Like you I want to be a success in this curious game called Life.
I have goals, a vision of my future bigger and brighter than it is today. And I’m willing to do the work necessary to attain them. (Most days).
Yet there I was again, reading through my goals, imagining them fulfilled and attained. They were written in present tense, they were S.M.A.R.T and timely. I had read at least 10 books on the subject matter of goal setting, I had read Think and Grow Rich about twice so you’d think I knew a thing or two about goals.
But the feelings inside me betrayed what I thought I knew.
If goal setting was this easy how come some of my goals were easy yet others seemed excruciating hard? Was it me or was it the goals themselves?
Perhaps a little from column A and a little from column B.
As I read them again a wave of unease and sickness wafted up from my belly.
What is weird is that this wasn’t the first time.
I had noticed these feeling bubbling up the last couple of times I read over my goals. But it wasn’t over every type of goal, just certain goals.
It is strange to say the least to be acknowledging this to you, as I confess I have a reputation as someone who makes things happen, someone who actually achieves his goals.
But I want to share this story with you and what I have consequently learnt so you can see that I am still getting to grips with my own personal demons, that I am still figuring things out, and that there are concrete answers out there.
And I believe if I have felt these feelings then I know others have felt this too. If I can help someone in their journey forwards then these lessons I have learnt in my own life will be worth while.
The Goals in Question
Here is what is pasted on my wall:
I am so happy and proud of myself that less than 90 days from now or by 30 August 2013 I have achieved –
1. 2 Star Silver Circle (eating $1000+ a week) and ranked as Director in my Isagenix Business (having 6 personally enrolled consultants)
2. Completition of my last 3 Toastmaster speeches
3. Progression Standard of Level 5 in Convict Conditioning in pushups and squats
4. Pay off $1000 in credit card debt
5. Create a lead creating Isagenix Website
Average enough goals right? Something personal, fitness, something financial and something business.
Who Do You Call? Goal Busters!
Who do you turn to when you’re have an existential goal crisis?
When 5+ years of personal development literature are crumbling around you?
Why hadn’t all the self-help books, and advice from the people ‘making it’ not trickled down and helped me towards the success I deeply wanted?
It all sounds so melodramatic but I have just finished a marathon session of watching Les Miserable…
Mildly disgusted at my own lack of understanding of something as fundamental to my own personal development as goal setting I went out to ask for help. How was it that the goals I had ‘put out to the universe’, that I still deeply want to come true were’t connecting with me deep, as if I still had not claimed as my own?
I went to the second place closest to my heart – Facebook groups.
What is a Goal?
But firstly lets get the crux of a matter. What is a goal and why do we have them?
Lets go to some heavy weights when it comes to the definition of Goals.
Wikipedia defines a goal as:
A goal is a desired result a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.
It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value.
Goal-setting ideally involves establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bounded (S.M.A.R.T.) objectives.
Ahh those smart goals everyone is talking about.
Seriously though, S.M.A.R.T Goals do work, theres no doubt about it. But there are still holes in the design and in the definition of Goals.
About.com has a nifty definition of what a goal is not.
A goal is something that we want enough that we make an effort to reach it. A goal is not the same as a want.
For example, a person might want a nicer car than the one he can currently afford to own, but it’s not really one of his goals. Wanting a nicer car in that case is more like a fantasy. It’s something a person might like to think about from time to time, but he has has no intention of trying to get one.
So there’s actually a big difference between a goal and a dream or a fantasy.
Napolean Hill describes a goal as a dream with a deadline. Cool.
So we’re getting closer but it’s all still airy-fairy at the moment still.
My Favourite Story About Goal Setting
The benefits of simply setting goals and making strides towards completing them are numerous. But there’s one story of the benefits of Goal setting that sticks with me.
I remember one of Jim Rohn’s favourite talks about his mentor Mr Earl Shoaff.
One day Mr Shoaff asked Jim what his goals were. Jim replied that he didn’t have any. And then Mr Shoaff predicted that he could predict the amount Jim Rohn had in his bank account to a couple of dollars.
And Mr Shoaff guessed correctly. Could you guess?
And so with that simple question and subsequent deduction Mr Shoaff planted a seed in Jim Rohn’s mind. That if he wanted to earn more money all he needed were goals.
And the rest, as they say, is history…
Personal Goal Achievement and Happiness Research
There has been a lot of research conducted looking at the link between achieving desired goals, changes to self-efficacy and integrity and ultimately changes to Subjective well-being.
