Original Post Date January 2017
Every year on my birthday in April I write a checklist of things I will do for the year; an evolving “bucket list” of sorts. The list rarely sees completion but always sees more checked off boxes than any New Year’s Resolution list I have ever made. The idea behind it was to focus more on “my” year/life specifically and not everyone else’s year.
I’ve noticed a trend in my recent years list that is disturbing to me though; I very quickly crossed off the easy stuff, like “hike the La Cloche Trail” or “Introduce someone new to canoeing” and never did the other stuff. The more I look for cause and effect, the more I realized that I’m basically just making plans for my day off, and not setting myself up for success. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “Be at war with your vices”.
Why do so many people start each year start off so positive, with great goals and aspirations, then, for example, by March, empty out of the gyms and return to old habits?
If we followed these trends in our business lives, we’d be in our boss’s office in first quarter establishing a game plan to get back on track. At work, we break down tasks to bite sized pieces and make specific, measureable and attainable goals with checkpoints and completion dates. Why don’t we do that more in our daily lives?
I reached out to an old high school friend of mine, Therese Lean-Smith, who is a life and weight loss coach and as her site says, “Change agent for health”. She has turned her personal challenges to successes and now helps others to success, so who better than to ask for some tips.
Here’s why you suck at goal setting and what to do about it
– Therese Lean
I confess that I’m addicted to goal setting. My whole life I took any opportunity to start fresh: New Years, the beginning of every month, every Monday, every lunch hour. I’m definitely someone who believes that it’s never too late to become the person you want be. The problem is that I rarely followed through these goals and then suitably felt like crap because of it.
It wasn’t until I began my career as a health and fitness coach and worked with goals on a daily basis that I started to notice patterns and then began studying goal setting and achievement with totally geeky and unabashed enthusiasm.
Here’s why you suck at goal setting and what to do about it:
You make the wrong goals. Most people make goals based off of what they think they need to accomplish but actually have no desire to do it in the first place. Do you actually want to go to the gym or do you think you need to? If you’re not ready for it, it’ll never work. On the other hand, if you actually want to go to the gym – maybe you want to start training muscles you don’t get to train while outdoors (a great idea, by the way) – well then you’re more likely to actually go and stick with it. We tend to make goals based on what society deems important rather than what we actually want to achieve in our lives. A goal, once achieved, should enrich your life rather than be the cause of a tick off of a box of stuff that just seems cool to do or that someone else wants you to do. If it’s that cool you’ll probably do it at some point anyway but if it’s IMPORTANT it needs to take priority.
Your goals are too vague. “I need to stop spending so much” is a pretty typical goal but what does that even mean? If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. You need to be way more specific. If you want to stop spending so much you need to know exactly how much you’re currently spending, how much you want to save and then look at where you’re wasting money. The majority of goals that are left undone are those where you have no clear direction. When making a goal, ask yourself if someone else would be able to know when you achieved it. If they won’t know, it’s not specific enough. “I’m going to save $100 every week” is far more likely to be achieved than just saying that you want to save some cash.
You don’t reverse engineer. We tend not to achieve our goals because we have no idea how to get there from where we’re starting from. Much like being too vague, if you don’t have action steps to achieve it how will you know how to get there? Start with the end result in mind and on a sheet of paper write down EVERYTHING you have to do to achieve it. If a step seems overwhelming, break that one down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Then put it in order from your achieved goal all the way back to the initial brain dump you just did. This is your game plan. Now, commit to doing 1-3 of those steps each day. You do that and you’ll be amazed at how quickly that goal is achieved!
They’re boring as all hell. If your goals don’t excite the crap out of you, what’s the point? If you can’t look at the end result and get fired up over it you’ll never carry through with it because, depending on the goal, it may take some time for you to achieve it. Your goals need to be crazy cool so they’ll inspire and motivate you to keep at it when you really don’t want to.
You make ‘em and then forget about ‘em. January 1st comes once a year so you make your resolutions or goals on a sheet of paper (or, more likely, you make a list in your head) and then you never look at it again. A few weeks later because, out of sight out of mind and all that, you completely forget about them until the end of December comes along and you think about all the well-intended goals you made last year but didn’t achieve. Make a list of just a few crazy cool goals that are important to you and fire you up, goals that will make a difference in your life; make sure they’re specific and reverse engineer them. Then, keep them with you at all times and look at them every single week. Tape ‘em to your bathroom mirror, your fridge, make a digital copy and use it as the background of your computer and phone. The more you see it the more likely you’ll be to keep doing the steps you need to do in order to achieve it.
Finally, don’t forget that it’s okay to nix a goal or add one along the way. Our priorities and needs change constantly and some goals made sense at the time but just don’t work a few weeks later. Don’t be afraid to bag it and just move on! Life’s way too short and your time is precious.
All the best in 2017!
Therese Lean is a health and fitness coach whose passion is to create healthy families, one parent at a time. She can usually be found in her Toronto home wondering what to eat next, whether it’s appropriate for her toddler to watch Goosebumps and figuring out how to get sponsored by a winery.