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How To Give Yourself A Push When Your Progress Stalls

Leadership coach and author Jodi Womack explains why people lose momentum while pursuing their goals—and how to get it back.

[Photo: Flickr user Aitor Escauriaza]

Making a strategic career change. Saving more of your paycheck. Paying off debt. Setting money or work goals like these is the easy part. Keeping up your momentum so they stick for the long term? That’s where the battle begins.

Maybe your pattern is to create a plan of action so sweeping that it ultimately overwhelms you. Or you get sidetracked and bogged down by the daily grind, and you veer off course. Perhaps you know you want to change but aren’t sure what the first step should be, so you end up spinning your wheels. However you get there, when you sense that you’re stuck in rutsville, it’s frustrating and discouraging.

So how can you get unstuck and move forward? We talked to Jodi Womack, CEO of the Get Momentum Leadership Academy and founder of No More Nylons, a coaching program for business leaders. Womack is the author of the new release Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck with Jason W. Womack, her business partner of nine years and husband of 17 years.

The Womacks have made it their life’s work to help people make positive changes that last. Here, Jodi shares her insight on why successful people fall into a job or money rut, and gives tips for busting out and reaching your goals.

How do you know when you’re stuck?

If things aren’t moving forward in your life, and you feel isolated, frustrated, as well as physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted, chances are you’re stuck. But if you can’t feel it, listen to yourself. If you often repeat phrases like, "I don’t know what to do next . . . I tried that once and it didn’t work for me . . . I’m confused . . . I’m overwhelmed . . . I don’t know where to start," then you’re in a rut. You need to get back on the path to the future you want.

Related: Use This Checklist To Set Financial Goals For Yourself Myself

Many people reach a point where they feel stalled at work. Why does this happen?

Being stalled at work is rough. If you’re not feeling momentum at work, everything feels stagnant. [The reason this happens is] the same as in any other area of life: You don’t create clear goals as to what you want to get out of your job and where you hope it will take you. Or you do have goals, but you don’t monitor them closely, and before you know it, you veer off track.

We suggest our clients take a strategic approach to goal setting—specifically, to let themselves dream and build a vision of how they’d love things to be. Then, constantly scan the landscape of opportunity and look for new chances to move toward their goals.

What’s the most effective way to kick-start momentum?

The very best way to create momentum in life is to establish firm, clear goals and then set up milestones—intermediate mini goals that make it easier to achieve the [larger goals] you set out to accomplish. We suggest something called the "30/30 Rule," whereby you devote 30 minutes a day to focusing on something that is 30 days away or more. For example, you spend a little time each day keeping track of a big work project coming down the road in a month rather than avoiding it and letting it sneak up on you.

Also, the 30/30 Rule can help you with larger career questions like, "Do I want to be in the same job a year from now or do I want to start doing everything I can to get that promotion?" If so, you would take that one-year goal and break it into 12 monthly goals. When it’s time to check your progress on the next monthly goal, see if you can schedule two to four of those 30/30 Rule blocks each month to work on that."

When it comes to finances, especially paying off debt, people seem to get very stuck. Why?

With money, it all boils down to having an exact sense of what’s coming in and what’s going out. Too often, people get stuck because they don’t have a basic understanding of this equation. If that’s your situation, sit down and do the math. Ask hard questions like, "What one change can I make to keep me moving forward?" Or, "Where can I cut back?" Or, "Where do I have the opportunity to create income?"

Also, look for people you might learn from in this area of life. Maybe it’s a trusted family member who is smart about money or a financial advisor. Educate yourself on the realities of your finances and ways you can boost your income or cut spending. That will give you momentum to take action.

Speaking of guidance, in the book you place a strong emphasis on relying on a mentor to help reach a goal. What makes a good mentor?

Jason and I have two different approaches to mentors. For me, a mentor is someone I know personally who cares about me deeply, a person who cares about my goals but also cares about me. For Jason, he views anyone he has learned from as a mentor. That includes authors he’s never met but whose books he’s read or an expert who has given a Ted Talk he watched online.

So when it comes to mentors, we encourage you to find someone who’s willing to help you achieve a vision that’s a little bigger and a little more outrageous than your current self.

Related: 5 Confidence-Boosting Money Mentors To Have In Your Financial Corner

Is there a right time to try to escape a rut so you’re better able to break free successfully?

Some people prefer starting on a set date, like New Year’s Day. If that works for you, by all means, do it. But I’m a bit of a rebel in this area because I feel it sets you up for failure: You vow to get in shape only to hit the gym for three weeks in January with the rest of the crowd and quit.

Instead, I strongly believe that the absolute best time to work on a goal is right now. Don’t wait! If you want to eat better or save more money or get your resume together, do it today. And if you find yourself making excuses, then dig deep and ask what’s the real reason you have such discomfort about starting now. That answer will help identify the problem and hopefully put you in a place of forward movement.

You advocate setting milestones on the way toward reaching a goal. How does this work?

Momentum happens when you set goals and reach milestones. Setting up little goals that you can complete lets people know you succeeded. Accomplishment leads to confidence. If you can create small wins [in your life], they build on themselves and affirm that what you are doing is working.

What if you get derailed and feel discouraged? How would you suggest rebooting?

The fastest way we know to reboot is to ask yourself, "What do I want to be known for?" This will help you create your criteria for what you do and don’t do [to get back on track].


This article originally appeared on LearnVest and is reprinted with permission.

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