Whether it’s writing a book, making a million bucks, or getting the garage attic organized, you’re excited about the goal you’re chasing and eager to see it come to fruition.
In your excitement, you keep comparing where you’re at today with where you want to be, measuring how many more words you have to churn out to hit the book’s goal, how much money separates your bank account from the seven figure mark, or how many mounds of long-neglected relics of suburbia stand between you and an organized attic.
That comparison is normal… and often totally discouraging.
When you compare where you are right now with where you ultimately want to be, you typically wind up fixating on the distance between those two points.
The problem is that instead of getting smaller and smaller, that distance tends to appear wider and wider. The more hours and heart you pour into the journey, the more you might find yourself thinking, “After all of that, I’m only this far along? I have that far to go yet?”
And that’s a discouraging perspective.
The finish line looks farther away when you’re in the middle of the journey than when you’re at the starting line.
That’s the funny thing about perspective and energy… when you’re at the starting line and your energy is fresh and you’re jazzed up about getting started and you’re feeling anxious butterflies and the dizzy adrenaline of new adventures, it’s a little like having “beer goggles” on. The passion and excitement of The Start can distort the distance to the finish line and make it feel like it’s right there on the horizon, like if you just stretched a little bit you’d be able to touch it.
Then when you’re in the midst of the project and the energy of The Start has faded, that same finish line looks like it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay out there. It may even feel like it’s vanished from sight, as if someone keeps moving it farther away each day than it was the day prior. Your faith may waiver as to whether it’s still there at all.
It’s hard to maintain momentum on your journey when you’re losing hope of ever completing it.
Both versions of the finish line–the one rightheresoclose and the one waaaaaay far away–are mirages.
The finish line wasn’t close enough to touch when you started, but it also hasn’t vanished from the horizon entirely like it seems when you’re in the middle. Neither one is more real than the other. They are each, in their own way, just a trick of the light. They’re each just a different perspective of your big audacious goal.
And that’s a good thing, because the beauty of perspective is that you can change it.
To change your momentum, change your perspective.
Go ahead and set that big audacious goal. Envision holding that printed and bound first edition of your book. See that seven figure total in your bank account. Imagine seeing the back wall of your garage attic that’s been hidden so long you’re not even sure it’s still there.
But then once you’ve got the big goal set, immediately start breaking it down into smaller sub-goals.
Those sub-goals are your key to maintaining momentum on your journey. Because even if the ultimate finish line feels unattainably distant, your smaller goal–a mile marker on your journey–will be visible, within reach. Instead of comparing where you are now to where the finish line is, you can see how close you are now to the next mile marker.
By hitting a series of smaller goals, you give your brain something to focus on other than how far away the ultimate finish line is.
And this isn’t just a mental trick you’re playing on yourself. The shift in perspective is a purposeful strategy designed to help you attain and maintain momentum.
Each time you reach a mile marker, you’re proving to yourself that you’re making progress, that you can do what you set out to do, that your journey is successful. We aren’t wired to keep spending our energy on something we believe we cannot achieve. Your brain needs that positive input (and let’s not forget your spirit is pretty grateful for it too!).
Hitting those smaller goals gives you a boost in energy and confidence, and that in turn keeps your momentum going.
If your tank of momentum isn’t going to last until the next mile marker, then make an even closer mile marker.
There are days–or weeks–when slogging comes more naturally than frolicking. That’s okay. It happens to the best of us! When you’re in a slog-prone phase, your momentum gets used up much quicker than usual, so you won’t be able to travel as far without a momentum boost.
So give yourself even smaller sub-goals. Make them doable. Don’t expect your momentum tank to last you as long on a twisty, steeply graded uphill climb as it will when you’re coasting down a smooth rolling hill. Set your mile markers accordingly.
Some days, that may mean that your mile marker is, by your usual standards, incredibly small. That’s great. Hit that mile marker and give yourself a high five for doing it. Then set a new one–make it another incredibly small one if you need to. Then hit that one too.
Giving yourself small, accomplishable sub-goals keeps your brain focused on the smaller, can-do-able steps of your big goal–and then gives you the energetic charge of having done them. Your alternative is trying to force yourself to keep aiming for bigger sub-goals, not hitting them, and then kicking yourself around the room for the next day and half for being a big ol’ failure.
Guess which one of those results in more momentum, and more efficient progress to the finish line? So if you need to break your sub-goals into even smaller sub-goals, by all means, do it!
And keep track of how many mile markers you’ve hit.
You don’t have to literally keep a list of every sub-goal you achieve–though that’s one way to do this. You could keep your completed to-do lists in your journal or in a file on your computer to review and celebrate every so often. You can also review for yourself at the end of each week (or even each day), and jot down one thing you did that got you even a little bit further along the path. Or have an accountability buddy who can help remind you of all your mile marker successes.
How you do it is totally up to you; the important thing is to give yourself some way to keep perspective of what you’ve done successfully, and how many mile markers are in your rearview mirror.
When you find yourself getting stuck in the perspective of how far where you are now is from the ultimate finish line, review all those accomplished sub-goals. Remind yourself of all those successfully-passed mile markers. Gently shift your perspective from “I am so far away” to “I have reached so many mile markers, and I can totally reach that next one up ahead.”
We let off the gas when we think we start losing faith in our ability to make it to the end. We start feeling discouraged when we focus more on how far there is to go than on how far we’ve come. We lose momentum when we lose perspective of just how much ground we’ve successfully covered on our journey to our big audacious goal.
Shifting your perspective is not always easy… but like any practice, the more you do it, the more of a natural part of your workflow it will become.
For clarity, let me say outright that it isn’t wise to lose all awareness of your ultimate finish line. It’s necessary to maintain awareness of it, so that you can continue making course corrections and ensuring that the actions you’re taking on your sub-goals are still taking you in the right direction.
But when it comes to momentum, viewing your journey as a series of “Which mile marker comes next?” rather than a long, drawn-out “Aren’t we there yet?” will keep you exponentially more energized, confident, and motivated.