If you’ve read anything about goal setting before, you’ve probably heard that good goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. That’s great, and it’s true. It’s just not all. If you want to actually reach your goals, you’ll have to account for these 6 aspects of goal setting.
For many of us, the turn of a calendar year feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s an opportunity to pause in reflection and look onward with inspiration, leaving us feeling more alive than we did before. And it’s this energy and perspective that fuels us with the needed motivation to make a change.
Hence, “new year; new me”
You may not be the biggest new year’s resolution person, but all of us have goals in life we’re trying to pursue - even if only subconsciously. So in your pursuit of life, keep the following in mind:
Our Sways In Motivation
This one’s tricky. Because the thing is, we need a high dose of motivation to set a goal and make a change in the first place! It’s the “anything is possible” part of our brain that encourages us to make changes, overcome obstacles, and pursue the best version of ourselves possible. In other words, every single goal we’ve set, we’ve set from a place of feeling motivated and inspired. Here’s why that’s bad:
In short, while motivation is 100% essential to getting you started, motivation is absolutely terrible at keeping you going. That’s why I wrote this post, about how to live beyond your motivation. If you’re feeling motivated, the time to act is right now. Take advantage of your emotional state by addressing these things before it’s too late. You’re unmotivated self won’t do it for you, trust me.
The Cost Of Accountability
In order to prepare for our emotional lulls, we need systems of accountability in place. But if we aren’t careful, we’ll pay a fortune for it.
Paying for fitness lessons, community-based or boutique gyms? The difference between that and a planet fitness membership, invested over a few decades, is over a million dollars!
Hiring a tutor, a life coach, or a counselor? Utilizing a dietitian or home designer? Joining paid membership groups or online courses? Ever find yourself paying fines to your bank - or to local police? If we’re paying for expertise, that’s one thing, but many of these roles serve us primarily as sources of accountability, and they’re not cheap.
Do you let a financial advisor manage your investments? That’s costing you big time. In fact, if you invest your money like I explain in Rent Vs Buy Decision Making, that decision would literally cost you well over 100 million dollars.
Could there be a more efficient way to meet our goals? The bottom line is, paying people to hold us accountable is an expensive way to live life, particularly when we can have a good friend help us almost as well.
The Big Picture
Due to our limited foresight, our goals are often focused on the next few months or few years at the longest. But if the goals we set - or the method to achieve those goals - is destructive for the decades ahead of us, they're dumb goals. This is typically a matter of sustainability.
For example, say I have a goal to be more physically fit, and I decide running is how I want to do it. I start running some miles, and shedding some pounds, and I’m feeling great. I have the occasional shin splints, foot soreness, or swollen knees, but it’s not a huge deal, so naturally I continue to grow in this area of my life. Eventually I’m putting in some marathons, even ultra marathons. What happens over time? My joints and cartilage are taking significant wear and tear, to the point where running is noticeably more painful than it used to be. But hey, it’s still good cardio, right? And I’m obviously in better shape than all my other middle-aged friends with a gut, right? Unfortunately, probably not. The truth is, consistently running for long or intense periods of time is terrible for the heart, to the point that I could suddenly die at any moment. These goals I set failed to accomplish their intended purpose - for me to be more physically fit - and if I had zoomed out to see the big picture, I would have realized it.
But the big picture doesn’t only apply to the long term or to self-defeating goals. It’s just as easy for us to set goals that are dumb even in the short term. We do this by allowing goals in one or two areas of life cannibalize other areas of our life. Like working a bunch of overtime in pursuit of financial success, all the while your relationships with friends and family are deteriorating. That’s dumb, because without relationships, the money won’t be enjoyable anyway.
There’s a difference between setting a goal simply because we’re excited about it or think it’s a generally good goal to set, and setting a goal because we’re compelled to do so at the core of our beings. The former usually don’t last. Even if we achieve them, we’ll give up the ground we gained if we don’t have any underlying beliefs supporting our behaviors.
Take my house, for example. Say it’s a total mess, and plain ugly inside. I could invest some time, money, and energy to beautify the place, but the real question is this: what do I believe about my home? Do I believe my home is intended to be a peaceful, enjoyable, appealing environment that naturally fosters relationship building and empowers me to be a better me? If it’s just a place where I sleep, then before long, my newly beautified palace will inevitably transform itself back into a dump. Pursuing a goal without aligning our beliefs is a waste!
When we talk about goal setting, we’re drawn towards areas like health, finances, work, and perhaps relationships and lifestyle, too. These are great areas to grow in, as they’re easily quantifiable and we see them and think about them every day. However, they aren’t the most important, or even the most deserving of our attention. Goals centered around doing the things we set out to do are not nearly as fulfilling as goals that push us to be the type of person we’re inspired to be. Without a doubt, character goals take more intentionality, but the returns are so much greater.
Reaching goals takes time, and not in the way that you’re thinking right now. I’m not talking about the process - the time you put in towards your goals, or the amount of time between setting your goal and eventually reaching it. Reaching goals takes even more time than that.
See, reaching our goals will require us to establish some necessary habits. And the beautiful thing about habits is that they become so normal that we don’t even have to think about them - they require practically no will-power or conscious decision making once they’ve been instilled, allowing us to live at a higher capacity than what otherwise would be possible. That said, the terrible thing about habits is that they become so normal what we don’t even have to think about them. Their repetitiveness can become monotonous, and over time, the quality of those rhythms can grow stale and unfruitful.
The only way to avoid this mental error? You guessed it: time. More time than doing the habits and pursuing the goals in themselves. After we embark on the journey towards our goals, we need to intentionally, proactively evaluate our effectiveness. This is the background work that most people aren’t willing to do.
Not you, though. You are more than willing, because you are a champion.
For those that read all the way through - what stood out to you? Which aspect of goal setting have you been overlooking? Now is the time to adjust! :)
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