One of the hardest parts about graduating is leaving the college bubble. Without clubs, athletics and classes at your fingertips, it’s hard to continue improving yourself. Some people are psyched to graduate and never have to worry about classes and homework again, but students who were super involved may find themselves feeling lost when their schedules only consist of going to work and coming home (if they’re lucky enough to have a job).
When I was in college my priorities were divided among track and field, classes and the student newspaper. I was constantly working toward athletic and career goals. I also had a workout built in to my daily routine. But once I graduated, I was thrown into this world of nothingness. At first it was nice not having to worry about meeting a deadline or running a personal best. But it only took a few months of relaxing before I got the urge to become competitive (or at least active) again. And watching my grad-school boyfriend continue to work toward his career made me feel like I should be doing the same.
At the time I worked at a gym and had a free membership, but I rarely used it. I also bought a few books with the thought I could do some self-educating. Didn’t happen. I found some websites for freelancers and made accounts… and that’s about as far as I got. I really am a motivated person, but when it comes to doing things just for me, I struggle. I’m a pro at coming up with justifiable excuses, which definitely hinders me. I once decided not to go for a run because it looked windy outside. (That was the best I could do while living in a city where clouds don’t exist.)
As you can see, things have gotten a little ridiculous. I want to continue to grow as a person and do things that are both exciting and challenging, but I’m not allowing myself to do this. My lack of self-motivation was getting frustrating, so I brainstormed some ways to help myself. If you’re running into the same problems, maybe you could benefit from these ideas as well.
One of my biggest problems with creating goals is that I want to meet the goal right away. I’m too impatient to go through an entire process, so if I don’t see good results immediately I’ll stop. Or I’ll quit when things start getting too challenging. To counter this issue, start with tiny goals that are easily attainable. Set a goal to work out once a week or write a blog post every other week. If you want to read more, tell yourself to read one chapter of a book each day. Maybe you want to become a better cook, so set a goal to cook one new, challenging meal each month. If you start small, your goals will be easier to meet. This means you’re more likely to meet your goals, so they will eventually become part of your routine. From here you can slowly set your goals higher and higher until you reach what you ultimately set out to do.
Write things down
Studies show that if you write out your goals you’ll be more likely to meet them. At least that’s what our track coaches said. They’d make us write down goals at the beginning of each season. I always hated this, so I’d just write down something random without giving it a lot of thought. But maybe this is worth another try. I’ve read articles about people who start blogs to track weight-loss or track workouts for a race. Even if only friends and family are reading, having other people see what their goals were made them more accountable and more likely to reach them. If you don’t want to share your goals with the world, write them down and put them in places where you’ll see them every day. One of my roommates liked to plaster her walls with goals and inspirational quotes. This is a good way to stay motivated and remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve.
Create a schedule
In college I had a set schedule. Classes. Track practice. Editorial meetings. Homework and article writing in between. What’s my schedule now? Wake up somewhat early with the intention of doing something productive before work. Go online to check email. An hour later realize I am still online and now I need to eat breakfast and get ready for work. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Watch an episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix. Oops watch two more episodes. Go to bed. Since my schedule is so open, I tend to fill it with going online, watching TV or a combination of both. But by actually getting a planner and creating a schedule, this could be prevented. Make yourself feel like you’re still in school and don’t have an option. It’s 7 o’clock and your Google calendar is telling you to go for a run. Obey the calendar!
Use the buddy system
When you’re part of an organization, it’s easy to stay motivated because other people are relying on you. You have friends or teammates who can see when you don’t show up or do your part. If the peer-pressure method works for you, stick with it. Find a friend with similar goals and do things together. If this friend doesn’t live near you, set up a time each week to tell each other about what you’ve been doing and the progress you’ve been making. Short on friends with the same goals as you? Find a group to join. Take a fitness class, join a book club, sign up for that photography class on Living Social. You could even find somewhere to volunteer depending on what your goals are. If you are in a situation where people can tell if you showed up or not, you’ll probably be more likely to actually work toward your goals.
Make yourself accountable
If you are unable to find a friend or a group to help you stay in line, you might have to come up with more drastic ways to motivate yourself. Get a gym membership. You might be more likely to work out if you’re paying $40 a month for a facility to use. Create a series of mini goals and treat yourself every time you meet one. Set up an end date, or a specific date you’d like to have your goal completed by. Sign up for a race, agree to write a freelance article, put on a concert, invite people over for a home-cooked meal… no matter what your goal is (getting in shape, writing more, learning an instrument, learning to cook), you can set up a completion date to help push you along. Having an end in sight often makes it easier to get through challenging goals. Or if you are one of the few people who always has cash, you could set up a goal jar. Each time you skip out on working toward your goal, add a dollar to the jar.
The most difficult part about setting goals is finding that balance between being too hard on yourself and being too lenient. Take time to really think about what personal gains you want to take away from meeting your goal and decide how hard you want to push yourself.
To go along with the cheesy title of this post, I’ll leave you with a cheesy quote: “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!”
Have other ideas on how to meet goals? Please tell me! I’m open for suggestions.