How to Be a Goal Slayer (Even on Your "I Don't Wanna" Days)

If you want to be a Goal Slayer, you have to be willing to look close enough to get your eyebrows singed.

So, you’re having a series of what I call "I Don't Wanna" days. You know the ones. You take a look at the day's "To Do" list and you suddenly feel like one of those plastic horses from the 80's that collapse when you push the button.

Now I believe in the ebbs and flows of creativity and productivity. I believe in rest and knowing when you’re pushing too hard. But there comes a time, when you're stuck in an ebb, that it's time to look around and sort out why. And when you have some big dreams and goals that you're going after, knowing how to continue to make steady progress is critical to keeping those dreams alive.

Making commitments to yourself and others is only as good as your willingness to actually keep them. There's a certain element of picking one's self up by ones bootstraps that can work if the resistance is low, the foundational habits are strong, and the path is clear. But if you’re still finding yourself easily discouraged by lack of effort - and subsequent lack of progress… there's a better way than forcing it.

Here are a few basics about being an effective Goal Slayer.

Get Real with Yourself  

My brother-in-law said something the other day that I liked a lot. It went something like this: "You can say something is important to do. But at the end of the day, if you're not spending time doing it, it's not your priority." 

Get honest, specific and clear about what you really want, and about what's really holding you back. 

Stare those goals in the face.

  • Are they aligned with WHO you are?

  • Are they true to your values?

  • Are they aiding you in serving your highest good, your fullest life?

  • Are they clear and visceral and exciting?

  • Do you understand how they're working in service of your purpose?

Take time - get clear, get specific, get concrete. Be able to describe what it is, how it will feel when you get it done, and what it will contribute to your life.

The "I Don't Wannas" are going to win against unpleasant or difficult activities every time unless you can feel and taste and smell the goal you've set for yourself. You've got to be willing to breathe life and energy and passion into your goals before you start. If you want to be a goal slayer, you're going to have be willing to look close enough at your goals to get your eyebrows singed.

Now that you have clear, aligned and important goals, ask yourself - what is really getting in the way?

  • Are you sabotaging your progress because you're afraid to fail?

  • Because you don't believe it's possible?

  • Because you don't feel worthy of actually obtaining what you're dreaming about?

Sometimes the dragons we’re wrestling are actually on the inside.

This inner work is the most important part of being a goal slayer. Be willing to examine your self-limiting beliefs, assumptions and limitations. Getting out of your own way.


Break it Down

Goals - especially the big exciting ones that scare you a little - can have the immediate consequence of overwhelm.  So it's really important to break them down into actionable, manageable pieces. Become a List Slayer.

Once you're clear on what you want to achieve - sit down and write down everything you need to do to get it done. Seriously - make a list.

Let's say for example you've always dreamed of taking your family on a month long adventure in Asia. What are all the things you need to sort, accomplish, manage, in order to make that time? What research do you need to do to decide where to go and how to get there? How much money do you need to save? What systems do you need to put in place at work to free your calendar for an entire month? What preparations do you need to make for the kids? What visas do you need? You get the drift.

Now - take a look at that list and choose one of two ways to prioritize.

The most effective list-slaying technique is to take a look at that list and pick the one thing on it that makes all the other things easier, clearer or more effective. In our example - I would argue that setting the dates and booking the time is the place to start. It gives the whole dream structure, and lights the fire of time under you.

If you're feeling less energy - your list-slaying option is simple.  Do the easiest thing. Check it off your list. Do the next thing. Repeat. As long as it's on your list, and you're checking things off, you're making progress. And progress tends to accelerate as the list gets shorter.


Whistle While You Work

When I was a teenager, I was an incredible slob. (Sorry, Mom!) My room was a complete disaster - dirty clothes, books, CDs piled around my room - with barely a foot-wide path of clear floor to reach my bed. It was my small way of rebelling - of waging peaceful protest in a household which demanded physical order - and I was fervently committed to this chaotic civil disobedience.

But every once in a while, either because I couldn't find any clean underwear, or because my car privileges were going to be revoked, I had to clean up my room. I had zero internal motivation to tackle the overwhelming chaos, but it had to be done.

I'd start shuffling things from one pile to another for a bit, until I'd find myself distracted with old notes, or album cover lyrics. Left to my own motivation, I would have puttered away in my room slowly buried alive under acid-washed jeans, Trapper Keepers and gum wrappers. So - to counteract my total lack of follow through, I'd do what I knew would keep me on task - I'd yell to my sister: "Come talk to me while I clean my room."  And then I'd shovel off a patch of my bed for her to sit on, and we'd talk while I made slow but steady progress. Now both in our 40s - we'll still occasionally call each other when we're doing something we don't have the motivation to do, and the conversation always begins: "Come talk to me while I clean my room."

Find what helps you when it's time to tackle a task you don't have motivation for.

My friend Tricia, a successful entrepreneur, has this hilarious but totally effective philosophy: "My life is basically a whole series of challenges and rewards designed to trick myself into adulting."   

Get out in the shared space of your office if being around people gives you energy. Choose a fun soundtrack for ambiance while you do your tax preparation. Get a fancy coffee to sip while you make sales calls. The tantalizing promise of dark chocolate once you've completed the outline for your project can be just enough to tackle that resistance.

Motivation is what happens after you begin to see the results of your work. If you have to trick yourself into it to start, so be it.


Celebrate Your Accomplishments

At the end of the day, tally up the things you got done. Keep a running list of even the smallest wins. Turn the "To Do" lists into "Did It" lists - and revisit them often. I look at my "Did It" list every Tuesday.  

There's a power in continually noticing how far you've come, instead of how far you still have to go.