Go For the Goals!
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
No one likes to say it. It is a dirty word for so many people. But the year is coming to an end and - well - it must be confronted. Plug your ears, shut your eyes and shake your head while I blurt it out - NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS! I know. Such a terrible phrase. But now that I've gone and said it you can surely stand to learn a bit more about how to turn this frightening concept into something to be excited about.
People are afraid of setting resolutions, or even talking about them, because they are afraid of failing. Resolutions bite the dust so fast after the last holiday decorations are put away. And no one wants to confront those repeated failures so they ignore them instead. Not a great plan if you ask me, but I totally get it. A whopping 80% of people who set a resolution for the new year are completely done working on it by the time February rolls around. And a measly 8% of people who make a resolution actually continue to work on it all year. The odds just don't seem to be in our favor here. But when we talk about goals and goal setting there is a bit of hope. A Harvard business study found that people who have goals are 10 times more likely to achieve them, particularly if they are written down. Writing things down, for ourselves, actually matters. Ok - get out your pens. Let's do this.
One of the basic rules for goal-setting is to make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals. You can certainly make the goal for yourself to run a marathon. That goal is not smart if you are currently a couch potato who has never run before, but it is really not smart because it is not constructed properly in the first place. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. I'm not going to go into all of the gritty details about this concept because I do believe it is known to many and there is no shortage of information out there on S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. Running that marathon becomes S.M.A.R.T. when we say we are going to run the Marine Corps Marathon on October 15th, in less than 5 hours, with a combination of walking and running, at the end of the training program that we attend with friends 4 times a week. Now we know exactly what it looks like to achieve that goal.
In addition to being S.M.A.R.T., another rule that I also like to add when it comes to our goals is to write them in the affirmative. They should be written as something you will do, rather than something you WON’T do. I will stop eating junk food is a goal that requires your willpower to achieve. Willpower is a limited resource, especially late at night with a work deadline looming. But if you say I will eat foods that are good for my body that allows for you to use your power to take action. You are not an idle participant attempting to control your Cheeto habit. You are instead the sole force behind eating right.
As a goal-setting guru, I firmly believe that by fine-tuning the language of our goals, making them S.M.A.R.T. and writing them down, we make the path to achieving them easier. But I have also discovered that digging deeper to understand the why behind the goal might be yet another key to finding success. When we know why something matters to us and we can connect that to our values and how we want to feel, we discover our intentions. If goals are how we are going to get there, intentions are why we want to get there to begin with. If my specific goal is to lose weight, the underlying intention might be to feel confident in my clothing, or to be strong, or to live a healthy life. By zooming out and identifying the underlying intentions, we might even discover other goals that will help us get to what we really want. Losing weight is only one way to get there. Lifting weights, walking with friends, drinking more water, and so much more will also speak to my intentions. And fundamentally, that is what we want in the first place.
Once you are comfortable with how to create achievable goals, setting them won’t seem like such a scary endeavor. We lay out our intention and say “this is what I want for my life” and we set goals to say “this is how I’m going to get there”. And then we write them down so we won’t forget. And we embrace the challenges and the struggles without giving up on the idea that we are the only ones who can get us where we want to go. Don’t run away from that! Embrace it!
The year is quickly coming to a close with a fresh new year to follow. Start thinking about what you want for the new year and how you are going to get there. Explore your intentions and then go crazy with identifying some of specific actions you can take to get there. And write them down. Get excited about the start of something new that you create. And the next time you hear someone talk about resolutions you can look them in the eye and say “I got this”.