What is goal setting and why is it important? Why should we use a minimalist goal setting strategy to achieve our goals.
Life is noisy, with ever-present distractions and being constantly connected it’s no surprise that we sometimes get lost in it all and wonder how we end up completely lost or lacking fulfilment.
In order to feel complete, content and whole in life we usually require one simple thing.
A goal to drive towards.
When we choose a goal that meets our aspirations it gives us a sense of purpose. The purpose is what drives productivity, action and ultimately, success. It’s when we lack purpose we see our motivation or execution falter. Through our lens of life, this is usually the point where we say things like “I just need to be more disciplined.” or even worse, we berate ourselves for not “living our best life”.
The Discipline Myth
Coming from a special operations background and the better half of a decade in the military, they want to maintain a decent standard of health, fitness and routine comes naturally to me.
In fact, I crave it.
What people usually see on the outside is someone who is motivated, disciplined and successful. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Every day I wrestle with the choices between maintaining healthy and productive habits versus unhealthy and unproductive ones. It’s a daily renewable contract that I sometimes take a pass on.
My only saving grace is the fact I spent my transformative years as a teenager and young adult having discipline given to me. The army took care of goal setting, controlled what I did when I did it and I had no say about it. The positive outcome of this is that I saw the benefits of action, consistency and having a schedule. Commander’s intent was usually explained like this:
“When you’re late, people die.”
When you listen to discipline gurus about goal setting (particularly ex-military ones) the fact of the matter is that people won’t actually die, so it removes the importance. When you have these high stakes on the line, most people will be able to muster the courage and effort to achieve their goals. This attitude doesn’t have the same effect on exercise and eating a balanced diet.
The Simple Explanation for Why You Might Be Failing
We can usually divide our failures into three reasons:
- Impulse Led
- Poor Planning
- Too big, too soon
Simply put, we’re choosing the wrong goals due to a lack of pragmatism and thought. Let’s break down each reason and what it means for you.
Social media, unrealistic expectations and discomfort with our current situation usually leads to impulse-led goal setting. It’s an escapist attitude to relieve the negative effects or emotions that we are feeling. If you’re someone who starts the regime or program on Monday, only to give up a week or two later you may be using an impulse-led goal-setting strategy.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Good planning creates the roadmap toward success, it is also a useful catalyst to validate our goal and our true motivation towards it. If we start to plan only to lose motivation towards our goal, it can be a good thing. It means we haven’t wasted hours of effort or dollars in the wrong direction.
Too big, too soon
Combining the first two problems usually leads to this point in our goal setting journey. Adding the fact we are in a world that rewards instant gratification, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves further away from our goals than we thought.
This does not mean we should shy away from picking big audacious goals but the opposite.
We should be picking goals that almost seem impossible, that drives our purpose and gives us the compass for our actions. But we should also plan our goals to the right level of detail in order to know what to do next and what to do when things go wrong. It’s usually our short-sightedness that prevents us from doing so.
How To Pick The Right Goal
Goal setting shouldn’t be difficult, we usually make it that way because we try to focus on too many things or the wrong thing all together. In order to isolate the right area of life, we should work on we can strip back to a three pillars approach.
Health can be defined as physical, emotional, mental or spiritual and is the key pillar. When there is an imbalance in this pillar, the other pillars are also affected.
Wealth is the least important but can drive better outcomes in the other two pillars. Our personal wealth, occupation and passions fall into this category.
The second most important pillar includes our relationship with ourselves and others. Strong relationships will create safety which gives us the freedom to pursue our passions or goals in other areas.
Grade your pillars
Grade each pillar out of 10. If you find there is a pillar out of alignment from where you want it to be, deal with that area. If you seem to have balance, use the priority of the pillars to decide your starting point. Health first, relationships second and wealth last.
This also aligns with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in importance as you will see below:
Be SMART About Your Goal
By now you may have noticed repeating habits or behaviours in your goal-setting methods. Gaining an honest appreciation of where you are and what you need to work on in the health, wealth and relationships quiz will have given you a target-rich environment to choose the right goal.
It’s time to pick a goal that is:
- Time Bound
If you have an audacious goal of losing 30kg this is not what you want to plan your SMART goal around. Use your planning skills to identify the first jump or waypoint. It might be 5kg or it might be a single kilogram. It should read something like this:
By TIME/DATE I will have lost 5kg as my first jump towards my ultimate goal of losing 30kg.
Focus on the execution of that one goal, do not add anything to overcomplicate it. Choosing a smaller and more attainable goal initially drives action and it will also provide the necessary data towards the larger goal and whether or not it is achievable. Small wins create big changes.
Checks And Balances
Simply writing down a SMART goal will most likely not be enough when it comes to planning for success. Understanding where you are on the change journey towards that goal, particularly if it’s a big, audacious goal is important.
Assessing motivation and where you are can be tricky but using this simple 8-question quiz will help you learn if your goal-setting efforts to date have been in the right direction. Grade these questions out of 10:
- In the last six months, how much have you thought about achieving this goal?
- In the last six months, how much time have you put into planning how to achieve your goal?
- In the last six months, how much have you socialised your thoughts about making a change with people you trust?
- How good is your support network and structure to deal with the change journey and potential setbacks/failure?
- How aware are you of the poor habits and behaviours that derail your momentum and success?
- These poor habits, behaviours and lack of success are causing you distress, negative emotions or outcomes?
- Rate your experience to make a similar change like this in the past with success.
- Rate your motivation to achieve or get started towards this goal.
Once you have graded these questions out of 10, divide your score by 80. This should leave you with a percentage out of 100. If you find you are not scoring above 80%, pick another goal or a smaller goal to get those numbers up.
Questions four and seven can also be manipulated by employing the services of a coach or mentor that’s done what you want to achieve and finding a community to improve your accountability and support throughout the journey. This should hopefully get you above the 80% threshold if you have selected the right goal in the first place.
When we have the ability to google our goal and get videos like this for goal setting, we do not have an education or information issue in this world any longer. What we have is a systemic action or execution issue because this modern world is designed to keep us on our screen and avoiding the hard work we usually need to gain the initiative.
If all else fails, get started. Pick a micro goal, adjust left and right as appropriate and learn everything you can about what you want to achieve.
Ready to put this into practice? Check out our Habits Academy here.