Google returns about 17.500.000 results in 0.58 seconds if you search for the term “goal setting“ (and, for the geeks out there – you know who you are – 907.000.000 results in 0,75 seconds if you omit the inverted commas). That’s a hell of a lot of results.
And as this year draws to a close, it is only normal that we witness a myriad of goal setting workshops, videos and how-to instructions pop up all around us. Next year, for sure, we will finally lose ten pounds, eat less junk food, spend more quality time with the family and finish writing the book we’ve always envisioned to publish (erm, the last one might have crept in there somehow for my own benefit/detriment). We’re determined: this year is the year, in which we’re finally achieving our goals! It’s a fool-proof system!!
… but is it?
The Gap Trap
Sexy goal setting methodologies are all around us. We’re hit with snazzy acronyms like SMART, SMARTER or CREATE (okay, these may not be very snazzy examples, but that’s the best I could come up with on short notice) and become absolute experts in setting water-tight goals.
The sad truth is, however, that SMART goals are really not that smart and that there is a significant gap between setting a goal and actually getting it. I mean, who hasn’t set a goal before, which looked all sexy, polished and enticing on paper and that – more importantly – fulfilled all the criteria required by any one of the above-mentioned goal setting methodologies only to give up half-way or miserably fail at it altogether? I know I have.
Look, I am not a goal setting hater (I actually quite like Be, Do, Have goal setting), nor am I a hater of any of the above techniques. My point is that there is a difference between designing a car and getting the horsepower on the road (I have to pay tribute to my brother at this stage because he was the one who first introduced this analogy to me – one that will probably haunt me to my daisy days).
Anyhow, the reason for the gap is that goal setting methodologies tend to focus more on the what and – in my opinion – don’t pay enough attention to the why and how as well as the roadblocks that may be holding you back from getting to your desired destination or from even getting started.
Of course, there are a lot of people who are able to set a goal and then go and get it, but – if you’re reading this blog – chances are you’re not one of them or wish to lessen the gap trap because – let’s face it – if you were one of them, you’d be out there getting your goal instead of reading this blog. Chances also are that the people who are really good at consistently getting their goals are those who are able to easily bridge the gap between goal setting and getting. No gap trap for them.
So how do they do it? Of course, there are many roads that lead to Rome and I’ll just introduce a few of them to you in this blog. In other words, there are, of course, other ways of bridging the gap and here are some I have found incredibly useful. So let’s get started.
The General Mechanics
To get from goal setting to goal getting is a lot like travelling. You first need to decide on your destination and the purpose of the trip. Based on where you’re currently located you can evaluate the different ways of getting there and the resources (such as time, skill and money, just to mention the two most common ones) you need to make it happen.
In less abstract terms: imagine planning a holiday. Where do you want to go? Singapore, Melbourne, the UK, a Caribbean island or Redfern? What is this holiday for? Adventure? Recreation? Relaxation? Partying? Cultural Immersion? How will you get there? Plane? Bus? Car? Boat? And what is it that you need in order to get there? Do you require a vaccination, a visa, foreign currency, more savings, extra time off work, …?
You can easily see how a simple goal setting methodologies might give you a picture-perfect destination and might even assist with determining your reasons for taking the goal-getting trip, but is unlikely to identify the actions you need to take to turn your trip into reality. Beautiful car design – no horse power on the road.
Yet, the how, i.e. the process, is the actual action you need to take (maybe even on a daily basis) to make things happen!
So grab your goal and fill in the blanks:
The What – My goal is:
The Why – The reason I really, really, really want to achieve this goal is:
The How – This is what I need and what I need to do on a daily (weekly, monthly,…) basis to get there:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Here is the catch though: instead of taking massive action, I would strive for ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Before you start booing at me, hear me out.
I understand that there is a massive hype about taking massive action. Give it all you’ve got! Throw everything you’ve got at it! Go hard or go home! Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before… and it works for some, but clearly not for others.
I mean, who hasn’t overindulged in their goal and has gone on a super strict diet for two or three months (if at all) only to fall prey to an all-you-can-eat buffet at the end of it? Who hasn’t run to the gym four times a week from January, 1 to February, 28 only to moan about the larges fees for the remaining ten months of the year? And who hasn’t saved $100 each month for half a year only to blow it all in month seven? Yeah, that’s right, most of us (and, guilty as charged, once again). Weight goal? Blown. Fitness goal? Blown. Savings goal? Blown.
And this is the point at which, more often than not, we shrug our shoulders and exclaim: “Well, I tried. I guess it’s just not for me. Maybe it’s not the right time or goal for me. If I feel like it, I’ll try again next time.”
If this sounds like you or could sound like you, then maybe you might try something new. Instead of taking massive action, take small action on a massive scale.
