The Old Way of Setting Goals is Broken (here’s why)
Have you ever started a goal?
If you’re a human being reading this, I already know the answer is yes. It’s a perpetual part of life that we’re “supposed” to do- set goals.
Aim high. Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. We’ve heard it all and done it all, twice.
I want to ask you now, the more important question. How many of those goals have you hit?
More specifically, how many times have you started and stopped?
I get it. I’m not here to judge, that’s not in my nature and honestly I’ve got plenty of my own grass to water before I start criticizing yours.
I’m here to shed some light on this subject of goals and to let you know that I get it and it’s okay.
We’re not taught how to truly set a goal.
Now stay with me here. This is not going to be another boring diatribe about why you need to have goals. In fact, I’m going to probably go against most things that you’ve heard in the past.
I hope you’re cool with that. Here we go.
Motivation is dead. It sucks. Stop trying to find it.
The old model of getting what you want is broken. Here’s what we usually do:
Set a target that we want —-> Figure out “why” —-> Figure out how to get it
That’s it. We arbitrarily set a goal based on something we’ve heard, someone else tells us or simply because we think that we “should” do that.
Then we soul search about why we should want this, because everyone says we need to find our why.
Then we set some unrealistic expectations that we have to meet every day and every week because we think that motivation and dedication will get us to our goal, ultimately making us happy.
Sound about right?
Here’s what happens within this whole goal setting time frame.
A mentor of mine explained this idea to me a few years ago, it’s pure genius because we all do it, we just never really notice what’s going on at the time.
There are four major stages of change.
Before I get into those, here’s something to think about.
Humans are motivated by two things:
1). Moving toward pleasure
2). Moving away from pain
Usually it’s more about the latter, but it depends on the person. Many people are a mix of the two, depending on where they are at in their life. The reason I am diving into this is because we don’t set our foundation when we set goals.
A goal is typically based on what we think we want in that moment, without doing enough digging to determine if it’s truly what we want (or want to move away from).
There are four phases of change. Everyone goes through this process and where you get stuck will determine if you are going to achieve the goal, or get stuck in the drift and repeat the process over and over again.
Phase 1 = Uninformed optimism
This phase is the beginning of a new goal. It’s the shiny object, the excitement and the time that you feel “this” is the one that will be successful. You are gung-ho and ready but you haven’t necessarily thought through the whole process yet.
Phase 2 = Informed Pessimism
This is the phase that kicks in after a few weeks or maybe a month. As it relates to fitness, let’s say you started a new workout plan and went hard right off the bat. This is about the time that you lose steam with that plan because you may not be seeing results, maybe you started out too fast and you’re sore or injured, you get bored and ultimately you realize just how much work it is and you aren’t really prepared for that.
The shine is wearing off and you start to drift.
Phase 3 = The Valley of Despair
A good friend and mentor of mine named this phase and I think it fits pretty well. It sounds a bit depressing and unfortunately this is where most people get stuck, so it is.
This phase comes after the pessimism and you are starting to feel pretty bad about yourself because you just can’t “get it together” once again. You started strong, then you faded out and now you’re drifting. This drift period may last for a week, a month or even a year. You go along without a goal and not really doing much, until the next shiny thing comes along.
This is the interesting and critical phase because what direction you go from here determines your success.
If you swing back to the left and start over at phase 1 with a new shiny plan, you are likely going to continue that process of Phase 1 —> Phase 2 —> Phase 3 and then rinse and repeat.
If you can get yourself out of phase 3 and into phase 4, you are winning. Phase 4 is SUCCESS.
Getting there means you have hit that goal. How do we get out of the phase 3 drift?
Here is where the real goal setting magic comes in. We set short term outcomes that have two criteria:
1). They are measurable
2). We care about them
Using those two as your compass, then you start to dig into what you want or what you want to move away from. Keep it very simple as you start out. Too many people get overwhelmed because they set huge goals and it’s either too much in the beginning or they just don’t know where to start.
Begin with a habit that you want to nail. Make it measurable, simple and challenging but not overwhelming.
This is not sexy, at all. It’s not a magic fix to your problems because it takes time. We are ultimately changing the operating system of your brain. As humans we are hard wired to want everything now and when that doesn’t happen, that’s usually what leads us into that phase three drift.
So as we are working on these two criteria, we are doing two things. These are two of the most important things that we NEVER get taught.
Build Your Confidence
Manage Your Energy
Through our new process of setting goals, we can do both. We will no longer rely on starting and stopping, which decreases our confidence because we feel like a failure and it saps our energy because we’re trying to lean into this motivation that doesn’t exist.
What if instead we were just operating?
Not relying on anything other than the systems we put in place to execute every single day.
Once you have your goal – I recommend setting a big 90 day outcome and then having a 60 and a 30 day check point.
At that check point you’ll ask yourself:
1). Am I on track for my goal?
2). What have I done successfully to this point?
3). What do I need to course correct in the next 30 days?
This helps you to start pushing your new reality. Where we typically fall short is when our reality does not match our blueprint, aka what we say we want.
Every single day we’re taking action. How is that done?
Accountability = Doing what you said you would do. Plain and simple. No stories, no yes or no, just ask yourself, did I do what I said I would?
Association = Being around people who have a likeminded approach. People that you can lean on who understand what you’re working to accomplish. You cannot underestimate this because when we want to change or level up into a new version of ourselves, we need people who challenge us and hold us to that standard. We don’t need enablers or people to coddle us. We need those that will tell us the truth.
Support = This type of change requires professional support. It does not count if you and your friend go to the gym together. That’s a nice start but eventually one of you will not want to go, then the other will be okay with it. You need a coach, someone who will support you when you need it but will hold you to the accountability you said you needed.
Daily Wins = Every day we need to build confidence. This is a simple tactic you can start as soon as you finish reading this. Grab a notebook or a journal and every night before you go to bed, write down three things that you did that were positive. They don’ have to be huge things, just small wins. This creates momentum and starts to shift your brain patterns to look for positive things, instead of thinking that everything we have done is meaningless.
Back to my point about motivation being dead. Think about the aspect of motivation like a cell phone battery. You only have so much of it during the day before you need to charge it up.
We are making hundreds of decisions each day. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just stick to a simple plan that doesn’t require you to do anything but do what you said you would?
It seems so crazy and simple.
It all comes back to our big two. Create confidence and manage energy.
When we follow the plan that leads us to our 90 day outcome, we stay in our support system and we celebrate our daily wins we are building confidence and we have a lot more energy for the important stuff because we’re not constantly chasing the next big thing, trying to get motivated.
If you’re feeling like you’re ready to get off the hamster wheel of starting and stopping, join me and the Durbrow Performance family in kick starting that journey.
Click here to fill out an application form. If this is a good fit, we’ll get on the phone or in person to discuss the best plan for you.