Garden of the Gods
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

A few years ago I set out to lose a serious amount of weight. I wasn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination but over the course of a few years I had seen my weight slowly increase as my waist size went from 32″ to 36″. Nobody called me “fat” but that was how I felt.

Finally enough was enough and I decided it was time to get in shape. Heck, I thought to myself – why not go all out with the eventual goal of getting a six pack?

So that’s what I did. I learned a huge amount about working out and weight loss, about nutrition and exercise. I tested things out, kept records and lost over 6 inches off my stomach in a few months.

So what about the six pack? Truth be told, I never quite got there. I had been working out, losing weight and looked the best I had in a long time. Friends and work mates started telling me how good I looked. They kept referring to the new “thin” me. They were impressed and I felt a boost in confidence.

Then for some unknown reason I just stopped. I had come so far only to just miss my ultimate goal.

And I’m not alone. So many of us have dreams and goals we’d like to achieve. Things we’re thinking about and working towards. So why do so many people quit just before reaching their goals? What can be learn from this and how can be try our best to avoid this situation?

In general I think we can separate goals into short-term and long-term goals. A short term goal might simply be something like repainting your front door on the weekend. It’s quick and simple. You wake up, buy your paint and some sandpaper and get working. Within a few hours you’re done.

It’s the longer term goals which take more effort and are more prone to going wrong or getting forgotten. Taking my weight loss as an example – losing weight would be easy if you only had to eat and exercise right for a single day and then you could wake up the following morning at your ideal weight. But you can’t. Weight loss requires consistent, long-term effort if you are to succeed.

There are really two difficulties with long-term goals. The beginning and the end. The middle bit is reasonably easy. Making the decision to change – finding that motivation to get started – can be tough. But once you’ve started and found a new pattern to your life to help you work on your goals you can make improvements without too much effort.

But long term goals can take time to show results. Take a photo of yourself, then start a new weight loss program. Take a new photo every week and even if the scales tell you that you have lost weight it will probably be 3-4 weeks till you actually look thinner in your photos. That’s a lot of effort before you start to see results and this lack of feedback can be difficult to cope with.

Let’s take SEO as another example. Those of you who know me and are regular readers will be aware just how much I value building authority websites and driving traffic using search engine optimization.

You select your keywords, build your site and get link building. Maybe your site appears at position 100 in Google. Slowly, over time, as you build those links, your ranking increases.

Position 95, 89, 70, 56 and so on. Creeping up the rankings. The problem is that while your site is climbing thanks to your efforts, your traffic is increasing ever so slowly – if at all.

Not till you hit the top 5 positions will you see a significant increase in traffic. But at this point, assuming you’ve chosen your keywords correctly, you can see a massive jump in traffic.

A few years ago I built a site that targetted a very high traffic keyword. It started off getting 10-20 unique visitors per day and every week I would work on building a few more links. Eventually after a few months I reached position number 4 in Google and my traffic jumped from this 20 or so visitors per day to between 800 and 1000 visitors per day. Literally overnight.

My stats went crazy, and the jump in my Adsense income stunned me. If I had quit working on that site, I may never have experienced that massive jump because it wasn’t until the very end that I saw that increase.

Goals can be like that sometimes. Most of us do or have worked in a typical job where the more effort you put in the greater the results you get. You work an extra hour, you get paid an extra hour’s money. There is a direct correlation between the effort you put in and the results you get.

But there are many other goals – like building an internet business or getting a six pack – where you need to keep on putting in a consistent effort without really getting anything back until you finally reach a “tipping point” where suddenly the results start to appear almost like magic.

These goals – which require significant effort but in which that effort doesn’t pay off for weeks or even months to come – are the hardest. They require belief on your part and they require patience to keep investing time and effort without results.

And I suppose this is really the major reason why people quit just before reaching a goal. Quite simply they run out of faith. They’re simply not seeing the results they hoped for.

So one of the biggest tricks to achieving long term goals is to find other ways to measure your progress in order to keep yourself motivated. Don’t measure your SEO efforts by how much traffic you’re getting but rather by how much your rankings are increasing. Don’t measure your weight loss by how you look in a photo but by what the scales say you have lost.

Find ways to record the progress you’re making – to keep you motivated – and if you stick to your goals long enough you should see the “big payoff” eventually.

Have you ever given up on a long term goal? What was it, and why did you quit? Have you succeeded with a tough goal? How did you stay motivated, and how did you feel when you finally got there? What personal goals are you working on right now? Why not leave me a comment and let me know…