Just Out Of Reach: Why Most People Suck At Setting Goals And How To Get Better

Most people know they should set goals. Most people even manage to set some goals. But most people also suck at following through with their goals. But why? Today we’re going to go through a couple of the key things that hold most people back, and will hopefully give you some easy tips, tricks, frameworks to help you grow.

The first major issue most people have when it comes to goals, They aren’t specific. If you’ve never heard of Smart Goals, please take just a couple minutes, I’ll wait right here. While you could go through the many hundreds of goal worksheets out there and the frameworks that go with some, the thing that seems to matter the most is how specific you are. Given that it’s usually a typical January 1st goal, let’s use weight loss as an example. Most people say things like, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in better shape”, but both of these responses lack specificity. An easy way to think of goals is to use the XYZ method. You want to get from X to Y by Z. So using weight again you could say I want to go from 185 pounds to 175 pounds in 8 weeks. See the difference?

Using the XYZ method helps address the not specific issue but it doesn’t help with the next issue, No Plan Of Action. It’s easy to say you want to do something, but figuring out how you’re going to do it helps a lot, especially the first time you run into trouble. Most people tend to create a system that is so strict it doesn’t leave them room for failure, they have to be perfect or else they won’t be able to accomplish their goal. Take a diet for example, some people say things like “I’m not going to eat any of sugar because they’re not on my new fad diet.” That’s fine until you have a birthday party you are invited to and given cake, are you actually going to turn down cake?

For some people, they might be able to avoid eating cake, and might even be able to tell the people giving them cake that it’s just not something they can eat. Others will eat the cake, realize they screwed up they “failed” at their diet and just give up on it. Yet others will eat the cake, realize life happens, and try to make a new plan of attack going forward. Maybe that means building in some cheat days into their diet, maybe it means balancing out a meal or two here and there. The point is unless you have a plan it can be quite challenging to accomplish your goals.

Which brings us to a 3rd point that people tend to struggle with, Getting Feedback and Adjusting Correctly. One of the other areas that people tend to struggle with is making sure their goal is measurable. If you aren’t able to really track if you are progressing it can make it hard to reach your goal. If you had a goal to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks, that’s 1 pound a week. Fairly simple math. However, if you start getting into calorie counting, exercise, and other fun things the math gets a little more complicated. The point though is that if you are serious about your goal, you need to know what matters. That’s why a lot of new health technology tends to focus on a few things. How many steps did you take? how many calories do you think you ate? How many hours of sleep did you get? When you know what matters you can break your goal down into smaller steps. If you say you need to get 10,000 steps a day at the end of the first week you can look at how many steps you took. Let’s say you only got 8000 on average. Instead of looking at it as a complete failure and quitting, you can start to adjust your plan. You say if I parked a little further away at work that would give me a few more steps every day. Maybe if I take the steps instead of the elevator that would help to. Now you have a couple simple things you can change and boom, back on track.

The final thing that most people tend to struggle with is Degree of Difficulty. If the goal is too easy, then you should either already be doing it or will find it boring. If it is too hard you’re going to be discouraged, especially if your early feedback puts you behind. One of my favorite ways of looking at setting goals is the finger rule. Your little finger is a tiny task that you should probably already be doing anyway. This is essentially the smallest thing you could accomplish that would help you with your goal. Think of this like drinking one extra glass of water at some point throughout the day to help with proper hydration. Your ring finger is a little bit more of a commitment, but it’s also something that you want to do. It’d be like going to the gym once a week. You’re not being asked for something crazy, just something simple that you have to put a little effort into.Your middle finger is the real target that you want.

Your index finger is something a little bit harder than your target. If we go back to our goal earlier of 10 pounds in 8 weeks, you might make it 15 pounds in 8 weeks, or 10 pounds in 6 weeks. The goal here is to push yourself, it’s awesome if you hit your goal, but how much better would it be if you could push yourself just a little bit more. In fact I’d recommend that when you are making your action plans you actually design for this goal 1st, and then you can always adjust down if you need to.

Finally, we come to the thumb. The reason we use the thumb last is because it’s our real measuring stick. The next time you see a full moon, trying measuring it with your thumb. For our final goal, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Go for a moonshot. We want a goal that is crazy, or is it? Instead of our simple goal of losing 10 pounds, maybe we make it, I want to run a marathon, or climb a mountain, or be featured on a magazine or something like that. Something that doesn’t sound ordinary to you. Why on earth would we do this? Isn’t one of the SMART goal principles to be realistic? Yes, yes it is. But sometimes we need a little bit of incentive or crazy to get us out of our comfort zone. Like I said earlier, if it was easy you would already be doing it. But how much different would you treat taking a few extra steps if suddenly you were working towards a marathon instead of just to lose a couple pounds? How much different would you approach learning a new language if your crazy goal was moving to that country the next year?

Goals are meant to be a helpful tool, but sometimes life gets in the way. Remember that and just try to keep getting better. Goals are a useful tool but you need to practice. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to take a couple of moonshots every now and then. You might even surprise yourself and find that those moonshots start becoming a little more realistic. Consider the fact that the for space travel the moon is no longer the moonshot, it’s been done before. Now people are looking past the moon to targets even further away, some we can’t even see at the moment. So just because running a marathon might seem like a crazy dream, if you work on it, and break it down, reach a few goals, set some new ones, and just keep reaching out, eventually you are going to get there. And when you do don’t forget the last important step most people suck at with goals, ENJOY YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.



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