Goal Efficacy refers to how likely an individual is to succeed in achieving their goal.
Goal integrity refers to how consistent one’s goals are with core aspects of the self.
Research has shown that a focus on goal efficacy is associated with well being factor happiness (subjective well-being) and goal integrity is associated with the well-being factor meaning (psychology). Multiple studies have shown the link between achieving long-term goals and changes in subjective well-being, most research showing that achieving goals that hold personal meaning to an individual, increases feelings of subjective well-being.
Goals that are pursued to fulfil intrinsic values or are important as they are integrated into an individuals self-concept are called self-concordant goals. Self-concordant goals fulfil basic needs and are aligned with an individual’s True Self. Because these goals have personal meaning to an individual and reflect an individual’s self-identity, self-concordant goals are more likely to receive sustained effort over time. In contrast, goals that do not reflect an individual’s internal drive and are pursued due to external factors (e.g. social pressures) emerge from a non-integrated region of a person and are therefore more likely to be abandoned when obstacles occur.
Back To My Story
Back to my own angst and my mission to seek a better understanding of Goals.
I am a member of (an initially intriguing named) Facebook Group “Essential Skills of Persuasion and Personal Development”.
How I came to belong and almost get myself booted from the group on my first day is a long story for another time.
The Facebook group is a closed group run by the amazing Tom Vizzini of http://www.essential-skills.com fame.
If I had to describe Tom in one word it would be Anti-Self-Devlopemnt-Guru (or is that four?)
Tom and I have been butting heads since day one. Actually I have been the one butting my head against the brick wall of his chest. And I routinely come away from our discussions with an extremely sore head and a sorer ego.
The (amazing) problem with Tom is that he is clearly anti-status quo when it comes to (80% or closer to 90% depending on the day) the current teachings of many of todays Personal Development ‘Gurus’.
He believes that most of the teachings on most of the things in Self Development are lazy, pseudo airy fairy nonsense at best, and at worse, negligent, false and dangerous. Perhaps not in a ‘danger to your life sense’ but rather you’re ability to actually attain the goals and dreams you hold dear.
And the trouble is that he regularly argues and backs up his arguments with the latest neurological reserach and actual research. Damn research…
The Goal Setting Answer
So here’s what I posted.
Here’s the answer.
My simple revelation
I realised that my internal definition of a goal was still a very fuzzy one. My definition was half SMART, half ‘affirmation’ and half ‘hail Mary to the universe’.
There was an unrealistic hope to some of the goals that didn’t match with what the reality entailed.
My simple revelation is that a goal is much-much simpler than what we make it.
You should be able to explain it to a seven year old and with Tom’s definition you can.
‘Goals are the end result of a series of actions. The logical outcome of having a plan and breaking that plan into manageable tasks that are measurable and immediate.’
And simply ‘All goals are a set of tasks. But not just any tasks, the right tasks in the right direction done in the right way.’
I would add to that definition ‘All goals are a set of tasks with a deadline.’
Goal Setting Myth #1 – “It’s not about the goal it’s about the journey.”
Actually it’s about the goal. It’s about the end result, the moola, the whole enchilada.
(I don’t know why I just funnelled out my inner mexican).
Goals are not about the enjoying the journey, they’re not about growing as a person or self development (though they are often happy side benefits).
Attaining gaols are simply the END RESULT.
If you truely didn’t want that goal then why go about having an end result in the first place.
For example: If your goal is to have six pack abs then that is literally what you want to see and have by the end of your goal. Not feeling good about having a jelly belly!
Your goal should be a logical outcome (not an emotional wish, not a miracle ordained by the universe, or a prayer floating into the sky) but simply a natural consequence of doing the right actions over a period of time.
Goal Setting Myth #2 – ‘If you know you’re Why, you’re How will appear.’
In most self-devlopment type Seminars the planning aspect has been de-emphasised or taken out entirely! I have been schooled in the school of thought that ‘If you have a big enough why the ‘how’ will appear. Similarly, to not focus too much on the how as the universe will magically provide you the how in the opening of opportunities and people.
Well consider this, imagine if most of the world operated on the guise of not caring too much about how you were going to achieve something but rather on why it was so important to achieve it. Where would we be?
Well we probably wouldn’t be living in buildings or driving cars or using computers to surf on Facebook all day.
