reach goals

6 Ways To Keep Going When Your Goal Seems Out Of Reach

When you first get the big idea, you’re excited. Maybe you’re going to finally run that marathon, or write the Great American Novel, or spend the summer in France.

Yay you! That excitement gets you through the early phase, whether it’s running a couple miles a day, creating a detailed plot outline, or putting yourself on a strict budget and researching house-sitting opportunities in Paris.

But somewhere around the time you can’t seem to run ten miles without stopping, or you’re struggling with chapter seven, or you’ve spent so many nights home watching free shows on the Internet and eating Tuna Surprise you think you might poke your eyes out with a fork, you start having second thoughts.

You wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to give up your big idea and go back to your old life. One where your knees don’t hurt, you don’t care that your novel’s characters aren’t doing anything interesting, and you can afford to go out for dinner and a movie.

How do you keep going when your goal seems as far off as another universe?

You’ve hit what everyone hits – the motivation drain of the middle.

Beginnings and endings are where the energy is. When you start something new you’re pumped up, excited to get going. All the things you need to do to make your goal happen are new, and you take them on with joy and enthusiasm.

Endings have their own energy surges. You’re close to the finish line and can practically feel the relief at being done, plus the pride and happiness of getting the thing you’ve been aiming for all that time.

Middles are tough. They’re where your enthusiasm flags, and you may be tired and lose sight of why you went after your big idea in the first place. The middle is where most people give up.

You don’t have to. You just need to a) know you’ll hit a slowdown, and b) give yourself strategies to get through it.

Here are six you can use to keep going when your goal seems out of reach:

1. Imagine yourself achieving your goal using all the senses. Smell the cool morning air the day of the marathon; feel your strong, toned muscles; picture yourself crossing the finish line; hear your friends and family cheering from the sidelines; taste the celebratory meal you’ll have after. Visualization works.

2. Remind yourself daily of the why of your goal. How will you or your life be better after you’ve achieved it? Maybe you’ll be healthier, more disciplined, a published author, or fluent in French – whatever the benefits are, keep them at the front of your mind.

3. Get support, especially from those who’ve done what you’re attempting. Join a runners or writers group, or get a friend to keep you accountable. Interview someone who’s lived in a foreign country and offer to send her a small gift for her time. Share your doubts and ask for advice or help.

4. Act as if you haven’t lost momentum. Sure, you’re cranky or tired, so fake it. Keep going anyway, knowing that each step gets you closer, even if it’s hard or doesn’t seem to be moving you forward. The bonus? Discipline is great for self-esteem. Taking on something big and making it happen is huge, and when your next big idea comes along you’ll have this success to look back on.

5. Take a day off. Rest, goof around, refresh and reenergize, and don’t worry about your goal. One day won’t slow you down, and it’ll let you restart tomorrow with better energy and clearer perspective.

6. Celebrate milestones along the way. You shouldn’t have to wait until the very end for the big payoff, so build in mini-achievements and reward yourself when you hit them. Make a decadent dinner, buy that new book you’ve been wanting, or spend a night in that sweet B&B one town over.

Remember – middles are hard for everyone, so keep going. You can do this. Now get out there and be awesome!

(As always, hit the share button if you found something useful.)

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Oh, and one more thing – what tips do you have for staying motivated? Let us know in the comments!

DEONNE KAHLER writes at Life on the High Wire. She’s also mom to Sam the Wonder Pup and is obsessed with road tripping, national parks, and quirk.

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52 Responses to 6 Ways To Keep Going When Your Goal Seems Out Of Reach

  1. zivana anderson says:

    This is great. We all seem to get stuck and I hadn’t put two and two together, that it’s the ‘middle’ ! Thanks. 

  2. Wkwrama says:

    I am in this situation right now.I started writing a book related to industrial electrical controlling at the end of June this year.At the beginning I felt full of energy and with the time it dramatically drained away.Then I was so sad and wanted to know what’s wrong with me ,so I decided to search on the Google ,then I crashed in to here.Fortunately the answer is here.Now I know “that’s the way it is”.I am so grateful for this article.Thank you very much.Keep up.

  3. Han says:

    Thanks a lot for this saving post! I think I’m kinda lost now in the middle of my journey… Thanks again! :)

  4. Zivana,

    Glad it helped! The key is knowing it’s coming and that we *all* go through it. There’s a beauty in shared pain (ha).


  5. Wkwrama,

    Nothing wrong with you at all! Glad I could help. Keep going, knowing that the middle doldrums happen to everyone.


  6. William_Drop_Dead_Money says:

    Love #6! For some reason, that works wonders for me. Not just the celebration, but the promise: hey, if you do just this one little thing, we’ll go celebrate!

