Life is full of challenges. Some big, some small, but all can dishearten us at times and make us feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

While the goal of some challenge may be important to you, it can be easy to lose sight of that goal when things get in the way. Other responsibilities, a task’s difficulty, a lack of time or just the fear of failing, can all cause you to give up.

Step one in taking on a challenge is clearly defining what it is that you want to accomplish. Identify and write down the goal you want to reach. It should be something specific, not a generality like “be a better person” or “be a happier person.” It might be to stop smoking, to learn a new language, to get that promotion at the office, or any of a thousand other things that would actually make you healthier, happier or more content.

What you write down should become your purpose, something that you are going to give priority in your life. This means redefining your overall priorities. It means not letting yourself be distracted by lesser goals that are going to stop or distract you from achieving what you really want to achieve. This may mean saying no sometimes or rearranging schedules to work toward your goal. The idea is to keep the focus on the thing you most want to achieve at this time.

When your top goal is something large, your next step is to figure out the steps you need to take to finally get you to that goal. If an office promotion is what’s important to you, for example, maybe the first steps are doing small things to make yourself and your talents more visible, or volunteering to take on new projects that will help lead you to that bigger goal.

And, no, you don’t want to give up. It can be easy to want to stop trying when things get difficult. Some studies find that it might take eight attempts before someone is successful at stopping smoking. Losing weight also often takes multiple efforts before one succeeds.

When you have a clear goal that you write down and keep focused on, then it’s easier to see that temptation to quit is just another obstacle in the way, and one that you can find ways to overcome.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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