How do you feel about goal setting? If you’re like most people you either roll your eyes and you don’t even bother with goals setting or if you do, you take the easy path. That’s the fastest way to get to the finish line after all.
I’m all for expediency.
It makes sense on many levels; it involves the shortest route to the feel-good sensation of the finish line. What it isn’t going to do is build your resilience and your overall wellbeing in the longer term. And that could pose problems.
What are some of the blocks to setting goals? One block comes in the form of the ‘voice’ in our heads that offers all the reasons why you shouldn’t do what you said you were going to do. If we listen to that voice or voices, personally I have more than one, and I call them my puppets… Those puppets enter into a dialogue, and when they do, priorities go ‘out the window’. Once you take out of your lexicon phrases like, “I don’t have time” and you adopt instead wording such as “It’s not a priority”, suddenly everything shifts. It’s called being straight, and being straight begins with you.
In short, priorities create clarity.
Similarly, we can also get caught in “thinking loops”. These thinking loops can lead to self-sabotage. How that plays out is we set a goal; for example, you’ve decided you want to make health a priority, and you are going to run a half-marathon. The very next day, you wake up, and it’s cold, you’re tired, and the puppets start. The first order of discussion is a running commentary on how cold it is and how tired you are and how you really do deserve a lie in… Yada, yada, yada! The other puppet counters and off we go… We then lose integrity with what matters and don’t achieve what we want:
We dis-able rather than en-able ourselves.
In short, creating thinking loops that don’t support what we want. The solution is to stop thinking and just DO.
A lack of clarity also is a problem. The clearer we are in creating what we want, the easier it is for us to see it and the opportunities that surround it. We literally train our brain to be on the lookout for what we want and how we can make that happen. Doing so takes it from a nice to have to a must-have. Also, it makes visible the pathways to the fulfilment of the goal, or put simply, this is how you get that.
Which bring us to a strategy that both increases our satisfaction levels and the likelihood of success when it comes to setting goals. Once you have clarity around what you want, break it down into milestones. This is why Teresa Amabile says:
“Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work”.
It’s not only important to create milestones, but it’s also equally important to celebrate them. If we don’t, life becomes all about the finish line. In other words, we miss the journey and all the joy and fulfilment along the way. While it is undeniable that the big wins are great, the reality is they are few and far between. It’s the minor steps forward, especially if they are celebrated, that provide us with a disproportionate gain in satisfaction and accomplishment. It’s easy to underestimate just how much of an impact the little things can have and, this rings true in our work, our relationships and even how we approach ourselves. The real values lies in breaking down more significant goals into bite-sized chunks and being intentional about creating more opportunities for you to feel that sense of accomplishment. Doing so fosters more frequent and more positive self-talk, (yes the puppets can harmonize) and a winning mindset which results in increased resilience.