How To Build Momentum When You’re Chasing A Goal

There’s days where I don’t feel like writing or exercising. There’s also times where I struggle to build momentum, not performing as great as I would like compared to the previous day. It can become a constant struggle when your ability to stay motivated becomes a roller coaster ride. What I’ve learned is there are effective strategies we can apply to build momentum in the tasks of our choosing. It can be the most mundane, like chores, or simply taking action on something you enjoy doing. By taking a step back and delving into our real motivations and learning how to track progress, we can get ourselves out of being stuck and build consistency to achieve and perform at a high level.


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Decide on what you would like to be known for


We all have goals we would like to achieve. One of the first reasons we get stuck is because we lack the thought of our identity, where the current conscious and subconscious behaviours aren’t a reflection of who we would like to be. To build momentum when you’re stuck, ask yourself, “What do I want to be known for?” Focus on the process rather than the outcome. For example, you might typically be motivated to lose 20kg. While it’s still a goal, there’s no identity to it. Start to become the type of person that goes to fitness classes or walks every day. When building momentum, think of it as a three-step process:

1. Your goal. Do you want to publish a book? Lose weight? Get a promotion? This is the surface-level motivation you have. It’s the end of a train line. To reach the outcome, we need to go deeper and build train tracks to keep us going in the right direction.

2. Review your Process. Your processes are the habits and systems you have to reach your outcome. It could be writing 1000 words a day, showing up to a fitness class 3x week, or identifying and solving new workplace problems. The majority of habits you build are connected at this level.

3. Change your identity. The final and most in-depth level is concerned with changing your judgements on yourself and others. When your identity is clear, you can build momentum more effectively. Don’t be someone who writes. Become a writer. You’re not someone looking for a promotion. You’re a leader. Decide the type of person you want to be, and prove it to yourself with small, daily wins.


Limit your intake of inspiration and actionable advice


If you want to get motivated and inspired, it’s great to watch a YouTube video or read inspirational articles. But to be reliant on motivation itself will increase the chances of burnout. Think about what you consume each day and how it affects your decision making. It makes it much harder to build momentum when you’re stuck in a constant loop to seek information because what you’re consuming can contradict each other. In order to keep your mind clear for action, limit the amount you desire. Instead, focus on building identity-based habits by focusing on the small wins and become someone who can achieve the outcome you envision.


Divide your outcome into small wins


When building momentum to achieve an outcome, implementing smaller and manageable milestones along the way is key. The small wins represent your progress points. They are what keeps you moving forward and staying on track. Here are some small win examples:

Identity: Become a writer
Outcome: Publish a book
Small Win: Write 250 words each day

Identity: Be a great friend
Outcome: Be well respected by those close to you
Small win: Calling a friend every weekend

Identity: Become a leader in your profession
Outcome: Get a promotion
Small win: Show up to work on time

Identity: Be healthy
Outcome: Lose 20kg
Small win: Attend a fitness class 

Small wins > momentum > generated movement = results

When you do the little things well, they add up over time and reach your milestones along the way. Each milestone destination gives you added motivation to continue. It comes from the systems you put in place that are beneficial to your outcome. By focusing on breaking your goals down into smaller results, the momentum generated makes it manageable for you to keep going. The small victories create a ripple effect, giving an increasing dose of intrinsic motivation, and taking you one step closer to your desired outcome.


When you face setbacks, modify your approach.


Being able to adjust to what life throws at you is an effective strategy to stay the course. Often, when we run into problems with our goals, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and give up. By learning to modify your approach, you’ll be able to find new routes that still keep you on track. It isn’t about changing your goals. It’s about learning how you can apply a strategy that works for you when you’re stuck. For example:

Outcome: Run a marathon
Current Strategy: Run 15km once a week as part of your training
Setback: Only reaching 12km at your best when the marathon is a month away
New Strategy: Opting to run the marathon two months ahead to give you more time

Outcome: Become a high-level manager
Current Strategy: Working in a current role for a promotion
Setback: Made redundant
New Strategy: Apply current skills in an alternative industry or stick with the same industry and seek out job security

Outcome: Lose 20kg
Current Strategy: Run 4x week
Setback: Hitting a weight loss plateau
New Strategy: Implement weight training to increase metabolism

When modifying, start with one small change. Too many changes can throw your system into chaos, and you’ll begin to feel overwhelmed. If you find one modification isn’t working after a few weeks, try another one and see how it goes. Changes aren’t a sign of failure. They’re ways to help you build momentum and stay the course. Have patience and persistence.


Building Momentum


Finding motivation through to the end will always be challenging. Choosing what you would like to be known for will give you the most significant meaning and clarity to keep moving forward. It gives you the structure to build systems around you on an outcome you’re chasing. By breaking down the outcome into small wins, momentum will be hard to stop. And when you face setbacks, be clear to monitor and modify your strategies within your daily systems to see if they’re benefiting your chosen outcome.