is slowing down, that you’re not Learning anything new.
This point maybe true in terms of the skills you’re acquiring; however your Experience is growing on the back of understanding, working with and challenging your environment.
So instead of Learning new skills, you’re Learning how to apply those skills in a more refined way. Using the right skill, in the right way, at the right time is more regularly achieving the results you’re looking for in each situation.
With this comes a growing Confidence, which will ebb and flow because like when you learnt to walk as a kid – you didn’t get it right each and every time at first, but eventually you did.
You’ll experience rising and falling levels of Motivation through these times too, which can be linked to your Confidence levels.
The trick when Confidence and Motivation are low is to remember that you’re still honing your skills and your ability to use them at the right time.
Here it’s worthwhile taking stock of your progress to your goal again, and ask yourself “What would I have done differently to get the goal I wanted?” each time you feel things are going the way you’d like them. This will help you hone that Experience.
The Mastery Phase
This phase is really like an extension of the Practice phase. You may be Learning even less in terms of skills, but you’re Experience is riding at an all-time high and you hit the nail on the head to get the result you’re after with fantastic regularity – you can now run, wherever and whenever you choose.
The roller coaster of Confidence and Motivation continues, but your ability to pick yourself up when they’re a little bit down can be greatly enhanced by your awareness of your progress towards your goal and the environment surrounding it.
Now, you may think then “Excellent, everything is right for me to achieve my goal, so why haven’t I achieved it yet and what can I do about it?”
Here’s where patience is needed because all the environmental factors need to be right for you to achieve the goal you’ve set and not all of them are under your control.
You may notice that your Motivation and Confidence are affected by this, but remember you’re still Learning and gaining Experience and you’re going to do that each and every day.
So take the opportunity to learn from the experience of not quite achieving your goal the first, second time or more; this will come in handy when your Learning, Experience, Confidence, Motivation and the Environment align for the day you achieve your current goal.