What are you hoping to do someday? All of us have goals stirring in our souls – starting a business or volunteer project, earning a degree, traveling on a pilgrimage, becoming a parent, and more. These are the goals we think about often, feeling a buzz of excitement as we anticipate the day we can finally achieve them. Yet, too often, we procrastinate about acting on those goals. We fall victim to what I call “someday” syndrome – putting off what we want to do the most and suffering unnecessarily as a result. While struggling to overcome procrastination, we miss out on valuable opportunities.
Someday syndrome may delay us so long that our goals slip away from us. My grandparents dreamed of traveling internationally together someday. But since that seemed like an impractical goal, they kept procrastinating about actually taking the trips they had planned for many years. Finally, after Grandpa retired, they purchased tickets to travel to Europe on what was to be the first of many worldwide adventures for them. Then Grandpa suddenly passed away before the trip was scheduled to begin. Nana grieved the loss of her husband and their shared dream. But she emerged from her grief determined to start traveling herself – and she was able to accomplish that goal and experience the rewards once she stopped procrastinating.
Our major goals are too important to put off for someday. The opportunities we can lose by procrastinating are too valuable. Here’s how to overcome someday syndrome to accomplish your goals:
Identify your fears so you can start moving beyond them. Putting off something that we’re already highly motivated to do means that we’re afraid of what might happen if we finally take action. So we need to identify our fears and then shift our focus beyond them to the benefits of taking action on our cherished goals. What types of fears are blocking you from making progress on something you truly want to accomplish? Are you afraid of failing and the embarrassment that would bring? Are you afraid of succeeding because of the new expectations others would have of you? Does the stress of working toward your goal scare you? Once you know what types of fears you’re feeling, you can face those fears down.
Get excited about the wonder you and others can experience when “someday” finally arrives. Imagine the wonderful results of your efforts that may happen once you actually achieve your goals. Be specific and savor the details you visualize! Even though you can’t anticipate all that may happen, you can engage your curiosity, which will ignite your sense of wonder. A team led by researchers from our Center for the Advancement of Well-Being recently identified a five-dimensional curiosity scale that identifies how people express curiosity in different ways. Discover how you can best be curious about your goals, and that will motivate you. Remind yourself regularly of the benefits of achieving your goals – and spend more time thinking of those rewards than you do thinking of your fears. Focusing on wonder will excite you, which will motivate you to start (and continue) making progress. Realize that you have the power to choose to act despite your fears. Then do so, boldly taking a step forward toward your goals whenever you notice yourself feeling afraid. The more you take action despite feeling scared, the stronger your courage will become!
Let your values and purpose guide you. New research on procrastination reveals that, “Fulfillment in life depends on achieving the results you regard as important, results that may vary according to your overall values and belief systems.” Keep your core values, life purpose, and legacy in mind every day – and make choices in light of them. Ask yourself: “Does this decision move me closer to fulfilling my purpose in life?” and “How could this choice move me away from my purpose?”
Recognize timely opportunities before it’s too late to act on them. Procrastinating will cost you valuable opportunities – many of which will only be available to you for a limited time. That project you feel passionate about launching at work may be possible with your organization’s current leadership and budget, but if you wait too long, circumstances could change and your support could be gone. Those kids you feel passionate about helping grow up quickly, so delaying serving them means you can lose the opportunity to impact them at crucial stages of their lives. Reflect honestly on the best timing to pursue your “someday” goals. Be specific. If logistics are lined up well now for you to pursue any of those goals, maximize your current opportunity by going for it!
Break down your tasks into manageable portions. Breaking down your passion projects into small tasks will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and help you take action more quickly than you could otherwise. Schedule specific blocks of time for getting certain tasks done, keeping in mind what times of day and night are best for you to focus on difficult tasks. Plan to do your most challenging work when you have the most energy. Each day, list your top three things to do, in order of priority.
Use your strengths. When you put your personal strengths in action, you can optimize your success achieving goals. Consider what you love, what you’re good at doing, what energizes you, and how you can best contribute to the world. Then tap into that to motivate yourself. Once you start working with your strengths, you’ll start to make solid progress toward your goals, which will give you more confidence to keep going.
Check your schedule against your priorities. Are you investing your time regularly in working toward your “someday” goals? For one week, study how you’re spending your time day by day. Do your actual activities line up with what you say is most important to you? For example, if you’re passionate about starting a business someday, are you allocating time to doing the necessary research? If so, keep going – but if not, eliminate some activities that aren’t really as important from your schedule to free up more time and energy.
You don’t have to wait for that vague and unreliable day – someday – to achieve what’s most important to you. If you get started now, you’ll increase the likelihood that your goals will actually become reality!
Whitney Hopler works as Communications Director at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB) and has written for many media organizations, from About.com to the Washington Post. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and connect with CWB on Twitter and Facebook.