What do I mean by this? It’s actually quite simple. Do small things consistently. Aim for small incremental improvements long-term. Instead of running to the gym four times a week, go once for half an hour. Once that’s your second nature, extend your session two forty-five minutes or go twice a week for half an hour. Then up it again. You’re getting the gist of it.
The truth is that it is easier to maintain a habit if you make it part of your daily routine. Start slowly, but be consistent.
You want to be able to participate in a 5 km run but haven’t run in years? Start with a fifteen minute walk or a five minute run every day and take it from there. Build it up slowly and steadily. That’s how races are won.
Massive action usually means that your existing life needs to fit in with your goals, but wouldn’t it smarter if your goals were to fit in with your life?
If you’re still with me, then that’s fantastic, because I’ve got one more thing that I need to get off my chest and that is the following: despite taking small action on a massive scale, some people still don’t get there and here is why.
The Devil is in the Detail
Sometimes (and I have written about this before) there is a very good reason why you might feel stuck in your current position and why some goals are so damn elusive. You seem to get oh-so-close and – bam – something seemingly unexpected happens and you’re back to where you started (or worse). That’s the insidious thing about being human… often we don’t realise that there are hidden benefits in remaining in our current position and/or negative consequences in achieving our goals.
Let’s take weight loss as an example, because it is such a relatable goal for most. If you’re stuck with a certain weight or body shape, or bounce back to it after months of hard work exercising and dieting, then there is likely a sub-conscious reason for it. There might be a hidden benefit in being that size or shape. I’ll give you a couple of examples from clients, friends and own experience: I feel safe when I am this size; I know who I am when I am this size; I’ve just bought a whole new wardrobe for my current size and don’t really want to spend more money on clothes.
To some of you these reasons may sound ridiculous, but trust me, they are very real. Basically, to elicit hidden benefits for staying in your current position, ask yourself the following question: What is the good thing about…?
In this case it would be: What is the good thing about being this size/shape?
Even if you don’t come up with reasons straight away, trust m, they exist, probably lurking in the deeper parts of your soul (okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but I think you know what I mean). Give it time, ponder over it and simply accept whatever comes up eventually without judgement. Take note of it and then shut this shit down!
Equally, negative consequences that may arise from achieving your goal might be the reason why you don’t get your horse power onto the road. The corresponding question is: What is the bad thing about…?
In the context of our size/shape example, the question then is: What is the bad thing about being the size/shape for which I am aiming?
And again, answers may sound ludicrous to some, but will be very real for the individual. Here are some examples from clients, friends and own experience: whenever I am thinner, people only comment on what I look like and not on who I am as a person (admittedly, this one is mine); I get too much attention when I am this size; I don’t feel safe as a woman being this size/shape; I would need to buy a whole new wardrobe and I am low on funds.
Again, grab your goal, ask yourself this little question, write down all that comes up without judgement and then shut this shit down.
Well done! Now you know what you want, why you want it, what you need and need to do in order to get there, what might keep you in your current position, and what might be holding you back from getting to where you want to be.
So let’s take a look at the last little puzzle piece before I leave you with some final thoughts. Here are two more questions for you to ponder over. Again, nothing fancy and nothing new, but damn, they are effective questions if you’re committed to getting your goal.
First up: what do I need to do less of, let go of or see differently to get my goal?
Secondly: what do I need to do more of and include in my life (on a consistent basis) to get my goal?
Here, as well as before, small incremental changes will make a huge difference over time.
Some Final Thoughts
Goal setting is great in itself because it gives you direction. Getting your goals, however, is a different ball game (and feeling) altogether. Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on your next step and the small habits that you need to incorporate into your daily routine to get you there. Even better, instead of focusing on the habits that get you there focus on who you need to be in order to achieve your goal. If you want to be healthier and are reaching for the next snickers bar, ask yourself, what would a healthy person do? If you want to author a book and are considering surfing the net, ask yourself, what would a writer do? And if you want to save the money and are hovering over the latest Gucci bag, ask yourself what would a financially responsible person do?
This is not to take all the fun out of living. One snickers bar is fine, but one snickers bar every day over the next five years probably isn’t (at an approximate 250 calories per bar this would amount to 456,250 calories!). In other words, consider whether the long-term effects of your actions today will result in the picture you have of your future self. What did Richard Bandler say again? “Do something today that your future self will thank you for!”
Mind the gap, step over it and map out your process. If you know where you want to go, why you want to go there and start taking small action on a massive scale, you’re half way there. Befriend your hidden benefits and negative consequences and then dump them or use them to your advantage. You know yourself best and if you really want to, then this year is the year you’ll finally achieve your goals. It’s a fool-proof system!!
So, screw the S and grab the G. Set the goal, then get the goal. What are you going to do next?