Goals. Ah, goals. Yes, many people set them and rarely achieve them, give up and settle for less, and worse, many people don’t set any goals at all, have no idea where they are (i.e., baseline) in relation to where they think they want to go, where they’re going (i.e., specific, concrete targets), what they want and, at best, only have “dreams” that will never come to fruition.
Both life goal orientations do nothing more than produce a lifetime of frustration, aggravation, complacency, hopelessness, helplessness, confusion and boredom with day-to-day life.
With 2017 just around the corner, I thought it would be timely and appropriate to discuss the importance of taking a better approach to goal setting for a better year, better life and a more fulfilling lifestyle.
Before executing an effective goal setting plan, I think it’s important, first, to address and consider some foundational goal setting “truisms” that are oftentimes overlooked and stall some of the most well-intended goal setting endeavors:
Truism #1: Goal achievement of relevance is tough work. No one really wants to hear this, but hey, it’s true. If your goals are set high enough (which they should be) and are challenging for you, attaining your goal will require consistent effort, exuberant energy, daily focus and grit. When it comes to losing body fat, for example, people often stick to something for about 1-2 weeks, if they’re lucky, and then allow their routine to slip and subsequently lament that, “I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work for me.”
If we shelf our egos and really take the time to examine things closely and objectively, we’ll usually realize that our effort isn’t quite what it should be, our strategy is somehow flawed and we’ve not given the process enough time to manifest into greatness.
There is no such thing as “overnight success”. The television, magazines and computer screens will falsely lead you to believe otherwise, but true greatness requires time. How much? I don’t know. That’s not my call and is dependent upon several factors including magnitude of goal set, available resources, learning curve, resourcefulness, proper strategy employed and consistent effort, just to name a few. Achieving anything of relevance will require your undivided attention and best effort during the process, so stop kidding yourself, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Truism #2: The small action steps and daily tasks required to achieve your greater vision are often mundane, tedious, thankless, glamour-less and labor intensive which means you must be intrinsically motivated to push forward when the going inevitably gets tough. No one will be at the ready to give you any gold stars, fancy stickers or bonus points for your efforts so forget the notion of short-term gratification in the form of praise from others or material reward.
Your reward, on the contrary, comes from the self-satisfaction in knowing that you were disciplined enough that day and in that precise moment to honor your vision with action and that you put your best foot forward with neither external prompting, coaxing, carrot nor stick.
You act because you have a vision and it’s the right thing to do if you truly want what you say you do. Your satisfaction comes from acting in alignment with what you want on a daily basis. That’s your reward. No one needs to validate you, no one needs to affirm your path and no one needs to “trick” you into acting on your own behalf. You don’t need a grade, diploma, certificate or a paycheck to do the right thing. You do it because it’s what you’re supposed to do. No more, no less.
It’s your duty to pursue your goals and if you don’t have a sense of duty either to yourself, your loved ones or to the greater good, forget even thinking about goals in the first place. You’re doomed to fail from the start. Stephen Covey reminds us in his seminal work, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that private victory comes before public victory connoting a sense of self-mastery prior to any major public accolades or recognition for your efforts.
Consequently, stop looking for people to stroke you for losing a few inches, exercising regularly or eating more supportively. You’re supposed to! Additionally, no one cares more about the fat on your thighs or on your belly more than you do so if you want something bad enough, know that it is your responsibility to act on your goal and no one else’s, it will take hard work and sustained effort along the way and that any “failure” experienced is simply a cue to look and dig a little deeper, adjust your approach and keep moving forward, plain and simple.
Truism #3: You will be distracted from time to time en route to your goal. There are a lot of distractions all around us. Prior to writing this piece, I was distracted by making a Christmas shopping list with my wife, deciphering my son’s social calendar, playing a pick-up basketball game with my sons, talking to my daughter about headphones, reading articles about politics and the Electoral College and let’s not even talk about the distractions that persist in my head from moment-to-moment. As a result, the tasks you need to accomplish consistently to meet your goals are always in direct competition with the real, perceived, created and imaginary distractions of life. This is where you need to set aside “sacred time” in a “sacred setting” to do real work and minimize distractions.
If your goals are important enough and your reasons for pursuing them in the first place are strong enough, getting up earlier or going to bed later to crush distractions won’t be a problem.
