Think about the last goal you set. What was it?
Remember how excited you were when you first started?
You created a plan, made schedules, and bought all the shiny equipment in order to achieve it. You printed motivational quotes and hung them on your wall.
All you could think about was how awesome the journey was going to be. You day-dreamed about what it’d be like to have achieved your objective.
You were so full of ambition it was pouring out of you. Other people noticed, and you were happy to share the reason behind it.
A few weeks go by and things change…
Your enthusiasm dries up. It’s as if you used it all up in the beginning, and now there was nothing left.
Now, whenever you thought about the mission ahead of you, you winced as if preparing yourself against an assault.
You’re doing all this work, and the benefits are still so far away!
You still remember why you started, so you still have a little motivation to keep going. You’re not very happy about it, though. You start working on your goal with the thought, “this is gonna suck!”
What happens next is even worse.
You forget why you started. Why did you want to achieve that stupid goal anyway?
The work is too much, the pay is too little.
You want to do nothing but quit.
And many people do.
This is the stage of goal achievement that separates the achievers from the quitters.
Some stages will be arduous, but without the element of surprise on their side, their chances of pushing you off course are slim.
If you know what to expect you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even in the darkest of moments.
So, what are the five stages?
The 5 Stages of Goal Achievement
These 5 stages of goal achievement come from Kelly and Conner’s emotional cycle of change. Whenever you decide to make a change in your life, you’ll go through 5 stages:
The Valley of Despair
Hopeful Realism/Informed Optimism
Success and Fulfillment
By knowing what to expect in each stage, you’ll be able to identify what stage you’re in at any time and push through it. You’ll realize that, although it may seem like you’re stuck and making little progress, success is right around the corner.
Stage 1: Uninformed Optimism
This is the most pleasant stage. You decide on your goal. You know you’re going to love working on it!
You can’t stop thinking about how awesome life will be once you achieved the goal. You feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The next morning, you jump out of bed ready to seize the day!
Life is fantastic! You are going to do this!
Your outlook is so positive, you even smile at that coworker you hate. You are filled with purpose and determination.
This is what it’s like in the uninformed optimism stage. All you can see is the end of the journey. You don’t see yourself hustling to accomplish. At this point, you don’t even know what the hustle will look like.
Uninformed optimism is when you can imagine success, but are oblivious to what it will take to get there.
Stage 2: Informed Pessimism
You’ll know you’ve entered stage two when working toward your goal doesn’t fill you with joy anymore.
You’ve been hustling for a few weeks now, and you’re getting a feel of how much effort reaching the end will take. You’re also coming face-to-face with obstacles and challenges. Things aren’t going as smoothly as they were when you first started.
Your goal isn’t new and shiny anymore. You’re no longer looking into the future, imagining your life after the goal achievement. Now, all you see is work, work, and more work.
In this stage, you find yourself procrastinating and putting tasks off, but you still want to achieve your goal.
Sure, it’s hard, but you’re still at it. You’re going to keep going. You got this. It sucks, but you got this.
They say you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. This stage was just a sprinkle. The rain is yet to come in stage 3…
Stage 3: The Valley of Despair
This is by far the worst part of the journey.
You regret starting. Why did you think this was a good idea in the first place, you wonder. You weren’t that bad off before you started, you could quit now and go back, you think.
This stage is where the desire to quit will be the greatest.
It’s also the last stage you have to pass through to get to a pleasant place.
You’re tired. You’re bored. You are done. You can’t take anymore.
You have one thought going through your head:
To quit or not to quit?
That is the question you will face in the valley of despair.
If you make it through and come out the other side, you’ll find yourself in a much, much happier place.
Stage 4: Hopeful Realism/Informed Optimism
You’ve climbed out the valley of despair and are on your way to greatness.
In this stage, you’re starting to see the benefits of your hard work. You start to feel like you did in stage one. You wake up with that sense of purpose again.
You don’t dread the work anymore because it’s became a part of who you are. It’s part of your lifestyle.
You’re optimistic like you were in stage one, but this time you’re armed with knowledge. You know what lies ahead of you.
You do what you got to do and see the results of it. It’s a wonderful stage to be in! The best stage is just out of your grasp.
Stage 5: Success and Fulfillment
You made it!
All your hard work has paid off. You are living the life you dreamed of in stage one.
It took some time. It wasn’t easy, but you did it, nonetheless.
You celebrate your achievements and thank those who helped along the way. You are filled with a sense of pride as you think about all the obstacles and hurdles you’ve conquered.
You go through these stages every time you set a goal for yourself. You want to become a better version of yourself, and the idea of it excites you. You’re in the uninformed optimism stage.
You’ll finally get over your fears. You’ll have more friends. Heads will turn when you walk in the room.
When something goes wrong, and everyone else is pulling their hair out, running around the room like buffoons, you’ll be as calm as a Buddhist monk, seeing through the problem and finding the solution.
It’s the only thing you can think about for days!
Then, you move to stage two: informed pessimism.
You realize that in order to achieve that level of self-improvement. You’ve got to meditate and be mindful—not just once but every day!
To eliminate your fears, you have to face them. Over and over again, you put yourself in situations where your voice shakes and you sweat and your hands tremble.
It’s not something to look forward to.
That’s when you move into stage 3: the valley of despair.
You still put yourself in the scary situation and, sometimes, you mess up. You embarrass yourself at least twice a week. You have to deal with the emotional hurricane that comes with it.
You comfort yourself saying, “Don’t worry, Jimmy, you’ll do better next time” after each incident, but it’s not getting that better.
It still sucks and you’d rather quit than put yourself in another situation like that again.
Not to mention, you’ve been meditating for what? Weeks? Months?
And yet, you still mind-wander while driving to work. Heck, just this morning you were thinking about that new Lexus you want and missed your turn.
It’s not getting any better. You’re going to quit. This cannot go on.
You notice that when Sharon from IT was getting on your last nerve, you took a breath and replied calmly. You didn’t speak through clenched teeth like you usually would. The next day, when your team needed someone to pitch the new idea, they chose you. After all, your voice doesn’t shake when giving presentations anymore.
You start to see some results and move into the informed optimism stage. You face your fears head on now. You know that, although it’s not pleasant in the moment, it’s worth the discomfort.
Before you know it, you’re not uncomfortable in those situations anymore. You’re calmer and less fearful. You did it. You reached stage 5: success and fulfillment.
What is your goal? What stage are you in now? Are you willing to push through it and reach stage 5?