    Of course, I know I’m lying because when I’m done with “this one little thing” I’ll say the same for the next thing. For some reason I seem to be a sucker for my own lies. But every now and then I actually do go and celebrate. Maybe I do this just enough so my alter ego always lives in hope I’ll really do it “this time!” :)

  7. Han,

    My pleasure! Getting lost in the middle is a rite of a passage with any journey. I make it to point to give myself extra rewards when it hits, and you should do the same. You’ll get through it.


  8. Katielara says:

    perfect timing Deonne, perfect…….

  9. Deonne … the why has to be one of the biggest I’d say. If we can just remind ourselves of why we really enjoy what we’re doing and find things in it that are fun … that’s motivation to continue. Sometimes we let ourselves forget that we really enjoy something, strange as that sounds! Probably because we get to thinking about results rather than the process, the journey itself.

  10. Paschalceli says:

    Wonderful piece! It came at the right time. I have been trying unsuccessfully to get on the journey of building a billion dollar trading business. Right now am at my lowest start with a capital of 4500USD but never felt as confident as this and with a clear strategy on how to leverage this venture capital is certain that in 33months from now, I will reach the first 1million dollars. I like my folks on this space to hold me accountable and also encourage me in achieving this tough but possible goal.

  11. William,

    I heartily support you getting more treats! Ha.


  12.  Katielara,

    So glad, hope it helped.


  13.  Carmelo,

    I totally agree about enjoying the process. The reward is awesome, of course, but yes, if you’re not at least mostly enjoying the journey to get there, you’ve probably taken on the wrong goal. Thanks for commenting!


  14.  Paschalceli,

    That’s some big goal! Best of luck to you, and thanks for commenting.


  15. Taking a day off is so important. I think reflection is a wonderful way to keep you going too. If you don’t take time to reflect on what you’ve done and what you’ll like to do next, you’ll start to lose that passion you had when you first started. This is a great article. Thank you!

  16. Mike,

    Reflection is key, you’re right. It’s helpful to check in with yourself – whether it’s in a journal or just mentally – and note what you’ve accomplished so far. All those small actions add up! Thanks for commenting.


  17. TJ Chasteen says:

    Good point here. *Palm to forehead* – I’ve just realized why I’ve been tossing in the down near the end of the middle every time. That’s when my patience has wore thin and I just can’t muster the energy to continue on. But, I will use these tips to persevere next time and make it over the hump so that I can embrace the surge of energy that comes when I reach my end goal.

    Thank you!

  18. Stomczyk3 says:

    Thanks! I needed that. Turned 50 yesterday. 1.3 yrs with own business. Added a part-time job to help make ends meet…

  19. TJ,

    Perfect! So glad the article helped.


  20. Stomczyk3,

    Congrats on the milestone birthday! Sounds like you’re busy, and I hope my piece helps you keep plugging away. Best of luck.


  21. Elle says:

    Soooooo needed this today. The hustle can definitely be daunting! Time for some visualization. Success is on my horizon!

  22. Elle,

    Yep, it’s daunting, and I’m glad this helped. Visualize that success and keep going. Rawwwwr!


  23. Rudolph says:

    This is crazy but every time I get to come to this web page, there are some sort of articles that really cheer me up somehow…thanks…this one was terrific…and as I always post on my Facebook status…The struggle never stops!

  24. Fantastic post – thanks for sharing! The middle is certainly a hard spot to be in, but its much easier when you visualize how much ground you have gained since you started. I’m a visual person so I like to map out my progress on a goal so I can see a visual representation of my accomplishments. So I might identify that a goal has 100 steps to take from start to completion – I draw out a 100 small boxes on a paper (10 x 10) and each time I complete a step, I colour in a box. Its not sophisticated by any means, but seeing the graph being filled in with more colour each day certainly helps keep me motivated.

    Thanks for sharing this really useful post!

  25. UpbeatBrain says:

    Hi Deonne! Your tip #4 is one of my favorites: Fake it till you make it! I’ve used that sort of thinking for physical, mental and emotional challenges. It’s amazing how we can create reality through a little faking!