THERE ARE NO EXCUSES.
When you want something bad enough, you don’t adhere to previously held disempowering beliefs and damaging and reinforcing phrases like “I’m not a morning person”, “I’m not a late night person”, “I’m not a vegetable eater” or “I’m not a gym person”.
I don’t want to hear that and you can’t afford to entertain that if you want to be more than you are today.
BE whatever and whomever you have to be in order to BEcome what it is that you set out to BEcome.
If you want to lose body fat, then you mustn’t think or act like people who hang onto body fat and have no interest in losing it. You MUST take on the characteristics, consistent behavior and thought patterns of people who stoke their metabolism by exercising wisely, recovering intentionally and by eating real whole food in order to support their fat loss goals.
Additionally, you will always run the risk of becoming distracted by your previously held limited notions about yourself. Chances are if you come from a family or cultural background who doesn’t value health as a priority, then you may be challenged daily to shake off the shackles of poor habits from your past. How you’re trying to live more mindfully and supportively in the present may conflict with previously held beliefs about health-related behaviors modeled by your family. For example, if your family valued eating fast food for convenience over choosing healthy options at the grocery store, you might find it challenging to shop for healthy options and prepare your own food at home. This is a form of goal resistance that needs to be recognized and addressed before your efforts are derailed subconsciously (i.e., self-sabotage).
When you understand what you’re up against both externally and internally it’s easier to address your shortcomings beforehand and devise supportive strategies that will counter the resistance that will arise when action needs to be taken towards your goal.
In short, knowing thyself (and what you’re up against) is one of the most important steps you can take before and while embarking upon your goals.
Truism #4: The same level of thinking will only yield the same level of result for better and for worse. This is an inescapable truth when it comes to self-improvement. Most of us are accustomed to living a certain way, being a certain way, existing a certain way and entertaining the same type of paradigms and thought patterns we’ve employed for most of our lives. We’re still alive and most of us are doing relatively well so we reason that something must be “working” at some level, right? Why change? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it? Unfortunately, comfort and complacency are the enemies of change and positive growth. If you’re not in enough pain, you probably won’t grow or get better in any way.
When it comes to tapping into your best self and reaching for the stars, survival instincts are required, but are not enough to reach your goals as attributes of growth, behaviors of excellence and personal development need to be identified and consistently cultivated or you run the risk of remaining static—living and breathing, but stagnant nevertheless.
Real growth requires that you put yourself in a position to be challenged which can be uncomfortable at times.
Growth entails associated risks that, at the very least, question your own status quo and even more daunting, your very own existence which not only makes you uncomfortable, but those around you precariously uncomfortable as well.
The common response to these new challenges towards goal attainment is doubt as you begin to question yourself and the plausibility of your goal given your past “failed” attempts and current situation perhaps.
Your doubts are often bolstered and substantiated, too, by others either explicitly or implicitly who unconsciously scatter and plant seeds of doubt along the way for fear of losing the old version of your being and having to face their own pain and shortcomings in the process of watching you mature into the person you’ve always wanted to become. You’re growing and they’re remaining the same and they don’t like it. Sometimes others, in their own insecurity, will “act out” in adverse ways and bait you by saying things like “you’re just not the same person” or “you’re not as fun as you used to be”. As hard as it may be to hear this, they’re right which affirms that you’re on the right track.
You don’t have to cut that person out of your life, but you may need to reduce time spent together because your trajectories have changed and that’s completely ok. I’m reminded that if your goals really matter to you, then others won’t mind and if others mind, then they probably don’t matter as much as you think they did.
Choose your exposure to others wisely when striving towards your goals. Supportive individuals will energize and elevate your aims while unsupportive family members and friends will drain and disparage your efforts.
Important peak performance rituals such as goal setting can be daunting in the beginning, but when the aforementioned truisms are identified, clarified and internalized, setting goals properly with full understanding of the road ahead along with what assets and liabilities you bring to the table maximizes your chances of setting clearer goals and marshalling the requisite wherewithal, strength and endurance to meet those goals.
If you need more support with effective goal setting and help with developing the requisite skill sets for optimal health and peak performance, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Michael@mindfulselfmastery.com to schedule a 30-minute consultation.
Happy and Healthy Holidays and may you make 2017 your best year ever!