There are times in life when the long, hard road to a goal or a milestone seems as if it will never end.
Growing up in Iowa, that goal at about this time of year was just getting through the long, cold, dark and snowy winter.
My mother’s response to the discouragement of that seemingly endless post-holiday winter stretch was to create milestones to work toward, and look forward to.
And because Mom was an excellent (EXCELLENT!) cook, many of those milestones were delicious.
February was a dessert-rich month. For example, each year we could look forward to all these homemade treats:
– Feb. 12: “Lincoln log” for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (a sponge cake roll filled with almond cream and frosted in chocolate)
– Feb. 14: Divinity hearts (cherry, mint, black walnut) dipped in chocolate for Valentine’s Day
– Feb. 22: Cherry pie for George Washington’s birthday
How do you break up a long, sloggy stretch of work or a project, making it more encouraging, and enjoyable?
Here are a ideas to try:
1. Find something to look forward to.
Anticipation can be half the fun of anything.
A good friend starts planning her next trip within days (or hours) after she returns from her last one.
It helps break up the endless stretch ahead of her stressful and, sometimes, unrewarding job.
2. Break a distant goal or milestone into short-term ones.
Each achievement, completed, spurs you on to reach the next one.
3. Invest the effort that makes reaching a milestone a real victory.
Don’t just mark the passage of time with the milestones you set. Create a collection of achievements.
Put some mind work, muscle and moxie into milestone-reaching, and each one will be more meaningful.
4. When you reach a milestone, pause…notice…enjoy it.
Often we get something done and instead of really noticing what we’ve done, we’re already thinking about the next thing on the to-do list.
Notice your achievement.
Celebrate in some appropriate way.
5. If you’re having a hard time moving forward, break your goals down into even smaller chunks of achievable action.
Two to five minutes of progress, if that’s all you can complete on a given goal and a given day, is still progress.
Moving forward in the best and most positive way is the point.
6. If you’re REALLY stymied or stuck, start moving ahead by imagining yourself doing the work.
Sometimes you can only start to move ahead if action is believable, and you see the accomplishment as achievable.
Notice, as you do this simple exercise, how glad you are when you imagine that the work is getting done, and when it is completed.
That, alone, may spur you over, around or through anything that’s holding you back now.
7. If there are things you really don’t want to do, notice that you feel that way, but move on.
Don’t waste your energy not wanting to do something.
Notice it and then move on.
Stewing, and hand-wringing just makes things worse.
Work is almost never as bad as you think it will be.
Get it done and then enjoy the fact that you have.