How to Set Goals to Ensure Your Success

By March 29, 2017Be Great, Blog

Whether stated in conversation or explained via text, everyone that begins their work with me receives this disclaimer:

“First I feel it necessary to point out that I do not subscribe to the idea that we should fit into the image that we are marketed to as beautiful, sexy, handsome, or in some way desirable.  I am only interested in one thing, and that is how does health and fitness contribute to our quality of life.  How does it help us manifest what we believe and value MORE?  And in that way how does it contribute to our growth as a person?  With that being said, the pursuit of aesthetic, symmetry,  weight loss and other related ambitions, while they are not out of the scope of my practice, their priority is variable.  Meaning that their pursuit is only as important inasmuch as they fit in within the context of what we value.  To that extent, if at any point the pursuit of such goals, puts our identity and our self image in jeopardy, thereby affecting the pursuit of higher ordered goals, then those goals must be dispatched until a more resolute understanding of how they fit in within the context of what we TRULY value in life becomes more coherent.”

So while the traditional goals associated with my field are definitely worth pursuing, they are not to be pursued at the expense of higher priorities and values.

Goals and the framework for designing them, in my opinion, is a largely misunderstood practice and therefore, ineffectively coached.
We are often told that we should have S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time bound) goals.  The problem with SMART goals is that they assume emotion, they don’t generate it.  I have talked to some degree about how emotion drives action, and that if we are to make changes that last and sustain over the course of time, then we need to find the emotion(s) that can fuel the efforts needed to make the transition.  The problem is, these big goals, the goals that we feel define us and give us purpose, do not fall within the guidelines of SMART goals.  No, these goals are often abstract and nebulous and, to large degree, that is by design, because they are meant to encompass a lot. Their obscurity allows us creative interpretation on how they might be manifested in our daily actions.
Therefore, I view goals within a hierarchy.  With the most meaningful goals at the top and the lower tier goals following suit until we reach the bottom level.
The top level goals are abstract and vague for reasons mentioned formerly, but as you travel further down the hierarchical chain, the less vague they become.  It is not until we reach the lower tier goals when SMART goals prove to be most valuable.
Setting up goals in this fashion allows us to take advantage of the two sides of us that are seemingly at odds with each other, and can be most poignantly summed up with the question, “why is it that I know what to do, but I can’t seem to get myself to do it?”

 

Goals, therefore, need to be a mix of both emotional, AND logical because knowing what you want without a clear path on how to get there will eventually result in apathy.

Now, the lower tier goals, are less important, and consequently can be changed on a whim. In fact, this is encouraged to some degree.  This is the area where we can encourage experimentation and trail and error.  It is also during this time where we can cultivate and foster a mindset that has a favorable response to failure, and bias toward growth and learning.

It is important that we nurture this perspective because one of the many truths of progress is that failure is not the exception, it is the rule, and if we do not equip ourselves with the mental fortitude to withstand these set backs our goals will soon meet an early demise.

It should be stated that harboring this mindset is not easy, especially in the landscape we currently find ourselves in.  One where we have a culture that champions innate talent, natural intelligence, and inborn ability in lieu of laborious effort, deliberate practice, and skill development.  A climate where we more inclined to have an answer given to us, rather than to critically think about the solution and whether it applies within the context who we are, how we live and what we value.  It is a system beliefs that define us as fixed, finite, and limited; and so we end up asking the question, “why even make an attempt if the outcome will remain unchanged?”

It is an ideology that is flawed, and yes, while some are born with distinct advantages, that tale of hard work, perseverance, and consistent effort leads to a more meaningful existence, and in turn a “happier” life.

In conclusion, when you embark to make meaningful changes in your life, reflect on what is important to you, and NOT once, but MANY times.
Reflection is better defined as engaging with the process.  Reviewing your successes, as well as your errors, gives you indispensable information as to how you might accumulate more triumphs moving forward.
Seek the goals that define you and give you purpose and let those fuel your actions as you make progress in small, but meaningful ways.  Then follow that up with a plan to get there.  In this way goals, give us purpose as well as a definitive road to get there, albeit one with detours, winding trails, and steep hills