There are people who like to set goals and those who shy away from them. During this time of year, I see a lot of articles on setting new year’s resolutions. How quickly they fall apart. How to not break them. How it’s better not to set them. Etc. etc.
But I don’t see nearly articles on what kind of goals to set. Why resolutions might be useful. What type of resolutions are more likely stick vs others.
There seems to be a belief out there that there are people who stick to their resolutions and those who don’t. And that’s that. So if you’re the kind of person who can follow through you’re in good shape. But if you’re not, well there’s nothing you can do; you were built this way.
I don’t buy that.
While it’s true that we all work differently and some of us can execute on personal goals more efficiently than others, I think it mostly comes down to how we set the goals and the content of the goals. And what goals represent for us.
I think for a goal to be effective it has to be three things:
1. Specific: Lose weight is not specific. Lose five pounds is specific.
2. Time-bound: Lose five pounds by when? What you do if you want to lose five pounds in a month is drastically different than what you could do if you wanted to lose five pounds in a year.
3. Measurable: How will you measure success. Lose five pounds is measurable. You take your current weight and figure out what five less is. Be a better writer is not measurable. How do you define better? How will you know you reached that goal? What does achievement look like?
I think there are other helpful steps along the way like setting positive, growth-oriented goals. Or goals that are more resonant to what matters to you in life, etc. But these three are the single most important part.
Once you set specific, time-bound, and measurable goals, the trick is finding how you achieve that goal. This is the second biggest failure point. Most people assume there’s one path to success and if they can’t/won’t do that, they cannot reach their goal.
For example, many people who set the goal to lose weight join a gym at the beginning of a new year. If you want to lose weight, the gym is your best bet, right?
This is where “knowing yourself” becomes super handy. If you know how you work best, you can create your own path to success. The gym is not the only way to exercise. You can take daily hikes. You can ride your bike. You can buy a treadmill. You can do a sport weekly. You don’t even have to take the exercise route. You can choose to eat exclusively whole foods. Or cut out alcohol. The goal when losing weight is to eat better and move more. There are many, many, many paths to that end. And the best one is the one you’re going to do. The one that works for you.
When I started exercising, I took it extremely slowly. I ran at a laughable pace. I increased by tiny amounts each month. Even when I could do more, I didn’t. I knew what worked for me was the consistency. I needed to be able to do it every single day so it had to not be intense. I didn’t give myself recovery time. Would it have worked if I ran 5 miles 3 times a week instead of 2 miles a day every day? Sure! Did my way work, too? Yes!
The trick is finding the way that works for you.
Taking that measurable, time-bound, specific goal and breaking it into little chunks of achievable tasks that resonate with you. With your way of life. With your personality. With your capacity.
The great thing about having goals is that it allows you to live your life intentionally. You spend your time doing what matters to you. (Assuming you picked goals that speak to you and not goals that make you look good for others.) It’s a great way to battle inertia. It’s a rewarding way to honor your life and your time.
The one thing we don’t get to save is time so how you spend your time is the most precious decision you can make. And finding goals that resonate with you and breaking them into tasks that work for you is a great path to living intentionally.
I have no doubt that every one of us can achieve whatever goal we set our mind to. What makes us break our resolutions is not who we are but how we define them and how we choose the path to achieving them.