Far too often we are bombarded with the onslaught of 30 day challenges, 21 day fixes, starting next Mondays, starting after the holiday, the vacation, the birthday celebration or whatever. We set lofty goals for ourselves. Why? Because we are hard core, we are motivated, and we are probably sick of facing our shame and failure in the mirror on a regular basis gosh darn it!
I am guilty of the balls to the wall mentality, changing as many dramatic things as I can for a short period of time; valuing intensity over consistency. It’s sexier, it’s more “click baity”, it makes me feel like a purist, and elitist and an expert in my field; until I fail.
Pretty soon that goal hour of cardio 5 days a week goal becomes 20 minutes while I watch bad reality television on the treadmill.
No sugar, no alcohol, and no process foods becomes 1 “cheat” meal a week.
Getting 7-8 hours of sleep turns into 5-6 hours with a power nap while the kids play on a phone.
Reading the bible daily becomes a quick prayer for help just to make it through the day.
Is this ringing any bells with anyone?
I wish I could blame our hustle harder culture, and while that is probably part of it, the truth is we chase things we admire! We set goals to make a lot of money because we want that. We set goals in our careers because we crave respect and admiration. We set goals to have more date nights, more sex, more quality time because those are the things we crave in our marriages.
Before we dive in more, let me be clear – I don’t think setting hard goals is bad! In fact, I encourage you to set big goals for yourself. However, wouldn’t it be great if we could accomplish our goals instead of just setting them in our heads, failing, feeling bad about ourselves, re-motivating, and starting the cycle all over again?
The problem here is not that we are setting hard goals. It’s that we are setting so many little ones, we are overwhelmed and too exhausted to accomplish them. Instead of goals all we have is a check list of items to do; leading to laziness in execution, and just checking the box instead of attacking one thing with intentionality, intensity, and consistency.
The theory of goal competition indicates that one of the biggest deterrents we have in achieving our goals, is our other goals. We have divided attention. In a world that promotes and expects multitasking, it’s time to drop it in favor of laser focus.
In a practical example, one of the biggest things I hear is “I want to lose fat and gain muscle.” Great goals, but completely opposite systems. One requires a calorie deficit (fat loss) and the other a calorie surplus (muscle gain.) So can you do both at the same time? Maybe, but probably not well. It would be better to pause one and focus on the other, and realize there are trade offs for both and pick which “pain” you want to live with for a while.
The next issue we encounter is burnout. No one every stops to think about the fact that often our goals will take longer than a few weeks. If anything good worth having takes time, we are talking months and years of consistent effort to achieve some impressive goals.
So how do we make sure we can keep going when the going get boring? Burnout is a real thing people! You are not crazy!
In the beginning, we are so motivated and excited we often overdo what is required to achieve our goal. We abandon the system, thinking that by doing more in the beginning we will somehow get to our goal faster. Again, this is the intensity vs consistency argument.
One strategy to combat this is setting a maximum effort as well as the minimum to ensure we don’t overdo it, and accidentally fall into burnout before we have accomplished our goal.
Walking: I will walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, but not more than 15,000.
Reading: I will read a minimum of 1 chapter a day, but not more than 3.
Communication: I will send 10 work emails per day, but not more than 20.
By being intentional about our consistent efforts over going hard right away, we are able to keep the fires burning longer and hotter so to speak (which we all know is better for s’mores.)
So what is goal setting at its most basic? Goal setting is the act of selecting a target or objective you want to achieve. If you read last week about workout tracking, the same principles apply; in order to know if you have achieved your goal there must be some metrics used that can measure progress and success.
So how do we choose our goals to be meaningful, and how do we make sure to achieve them?
Author Mark Manson, best selling author of the book “The Subtle art of not giving a F*ck” presents an interesting, and I would argue 100% correct concept.
The real question should not be what is your goal? The real question is what amount or pain/discomfort are you willing to endure to get there.
We all want financial freedom, but few are willing to work long hours and stick to strict budgets to make it happen.
We all want to have strong relationships, but we shy away from tough conversations.
We all want to have amazing bodies, but we don’t want to spend the hours in the gym and the kitchen to get them.
None of these are character assassinations, or bad if you don’t want those things. But we can at least do ourselves the courtesy of being honest and saying, “I am not willing to work that hard for that result.”
The popular saying “The man who loves walking will walk further than the man who loves the destination” rings true here. It’s great to have a place you want to go, but if you hate to “walk” the chances of you making it there are slim. The differentiation here is the goal vs. the system to get your there. Goals are the target you want to achieve, systems are what you do daily to get you there.
Goal: Lose 30 lbs of fat > System: Sticking to your food plan consistently
Goal: Put on some serious muscle > System: Follow a progressive overload program in the gym 4 x a week
Goal: Become a millionaire > System: Invest 25% of your income in the next year
You see where I am going with this I think…
The BIG, HUGE, SEXY goal is great, but worthless and futile without a plan of execution.
Research has shown that we are twice as likely to stick to a plan, if we can answer the when, where and how of it. For example filling in the sentence
“(WHEN/DAY) at (TIME), I will (study, exercise, read, meditate, etc.) for ( x amount of time) at (WHERE)”
“On Mondays at 4 pm I will stretch for 20 minutes in my living room.”
Psychologists call this “implementation intentions.” Yes, you still have to actually do the work, but you will be much more likely to DO IT if you are able to state your intentions in a specific and measurable way.
Some of the first conversations I often have with new clients could go something like this…
ME – “What do you want?”
THEM – “I want to lose weight and tone up.” (classic)
ME – “That’s a great goal. Can you tell me a little more about what you are hoping for from working with me?”
THEM – “I want to lose 10 lb in 8 weeks.,”
Now we have a specific number in a specific amount of time.
It’s great to set a goal of “I want to lose weight and tone up.” But how will you feel if you lose 5 lbs, but in your head you really wanted to lose 20? 5 lbs is amazing, but if the goal is 20 we’ve missed the mark considerably. By giving your goals specific guidelines you are not only able to know if you are on track to meet your goals, but you have a metric to say I either
A) acheived my goal
Another way to to implement a system is called habit stacking. It works by taking a hopefully good habit you already have, and adding another activity to it.
This is done with a mad lib like ..
“BEFORE/AFTER I (x), I will (y).”
“Before I eat my breakfast, I will drink a glass of water.”
“Before I shower, I will do 10 squats.”
“Before I brush my teeth, I will read 10 pages.”
None of these things are earth shattering, or even complicated. You probably already eat breakfast (and if you don’t, you should) so adding a smaller, more attainable habit of drinking a glass of water is simple and doable. Think of this as a bridge between your goal and the system. The goal may be to ultimately eat better, and a glass of water is just one of the processes to make that happen.
While this is by no means an extensive list of strategies for goal setting and how to achieve them, perhaps it can shed some light on a new way of thinking before you start something new, crazy, or intense. And if you do go crazy, go for it baby! But set yourself up for success, try some new strategies and see how far you can go!
Go get you some Moxie baby!