Have you ever had a goal that no matter how hard you worked or how many hours you dedicated or how many affirmations you chanted, just didn’t seem to make any progress? Despite all your best effort, it felt like you were running on a treadmill — working hard but not going anywhere.
When I decided to take my career to the next level and become a freelancer, I encountered this problem. Even though I was putting in countless hours every week, I just wasn’t getting any clients. At the time, I didn’t even know the first thing about business or marketing or how to sell my services. The only thing I actually knew how to do was the service I was trying to get clients for.
And the scary truth was, I had no idea if I would ever get a single client or make a single dollar. There were weeks and weeks of what seemed like zero progress being made. I remember creating a spreadsheet to track my daily progress towards my goals and watching as the days piled up with nothing to show for it. So there were definitely more than a few times when I wondered if I should give up and stick with a “normal” job.
But, despite not seeing much progress, I kept with it. And there were a few key things I did that helped me stay on track and eventually led to a full-fledged career as a freelancer.
The first thing I did was set myself a Re-evaluation Date.
Sometimes, the fruits of your labor can be like an iceberg. Only a small part is visible above the water, but below, a huge iceberg is forming.
Self-doubt and anxiety about whether you’re making any progress can sabotage your goals even if you’re actually making significant progress just below the surface. So if you think your goal might take some time to manifest change, try setting a “re-evaluation date” before you quit and give up on yourself too early.
For a “re-evaluation date” simply pick a day on the calendar that makes sense for the size and scope of your particular goal, then refuse to rethink, reassess, or self-doubt your decisions until that day.
For example, I gave myself 3 whole months to work on my freelancing career before I would re-evaluate whether it was even possible. Until then, I would just think about doing and learning everything I could.
In the words of George Lucas: “You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead.”
Next, I reframed all my setbacks and failures as learning experiences.
There’s nothing more demoralizing and frustrating than feeling like you’re constantly messing up or self-sabotaging your own goal.
Very early on in my freelancing journey, I realized that if I saw every setback and failure as a sign that I should quit then I would never get anywhere. In fact, I probably would have quit on the very first day.
So instead of seeing setbacks and failures as negative things, reframe them in your mind as learning experiences. You may not be learning from a textbook or a class, but you’re learning from experiences — and those experiences can actually be some of the best teachers!
Next time something doesn’t work out, it might just mean that you need to pivot. You’ve actually just been given a little mini-lesson to help you towards your goal.
This also makes each failure less personal and might even make the whole thing feel more like a game. Rather than viewing failure as a reflection of your worth, view it as a natural part of an interesting challenge that will take time and effort. It can even be fun!
As Albert Einstein said, “failure is success in progress.”
I focused on enjoying the doing.
It’s easy to get caught up worrying about how much progress you’re making and forget to enjoy the actual journey!
If you can find joy in the act of working towards your goals, then you will have won half the battle.
Obviously, when money and livelihood and the grocery bills are all on the line, it’s hard not to freak out a little about getting results. And while a certain amount of pressure from deadlines can help to speed up the process, it’s important to remember to enjoy the moment. If you constantly feel negative while working towards your goal, you’ll quickly come to resent it and will be more likely to quit.
Again, turn your goal into a game. A test. A challenge. Enjoy the puzzle of it, rather than worrying about the prize. If I had worried about the prize too much in my freelance career, I would have been paralyzed with stress and never gotten anywhere!
I celebrated every milestone (even the tiny ones!)
100 views on my blog post? CELEBRATE! Got an interview with a potential client? CELEBRATE! Made 1000 dollars? CELEBRATE!
Every seemingly insignificant moment was celebrated. Even if I just got up and got to work that day, I celebrated. I kept track of every little win and made sure I took plenty of time to bask in the glow of that success.
Positivity was everything. Excitement was everything. Enjoying the little moments is what kept me chugging along.
And I didn’t just celebrate the little milestones, I also celebrated each learning opportunity. I celebrated the increase in my business knowledge, in my self-discipline, in my growing ability to stick with it despite setbacks.
In the words of Sebastian Thrun: “It’s important to celebrate your failures as much as your successes. If you celebrate your failures really well, and if you get to the motto and say, ‘Wow, I failed, I tried, I was wrong, I learned something,’ then you realize you have no fear, and when your fear goes away, you can move the world.”
Ultimately, after just a few weeks, I ended up getting an amazing retainer client who was perfect for me and which resulted in getting even more clients because people saw my work for them! It became a strange snowball effect.
And all that effort I put in at the beginning when I wasn’t seeing any results? It ended up coming in handy. The iceberg had fully formed and there ended up being way more under there than I had realized. I now had the business and marketing knowledge to attract and get clients that I really loved. I had spent so much time learning (aka — messing up!), I now could handle all kinds of situations with ease.
So if you’re feeling frustrated about a goal, remember that there just might be a lot of things happening under the surface you’re not aware of. With consistency and time, you will eventually see results.
As Tony Robbins wrote: “In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”
And remember, results aren’t everything. Learning, growing, enjoying yourself along the way…those are the things that really matter. So keep going and keep learning. Even when you don’t see any results.