I am working on a personal goal right now that isn’t going as smoothly as I would like. It’s something I really want to achieve but like many goals that start out with excitement and motivation, I am getting frustrated with my perceived lack of progress (aka. It’s taking too long).
I know that I’m not alone in this. One look at the diet and exercise industry shows that following through and remaining committed are problems for a lot of people.
For many people, this is the cycle of goal setting:
Set a goal→excitement→motivation→repetition of the necessary actions→distraction or discomfort→less repetition→doubt→tapering off/fading away→disappointment→back to the status quo.
What’s crazy is that many of us start to let ourselves off the hook so we can soften the disappointment of another failed attempt.
We start saying things like
“Now’s not the right time.”
“It is going to take too much mental energy and I am tapped out after work.”
“It will take time that I don’t have.”
Or the worst one, “It’s not possible anyway because I don’t follow through.”
This last one is the one that has been a thorn in my side this week and it boils down to lack of belief that ANY effort is going to be wasted because it’s not going to happen. By letting ourselves off the hook, we stop taking the necessary actions and then, without even thinking about it, we leave it up to chance.
“If I can, I will exercise.”
“If I can, I will eat right.”
“If I can, I will be more peaceful at work.”
“If I can, I will avoid complaining.”
“If I can, I will do something productive tonight instead of scrolling through social media.”
“If I can, I will respond to all the emails.”
“If I can, I will get enough sleep.”
By doing this, we avoid the disappointment of letting ourselves down, of not achieving something that we really do want.
But the truth is, when we take this approach we are allowing ourselves to be disappointed ahead of time by not achieving the growth we crave. By putting in the prefix “If I can” we leave it to chance.
The good news is this is much easier to fix than you may even realize. We can interrupt the not-accomplished-goal-cycle and we can do it with one reminder, one that is so true to our core that it will course-correct us very quickly:
“As nurses, we don’t leave things to chance.
It’s not who we are.”
This one thought, this one core value, can help negate the disappointment, distraction, or discomfort of trying to achieve something new. And it can fit in at any point in the cycle. For me, when I got to doubt, a warning bell went off in my head and I knew I needed to find the thought that would get me back on track. It’s thoughts that get us back on track, not actions.
Yup, you read that right. It’s not taking action that gets us back on track, there is a step before taking action. Thoughts get us back on track. Finding the thought that supports taking action.
I know the actions I need to take (we all know WHAT we need to do) but if I am stuck in thoughts of “if I can” or “it doesn’t matter anyway” then I’m not going to take the necessary action.
So let’s look at the goal cycle again.
Set a goal→excitement→motivation→repetition→distraction or discomfort→less repetition→doubt→remind myself (choose the thought) “I am a nurse and I don’t leave things to chance. It’s not who I am”→evaluate what I have done toward my goal and what obstacles came up that I need to create a plan for→jump back to motivation→keep going.
Sometimes, the warning bell doesn’t go off when I reach doubt. Sometimes I get all the way to disappointment. Sometimes I stay there for a while.
But I am not going to leave my life to chance. I’m going to pull on that nursing strength and apply it to all the areas of my life. I know it works, I have tons of evidence.
I didn’t leave paying for college to chance.
I didn’t leave passing my classes to chance.
I didn’t leave getting a job or getting married to chance.
I didn’t leave the health and wellness of my children to chance.
I didn’t leave getting through grad school or getting additional certifications to chance.
I don’t leave providing for my family to chance.
I don’t leave going on vacation to chance.
I don’t leave running my business to chance.
So why do I think I don’t have control over my other personal goals? Why do I think “it’s probably not going to happen”?
Because I just needed to find the thought that supports the continued action, the thought that nurses don’t leave things to chance. I don’t leave things to chance.
Here’s what I know to be true.
Nurses stay on top of things, when the first intervention doesn’t work, no time is spent on disappointment, time is spent on problem solving and then on action.
Nurses support all attempts at self-care and self-efficacy, even when they are imperfect.
Nurses don’t sit around, hoping things will work out, they get shit done.
Nurses do uncomfortable things all the time and keep showing up.
Nurses don’t wait for someone else to think things through and tell them what to do, they are constantly assessing, diagnosing, planning, implementing, and evaluating. Rinse and repeat.
Nurses have compassion for those who are struggling and find ways to support them.
Nurses don’t leave things to chance.
Try this thought on the next time you are struggling with a personal goal:
I am a nurse and nurses don’t leave things to chance.
You already have the skill, now go achieve your dreams.
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