  26. Nancy says:

    Dear Deonne,

    Thank you for the inspiring piece. I can definitely relate to this as in the past year I feel like everything that was good in my life started going down hill; education, career, relationships. It’s hard to continue when the going gets tough, and it’s not easy to motivate yourself when you’re not even reaching those milestones. What I have done to keep myself motivated is a number of the following:
    1. Exercise: Each and every day, endorphins released will not only rejuvenate your brain, but also give you mental stimulation and in turn, motivation.
    2. Education: I am a big fan of the TED talks and I watch it everyday as a form of ‘break’ from my normal work, and I find that by listening to these academics, survivors, inspiring leaders, I can summon the inner leader within myself to continue the pursuit of my dreams.
    3. Read Motivational Quotes: Whether it’s motivational quotes from famous philosophers, politicians, authors, or other insightful people, I read a handful of these throughout the week to keep me motivated. Also, I visit Pick The Brain on a daily basis to find articles from inspiring people such as yourself, in order to keep myself motivated.

  27. Rudolph,

    Life is a work in progress, isn’t it? Glad you liked the article!


  28. Andrea,

    I’m an analog tracking nerd, so I love your box of steps! Great idea. Thanks for sharing it.


  29. Upbeat,

    It’s probably the one situation where faking it is appropriate (ha). Thanks for commenting!


  30. Nancy,

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling, but it sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job of taking care of yourself. Bravo! The three things you mentioned are such smart strategies, thanks for sharing them. My best to you.


  31. Mojo says:

    Heard a Taekwondo teacher refer to this once as the “Green Belt Blues”. You’ve gotten to the middle of the belt cycle where your learning curve plateaus and you can’t quite see yet how you’re continuing to build the foundation for future success as you power through to the next level…. Those that soldier on eventually attain black belt. The rest drop out.

  32. Mojo,

    Love that! Thanks for commenting.


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  34. Dwaites,

    They definitely can! Thanks for commenting.


  35.  Hey deonne, Great tips here I personally use visualization and taking some time off to goof around. I noticed that people begin to get demotivated when they focus on the “Grey Area” where they start to try to take things in their own hands.

    So they get demotivated. But the how is not completely our part in how success happens. That’s where you just focus on seeing yourself at that specific outcome and “Let It ” happen.

    Your tips here help people, including me to refocus on our desired outcome.

  36. Zahib,

    Exactly – we can’t control the entire process, so there is an element of letting go. And really, how fun would life be if we knew exactly how it was going to turn out? Ha.

    Thanks for commenting!


  37. Outstanding article!! Yes, yes, and yes… six times! Thank you.

  38. Chuck,

    Thanks for the enthusiasm and kind words! Much appreciated.


  39. Lucie says:

    Ahhh, the dreaded “middle”! I hit it on my journey to black belt at about 4 years in. My instructor knew what was happening (my training dropped from 3 or 4 times a week to onc every 3 or 4 weeks). A few encouraging words at the exact right times saw me through. This article would have made the journey a touch easier I think…

  40. Lucie,

    You’re right about the encouragement – sometimes what we need is someone to say, “Yep, it’s really hard to do what you’re doing. We all felt that way. But keep going! We made it, and you will too.”

    Congratulations on the black belt – impressive! And thanks for commenting.


  41. Rest and take a day off! So important ….!!  I am working long hours and so focused …almost forgotten to rest …. thanks for the reminder!

  42. Gordon,

    It is important! Laser focus is great, but a body needs a break once in awhile. Sometimes I also let myself have a “bare minimum” day, and only do those things I absolutely have to do, then kick it back into gear the next day.

    For me that usually involves daily commitments (minimum word count on a project, yoga) and deadlines – is there something due tomorrow that I have to finish today? Then do that, and nothing else. It’s amazing how even one easier day helps.

    Good luck, and thanks for commenting.


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  44. Son Sophanara says:

    This is my situation right now i feel i lost myself sometimes and kinda tired to keep walking to reach my goal … i Keep motivated myself sometimes works sometimes fail i got no idea what i wanted now but i know i will make it just sth blank in front of me make me lost myself confident .. could you tell how can i get myself confident back ? 

  45. Son,

    I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling. Is there anyone you can talk to? A trusted friend or advisor? If you’re feeling lost it helps to reach out and talk through some of those feelings. Remember that you’re not alone, and hang in there, because it’ll get better. Thank you for writing.


  46. Ettebel says:

    Ok that’s all very well but when you’ve spent a lot of time working on something (like years) and not got any results  or any income to show for it, what then? 

  47. Ettebel,

    I’m sorry to hear that! I don’t know the details, but it sounds like your plan of attack needs adjusting. For example, I know writers who pitched their first book for ages with no luck. They put it aside and wrote a second book – which did get picked up. And sometimes that first book got picked up once they had a deal.

    Again, I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but I’d suggest finding a different angle and trying that for awhile. Good luck! And thanks for commenting.


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  50. I colour in a box. Its not sophisticated by any means, but seeing the
    graph being filled in with more colour each day certainly helps keep me

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