Obviously people had to begin their massive goals with some type of plan, regardless if whether that plans changes over time.
Jim Rohn called it ‘Only Starting when it’s Finished’.
He had this delightful saying that if someone came up to you while you were on a building site and you were laying bricks and if they asked you ‘What are you building?’ and you answered ‘I have no idea!’. Why, they’d take you away, to a safe place…
The rest of the world completes their goals with fairly detailed plans, why does the self-help industry refuse to comply? Most people would think it very foolish if you didn’t have some idea of how you were going to do something.
A plan is simply an outline to ascertain the proper steps and tasks necessary to complete the goal.
However, having a plan shouldn’t negate being open and flexible to what the world brings, finding new opportunities and discovering new pitfalls.
In this instance, plans will and must change.
So planning is crucial to goal setting and the actual attainment of your goals
Goal outcomes come from having a plan and breaking it down to manageable tasks.
Goal Setting Myth #3 – Just Set the Intention and forget about it.
This is such a damaging lie. And it was most powerfully propugated via the hit movie The Secret. While I have no overall beef with the movie, as it spread the personal devlopment consciouness wider it did appear to give unhelpful advise at the least.
That if you think it, it will appear because the universe is attracted to your thoughts.
Well, if all you did all day was think and attract money to you well sooner or later, people will turn off the electricity and take your furniture!
Goal Setting Myth #4 – Think Huge!
To a certain extent I agree with this statement, it is important to think big to believe in a bigger vision of yourself. However it missed an important element.
To truely do big things you must first act small. And not just small. But tiny.
Sometimes, myself included, I go and bliss-out on humungeous dreams and goals and then I freak out when it comes to actually making it happen. We simply fake ourselves out!
The answer is in the final part of Tom’s answer:
‘breaking that plan into manageable tasks that are measurable and immediate.’
The first part is that the person, you and me, need to give ourselves manageable tasks to complete. Not manageable to Superman, but manageable to us!
These ‘manageable tasks’ need to be measurable and immediate.
Here’s an example:
Some people make a real mess out of their goal to get fit when they go the Gym. Going to the gym is a noble activity but people screw it up by having complex routines and hardcore ideas about what they should actually achieve.
A more measurable and immediate goal would be simply to turn up!
Achieve this goal for 90 days and you’d be ahead of the 90% of the population.
Another example would be reading a massive amount of books over the summer holidays and then failing to do so and feeling bad about it. How about setting a goal to read 5 pages a day and sticking to that religiously. 5 pages a day over a year is 1,825 pages or at least 5 good books!
So while it’s important to think big. It’s even more important to know that this big idea will only come about by acting very small.
Do the tiny baby, measurable, immediate steps today.
A goal is a plan or a vision of a not too distant future. But it’s power lies in the NOW.
That’s why your ‘manageable tasks’ need not only be measurable but immediate.
Is NOW a good time for you?
Actually now is all there is, literally.
The benefit of doing a manageable and measurable task, immediately, is that you immediately get the benefit.
Want to get healthy?
Well when the time comes to eat, immediately eat something healthy and nourishing. Simple.
Want to get fit?
When you are free for 5 minutes. Drop down and do pushups. Immediately.
Now doing that on one day won’t give you any immediate results bar perhaps a boost in confidence.
But it’s a tiny step.
And the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single tiny step.
Times one thousand miles.
So. Think Big. But act small.
The Final Word.
Tom’s simple and powerful words have changed my way of looking at Goals. It’s simplified things and make the whole prices much clearer and actionable.
I guess it really doesn’t matter what system of goal setting you use as long as it remains effective for you and it translates to concrete achievement of your goals.
If you aren’t achieving your goals it could come down to something as simple as the way you look at goal setting. However it could ofcourse be something as deeply rooted as your beliefs and philosophies about yourself and the world.
But that is another blog post for another day.
Thanks for sticking with me, I hope I have debunked some myths for you.
1. ^ Brunstein, J (1993). “Personal goals and subjective well-being: A longitudinal study”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65: 1061–1070.
2. ^ Elliott, A.J.; Sheldon, K.M. (1998). “Avoidance personal goals and the personality-illness relationship”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75: 1282–1299.
3. ^ Sheldon, K.M.; Kasser, T. (1998). “Pursuing personal goals: Skills enable progress but not all progres is beneficial”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 24: 564–557.
What the Goal Master said…