Goal Setting

Lil’ history lesson for ya – We started talking about goals and goal-setting in the 1960s when Edwin Locke, a Professor of Motivation and Leadership at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, developed the goal-setting theory as a way to explain how people in workplace situations perform. In his approach, Locke believed goals to be both cognitive and deliberate, which to non-academics means this – when we set specific goals for ourselves, we’re more likely to achieve them and we’re more likely to perform well.

It’s original research that harkens back to Aristotle and his deep thoughts of final causality which said this - purpose can cause action.

Combine those two philosophies on goal-setting, and you’ve got this – a clearly-defined purpose or goal can cause action.

Now, that makes sense.

The special time between Christmas and New Years is an optimal time to define clear purposes, goals, or resolutions. It’s the time to kick yourself into action.

So, here are a couple quick hints to get started.

Be honest. Remember setting that goal to compete in that Ironman with three months preparation and you were just coming off an injury? Riiiiight. Like that’s possible. Or even enjoyable.

There’s no better time than now to be honest with yourself and set realistic goals. Otherwise, you’ll get yourself into training, realize that you’re trying to do the near impossible (because it is, in fact, near impossible), and then fall short. And falling short on a goal or resolution is always a bummer no matter your age, experience or motivation. On that note, a lot of people use the SMART goal framework to get it all rolling.

Frame it positively. It’s really easy to write a list of things you shouldn’t, wouldn’t, can’t, won’t, don’t do. Example: Don’t snack after 8p; don’t get lazy with workouts on the weekends. So, when you set yourself up with a goal or a resolution that starts with a contraction (shouldn’t, wouldn’t, can’t won’t, don’t), you’re already limiting yourself.

Take a different approach. Choose to frame goals positively. Focus on the things you want to do, make, create, run, eat, be. Example: Eat fruits and veggies after 8pm; write a weekend workout schedule at the start of every new month; run a new route every week.

Added benefit: That positive thinking just might have some positive health benefits like reducing stress.

Set a goal you actually want to do. Can a goal be sexy? Sure. We all know those goals that look and feel sexy – run that full marathon, see two new, exotic countries, practice hot yoga three times a week. Sexy. Everyone will be so jealous. Yes, because that’s the way to approach goal setting. (Insert: sarcasm.)

Do you even want to do those goals? Can your knees handle running over 6.2 miles? Do you hate to fly? Do you even like yoga?

Consider taking this time to think about the goals you’d actually like to accomplish. What do you think about every, single day, but you just haven’t done yet? What do you find yourself researching or Googling? What is super special to you?

Just pick one thing. We sometimes shape a laundry list of resolutions and goals, and then we wake up on January 1 with a list of things we have to remember we want to do. If you have a list of goals or resolutions that you have to remember – it’s too long. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Commit to just one or two things that get you PUMPED for 2018.

Take them with you. Maybe it’s a slip of paper in your wallet, a note in your phone or a Post-it stuck to your computer at work. Whatever your 2018 goals are for 2018, put them someplace where you will see them frequently. It’ll keep you honest. Plus, here’s a fun fact - a Harvard Business Study found that only 3% of the population writes down their goals; and that 3% are three times more successful than those with unwritten goals.

Remember, the purpose of all this is action. So, what happens at the intersection of purpose and action? Your life. Make it happen.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash