Unfortunately, research indicates that up to 92% of people don’t achieve goals they set (New Years Resolutions alert!). Reasons for failure include specificity, motivation, realism of goals and personal expectations. Traditional goal setting suggests that goals should be SMART:
While the SMART framework serves as a good guide, its insufficient for the majority who don’t kick the winning goal of the game. Bulletproofing goals isn’t just about better design and metrics, but understanding and setting ourselves up for success. Here’s how:
♘ Understand Your Tendency
Gretchen Rubin‘s ‘Four Tendencies’ categorises people according to how we respond to expectations with ourselves (inner expectations) and others (outer expectations). According to Rubin the tendencies are:
Understanding your tendency reveals the patterns of habit formation. Reflecting on natural inclinations of behaviour assists in the methods of goal execution. For example:
As a ‘Questioner’ I am susceptible to experiencing “analysis paralysis” when making decisions, such as those around content marketing. In contrary, I can make decisions easily about certain topics whilst overly questioning others. Tendencies also come into play for interpersonal goals involving others. I can provide different insights for upholders who stick definitively to regimen or provide reason for rebels who want to object. Thus for me, goals should align so that I can obtain sufficient information and understand why there’s need to see a course of action through.
♘ Carry Out with Congruency
The gap between the achievement of goals and our starting position is where congruency lies. Carrying out goals involves synergistic integrity. In other words, emotions, thoughts and actions should align to principle with the end goal in sight.
Similar to the way muscle fibre is broken and mended for growth, sticking to a course of action fosters habit formation. Each time we go beyond our past efforts, our capacity to do and perform improves. This results in bettering prior action and success. As Emerson said, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not in the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”
Congruency in goal achievement requires prioritisation of a greater purpose; a burning yes to a specific cause, meaning we say “no” to other things. Anything that does not contribute to our goal; whether distraction, procrastination or numbing is an impediment to the goal.
So how do we stay more congruent?
♘ Define Action and Consider Consequences
In the first 2 sections we covered self-awareness through tendency and ability for choice through congruency. The last element for attaining goals is action.
Break Down Goals into Achievable Objectives:
Goals are a ‘vision’ or end destination. The difference with objectives are that they are a series of concrete steps leading towards a goal. Objectives are the process and mechanics of goal attainment.
The problem with goals or visions are that sometimes they are so grand we go extreme or nothing; from one side of the spectrum to the other. It’s not about going at lightning speed, because fear feeds resistance and stops us dead in our tracks. Rather it’s about gradually investing and moving forward.
An analogy I came across for combating this is “eat vegetables sometimes”; the notion that any action is better than inaction or perfection. Instead of going for that extreme diet from day 1, slowly integrate vegetables into your diet. Don’t quit your job, steadily find ways you can transition into something that speaks to you.
Start with Less Goals and Prioritise the Most Important ones.
Establish Living Goals and Regular Review Mechanisms:
What is the ‘definition of success’? What are the go/no go decisions. I like to call these the “minimum standards” or “minimal viable conditions”.
Implement review mechanisms: Daily, weekly, bimonthly, quarterly, yearly? There doesn’t need to be a arbitrary date, but what can be measured can be managed. E.g Choosing how $500 of marketing funding will be invested is highly dependent upon how I measure my results for Reintention. If this tool is not effective, moving on to the next.
“Satisfied needs don’t motivate”. What gives us a big kick in the butt is the driver of consequence. While we can’t always foresee consequences, we can choose our actions. According to Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, non achievement stems from resistance. “The more scared we are, the more we can be certain that we have to do it. The degree of fear equates to the strength of resistance. The more specific we feel about a cause, the more it is important to us. If something meant nothing to us, there would be no resistance. ”
What is the result; pain or consequence if you don’t change or act on your goal? Is there something you’re rebelling against by not acting? Can you create external consequences that would result if you didn’t achieve a objective, milestone or goal?
Learn, Commit and Do:
Goals are not a set and forget exercise or a set and do little and expect to yield success. Learning, committing and acting is a constant cycle required to bulletproof goals. As Phillip Brooks said, “Character cannot be made except by steady and long continued process.”
For Your Thoughts:
- What is your tendency? How do you respond to expectations from yourself and others? Consider the implications with your goals by taking Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz.
- How can you foster greater integrity in your life? Review what goals you want to achieve and articulate how you can be congruent in your thoughts, words and actions.
- Break goals down, prioritise and review. How can you make these goals living? What true consequences will result if you don’t act or achieve your goals?