Setting goals and working towards them is a natural part of the human condition. Whether it be weight loss, paying off debt, or running a marathon, we all generally have one thing we are working towards. We as humans do our best work when we are working towards something. It can be motivating and leave us with a feeling of accomplishment that we need to feel fulfilled.
When we set these goals however, we don’t always put thought into what we will do when we get there. This causes us to have to act in the moment when we finally get there and we generally do one of two things. We may let the moment pass without any recognition because we feel it still isn’t good enough. This is a typical inner critic reaction. We feel like we won’t be able to sustain it or there will always we more to do so we pass the moment by with a feeling of fear versus that of energy and excitement. The other default reaction is to splurge and overindulge in something, which generates a feeling of guilt. Typically when we do this, we choose to overindulge on something that we have been “depriving” ourselves of when we were working towards this goal. For example, when we loose a certain amount of weight we will then eat everything in sight for one night, but then are left with the bitter feeling of guilt the next day. Or we may go on a shopping spree after we pay off our credit cards. Both of these scenarios demonstrate the dangerous line we are on with the risk falling back into old habits that will undo our hard work.
Neither of these two options will assist in sustaining the goal you finally reached. When we don’t allow ourselves to properly and fully enjoy the moment of reaching a goal, we don’t receive the satisfaction that will help us in sustaining this goal. We will slowly fall back to old and comfortable habits that bring us back to the beginning again. If you think about it for a minute, I am sure you will find a time when you did this. Allowing fear or lack of control to sabotage the moment is keeping you from experiencing the incredible joy that you deserve. Celebrating what we did well is important to our self-esteem and sustaining the goals we have accomplished. This is a critical and unrecognized part of goal setting that will not only allow you to give yourself some joy, but also help reinforce the positive behavior.
If you find that you fall into these traps there are really easy ways to avoid it going forward:
1- Make sure you set a realistic goal. Be reasonable and sustainable. If it isn’t realistic than you will feed any insecurity you have by not being able to reach it. The goal must also be “good enough”. Even though you may have more to do in that area after you reach the initial goal, make sure it is something that you gives you a sense of accomplishment in the amount of time you did it. Know that when you reach that goal you can set another to keep moving in the right direction, but that shouldn’t keep you from celebrating in the moment. Determining and acknowledging this upfront will help minimize the risk of being taken over by fear in the moment that can sabotage your progress.
2- While setting your goal decide what you will celebrate with when you get there. Doing this up front will ensure you are avoiding the moment of overindulging. Be sure that it isn’t something that will be undermining the hard work you have done. For example- if you are working to pay off credit cards avoid a celebration that involves spending money if at all possible. If in fact all you can come up with is something that costs some money like a night away or buying one item you are craving, then factor in that amount and save for it while working towards your goal. This way it will be guilt free.
3- In the cases where your goal is really long-term, set markers along the way to celebrate. Loosing 100 pounds may be intimidating but celebrating every 10 with a day to yourself can be a great way to enjoy the journey. Planning these mini-celebrations throughout the journey of reaching your goal is just as critical as planning the big ones.
Remembering that you deserve to feel excitement, joy and pleasure when you worked hard for your goal is so important in staying on track. Allow yourself the gift of celebrating in a guilt free way and you will surely keep moving in the right direction!