Archive for the ‘Goal Setting’ Category
A lone Bison in the dead of winter, solely focused on finding food. Yellowstone National Park. By Ravi Raman.
Once you have set a goal and motivated yourself to get started, following through and finishing it is the next stumbling block. I have a friend who at one time had a list of almost 100 goals written down that he carried on a piece of paper with him in his wallet at all times. He felt they were all worthwhile and stressed about having to make progress on all of them.
Sound crazy? How many of those goals do you think he accomplished? Setting goals can be the easy part, making initial progress and then actually achieving something meaningful is far more difficult.
Another example can be found at your local gym. In January it was probably packed with people working towards their new years resolutions. Now look around, you will see far fewer people.
Finishing what you start can be a lot easier when you are really clear on why you are going after a goal to begin with. During your goal setting process, write a page (by hand ideally) about how your life will be different once the goal is achieved. Re-read this every week.
You can also perform a trick I like to do. Take your goal page, put it in an self addressed envelope and give it to a friend. Have them mail it to you in a few weeks. Write your goal page as a letter to yourself. Better yet, make a few copies and have a few friends mail it back to you at different intervals.
Doing this also makes you realize that having a ton of goals can be counter-productive and an overall distraction. The same thing applies to daily to-do lists and tactical things you need to get done. Focus on the one big thing and everything else will fall in order.
It helps to have just a few goals, but make sure they are really meaningful (which usually means they are challenging ones). It will be easier to focus and the payoff will be worth it. Instead of 100 or even 10 or 5 goals, start with just one big one!
Harvard Business Review has some other good ideas for staying committed and following through on your goals.
Big planes take a lot of energy to get up in the air over short distances, relative to what takes to move fast at cruising altitude with a tailwind.
Gaining ground on your goals is very similar. Getting started can take a huge amount of effort. Even more effort can be needed to make initial and measurable progress against the goal. It’s easier to do if you remember that it will not always be that hard once you have gained the initial momentum.
There are lots of ways to help out with the initial stages of progress against a goal. The most effective one I’ve found is to seek out a community of like minded people working toward the same, or at least similar, goals.
If your goal is to do a triathlon, join your local tri club (or hire a coach). If your goal is to travel to new places, join a travel group on Meetup.com. If you want to make a job transition, seek out a mentor who is at a place in their career that reflects where you would like to be.
Transforming your life does not require massive action or big goals. It requires steady and methodical progress.
If you have set big and lofty goals for the new year, that is ok. Just remember that it is the daily actions that will slowly but inevitably create the big change you are looking for.
Just like interest in a bank account, the small things compound per time. Losing just an ounce a day of body weight will completely remake your physique over the course of a year. Saving an extra $100 a week will amount to big long term savings over the course of a few decades (invested well, it could pay for a child’s college education!). Meditating for just 10 minutes a day can dramatically improve your ability to focus on everything else you do and give you emotional calm and poise when dealing with other people.
Instead of fretting over having to radically shift your daily routine, focus on the small things you can do consistently. Those are the things that will make all the difference. The hard part is focusing on the long term impact of your decisions, and not getting caught up on the need to see massive shorter term progress. Most people will give up on the early part of the curve in the diagram below. Sticking with it is key!
The presence of a goal is more important than the substance of that goal.
Goals drive focus and a heightened sense of awareness. They provide a context for cause and effect between your actions and outcomes. They start the process of moving toward something worthwhile.
I’ve found that the presence of a goal will have collateral and positive impact on other parts of life. A goal to lose 10 pounds will inevitably help me focus on other things that are not health related – such as work or other creative tasks.
If you are spending a lot of time agonizing over your goals, don’t. It’s more important to pick something that is meaningful, but not perfect, than it is to not pick anything.
Here is a great article by Jim Collins, the author of numerous books like “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” (which I am currently reading). Jim has a legendary work ethic and capacity to focus. He goes so far as to use a stopwatch to monitor and log the time he spends on creative tasks (good!) vs other nonsense and consuming information. His goal is to spend half of his time every day being creative.
In a world where people are overly fixated on to-do lists, he sets goals by first focusing on the things that aren’t worth doing as a means to help clarify the things that do matter.
The 20-10 assignment mentioned in the article got me thinking.
She then gave me what I came to call the 20-10 assignment. It goes like this: Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?
With clarity here you can move on to deciding what really matters. Here are three questions from article to help contemplate those things:
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What are you are genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do”?
- What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at?
Over-thinking can at best tire you out and at worst can actually take the wind right out of your sails and stall any momentum you might have in moving toward a big goal.
I like walking through the mall every now and then, not to buy stuff but just to people-watch. There are people who are decisive while shopping – with clear direction and focus and other people who sort of stroll around and deliberate over everything – afraid that the gadget they really want might cost less somewhere else or that it might not have the most glowing reviews on amazon.
Those people who deliberate endlessly are probably scared to commit to things in other part of their life.
A big part of the art of achievement is to actually pick something…anything really.
It is less important that the thing is the ‘right thing’ than it is that the thing is meaningful to you and worth spending energy on. You can always change your mind later, but the first step is just to pick something – be it a home improvement project, a race, a project at work or that vacation you have been thinking about for years.
I saw part of this passage as a preface to a strategy document I was reading at work today. The bold part really speaks to me.
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962, at Rice University, Houston, Texas
I get asked all the time why I enjoy endurance triathlon and trail runs and other big goals that test my limits to some degree. I do these things because it helps me really see what I am capable of. I also believe that excellence in one part of life does translate into other parts of life – even if the goal is ultimately not accomplished as planned. When I am focused in my training, it is easier to focus at work, focus on great nutrition and focus on building quality relationships with friends.
When I am moving towards a worthy goal, it takes the “slack” out of my life and helps me achieve and focus more in many other areas. The collateral benefits of setting and working towards big goals are huge.