Rethinking Goal Setting in 2018
Chances are, you are the hopeless romantic who thinks that turning over a new page in a calendar equates to a new lease on life. There is something magical about January 1st that makes you see the world as an oyster, your oyster, and damn it that pearl is going to be yours too.
But you know you lose steam by January 10th and begin falling back into habits that find a way to be present no matter the year. Try as you might - you just can't get to your goals. (yeah, I know...I'm inside your brain).
This blog is for you. It's time you start achieving those goals you set and leading the life of your dreams.
Goal setting is hard. How do you know where you are going to be in a year when you can't even find your shoes in the morning? Sure, that guy at work always seems to write down some jibberish on a notepad and tuck it in his pants pocket, but he must have a secret potion that keeps him focused. Maybe he has that drug from Limitless...maybe the guy in cubicle 23 is Bradley Cooper. Maybe, Bradley Cooper doesn't accomplish all of his goals...
Your mind races as you struggle to understand how some people always find a way to get what they want out of life and you're still laying on your couch with Cheetos in your belly button contemplating whether or not 9 episodes of your new Netflix muse is one too many. OK, maybe it isn't this extreme, but chances are you're one of the millions who eagerly set goals every new year. If you aren't, then you're probably that group who skips out on the whole goal-setting behavior as a way of avoiding disappointment.
I'm not here to judge which pile you go in. It is just important that you pick the one that best suits you so that you can visualize your starting point on this journey.
See, it doesn't matter whether you set a bunch of goals and fall short or avoid them like your in-laws. What matters is that at some point in your life you've set some visions for yourself, didn't achieve them, and feel beat up about it. Sure, one group puts their head down and convinces themselves that it'll be different this time while the other leans back in their creaky chair, cracks another beer, and mutters "fuck it" under their breathe.
Read on to find out the best method for setting your goals with intent of achieving them, instead of just enjoying a high for a day as you proudly look down at a sheet of notebook paper.
The Problem with what you are Doing
Writing down your goals is a lot like playing the lottery. The day you do it...man do you feel great. Your brain, in the process of future projecting, starts playing out all of the favorable scenarios for you. Just as that ticket is your admit one to a new house, car, and a trip around the world...your goals are your vessel to a better you.
You start to see the abs on your stomach when you write down that this is the year you lose that stubborn twenty pounds.
You start visualizing that flight to Paris when you promise yourself you'll be better with money and save your money to travel.
You start picturing yourself having the premium parking spot at work, your own coffee machine, and a whole bunch of people under your finger as you declare this as the year you get promoted.
In your daze you imagine all of the outcomes and all of the launching points success will provide. And this is where your plan begins to unravel.
Because you are focusing on the outcomes. You picture the job you want, the car you need to drive, and your boots hitting sidewalk in Paris. You visualize the applause that comes from your weight loss, the ego that comes from being sought after, and all the likes on your Instagram when you post that transformation picture.
Of course it does. It's what you've been doing your whole life. Or, it is what you were doing before you got all bah humbug and decided to just "let shit happen".
What You Should Do
See, behaviors make things happen - not goals.
A quarterback wants to throw the game winning touchdown, but he can't do so if he can't find his helmet on the sideline, can't jog on the field, and can't call plays in the huddle, control his other ten guys, and stay light of feet and mind under pressure. See, the touchdown is the outcome, the glory, and the goal. Yet, you can want to save the day all you want and still end up nowhere.
You have to focus on the process.
During the Precision Nutrition certification, a highly reputable education from John Berardi and crew, it is these concepts that are pounded home. The best coaches are ones who help their clients emphasize actions and not outcomes.
It isn't just "lose weight"...it is go to the gym four days per week and eat at least five servings of vegetables a day.
It isn't just "run a marathon in a year"...it is run at least 10 miles per week for four weeks, strength train twice, and start a stretching, mobility, and recovery program.
With all of this said, let's introduce my take on this form of goal setting and achievement. Below is a method that I use for myself, as well as my clients, to ensure that goals don't just fill up the spaces between lines on notebook paper. It is the method of taking ink laden dreams and making them livable realities. You can still have your outcomes in mind, but you must think smaller before you dream big. You have to ACT.
Achievements - The ultimate goals, which are typically outcome based.
Correlations - Goals that are the summation of all of your tasks
Tasks - Simple, achievable actions that are done every day that add up to bigger achievements.
The process intentionally starts with your outcome goals first, because let's face it. That's what you want. You want to get to those outcomes. Yet, as we've discussed we need to focus on small tasks that we can achieve on a daily basis. Now, that middle category, correlations, let's explain that a bit:
Correlations are simply what happens when you've achieved your tasks for an extended period of time. They are the building blocks of the ultimate goals.
So, let's use weight loss as our ACT goal since most of us understand what it is, and why we'd want to achieve it.
Achievement - Lose 12 pounds in 6 months
Correlations - lose 2 pounds per month
workout for a total of 20 hours in the month
Tasks - Go to the gym four days a week
Cut back on calories by 200/kcal per day
Sleep at least 7 hours a night
So, in this simple format our tasks things that can be manageable on a daily and weekly basis. Eat a little less, sleep a bit more, and attend our local gym more days than we don't. As we build outwards towards our month we stumble into the correlations - goals that are the summation of tasks and the building blocks of achievements.
In theory, we could lose two pounds every month if we perform the tasks as we should. If we attend the gym four days a week it'll also be quite easy to be in the gym for 20 hours in a month. Most workouts could be an hour, but some might lean towards an hour and a half.
Then, at the end of 6 months we should have consistently nailed our tasks, met our correlations, and as such achieved our goal.
And that folks, is the secret to achieving our goals no matter what they are. It could be learning a new language, increasing our savings account, or even overcoming our anxieties. It is the simple application of consistent behaviors that leads to our achievement.
Putting it together for the win
It is very simple when you write it out in a blog and explain it as though were counting to ten. Yet, it isn't always that easy in real life, and so you need to simplify your process.
Sit down this week, or next, and write down your big goals for the year. Go ahead, dream big.
Now, jump down to your tasks and start writing down the behaviors you think will lead to that achievement. Maybe it is going to the gym, maybe it is putting money in your savings account every week, maybe it is doing yoga in the morning to cut down your anxiety - what it is only matters to you and your goals.
Then, start thinking of 1/3 way or halfway points to your ultimate goals. Considering these as short term check-ins in your long term journey. Just as a marathon runner likes to see what mile they are on during a race - you'll want to know where you are at too. These checks ins serve as confirmation that you are doing everything right or as reality checks that you need to recommit or change course.
You may need to adjust your tasks a bit to ensure you end up winning the race, but that isn't that hard to do. Maybe you'll go to the gym 5 days in the second half of the year, maybe you'll stick to a tighter budget, and maybe you'll meditate to find peace within.
No matter what you do - know that you can achieve all of your goals. Just work everyday to accomplish your tasks.