We Have Been Setting Goals Wrong
The way you set goals has quietly been setting you up for failure all along.
Yet, I believe there is a better way to think about our goals.
December is that time of year where we all start thinking about ‘Goals’. The fast approaching New Year comes at us quicker every year, and we rapidly try to define ourselves in an attempt to leave behind the baggage from the previous year.
Naturally, you will try to set goals for 2021 in order to forget 2020… Use these guidelines to make sure you don’t bring your motivation down.
I have always been a goal-oriented person – to a fault. I would often set lofty targets, and get increasingly disappointed each time I couldn’t reach the grand heights I was stretching for. When I would set smaller (i.e. achievable) goals, and I would shame myself for being so narrow sighted and wasting my potential.
This became a cycle in my life, and was a major proponent in skewing my vision of ‘success.‘
Only recently, have I begun to understand that I have simply been setting goals wrong.
How We Set Goals Wrong
My goals, since childhood, have mostly been based around social status or ownership. My list included successful career, a nice car, a big home…
A long list of goods became my list of ambitions. I call this “Possession Based Goals“, which have dominated the aura of goal-setting in our modern capitalistic world. Everyone sets their finish line as if they are in a race with the person beside them.
“Maybe I can get this raise before they do.”
“All of my friends are buying houses, so I should buy one in the next 2 years.”
Even a seemingly innocent one like “Getting in shape” is typically set with sinister intent. When we set that goal, it is rooted in how we look compared to others. We want to capture the Hollywood Hills look, or recreate the bodies we see across social media.
We are setting ourselves up for failure, because we will still be comparing ourselves to others and never feeling as though we can achieve the vague goal of ‘Getting in shape’.
The Possession Problem
When we set our goals based on possessions, or social standings, we are immediately setting ourselves up for discontent.
The law of progression continues around us, even when we achieve it within. While we improve and get closer to our goal of that new shiny car, the manufacturers are achieving their goals of releasing the next top tier model.
Goals have the ability to evolve and fluctuate, yet our perception of them remains solid. When we finally reach the apex of that goal, we look around and are met with the backs of those ahead of us.
There will always be newer, bigger possessions to own. If you are chasing them, the discontent is chasing you.
How Should We Set Goals
In my recent article on Managing Money with Anxiety, I discuss framing my financial priorities in a 2 year plan. This is phrased as a possession based goal – as the end of that 2 years culminates in an expensive move.
I’ve been reading James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits“, and that is what is spurring a lot of my new found focus on goal setting. The way to manifest this 2 year plan I mentioned, is within micro-goals (or, Atomic Habits.)
I have to break that down to monthly, weekly, or daily habits to help me build that future.
When we zoom in on our targets like this, we aren’t so focused on the possessions involved. Instead, we get to focus on what I am calling “Character Based Goals.”
It’s About Character
When we set goals, we should be basing them on what kind of character we want to lead. At the end of the day, our goals are typically a framework for the lifestyle we wish to have.
If our character goals resemble the person we want to be, the possession goals that truly matter will follow.
If my goal is to save the money for a successful move, building myself into healthy financial habits over time is the path to success. Setting a lofty goal that is simply a price tag means the pathway isn’t clear.
Instead of letting my anxiety build as I try to find my way to that goal, I get to focus on micro-goals like “Keep my budget spreadsheet up to date.”, or “Make a lunch in the morning to avoid MacDonald’s”.
As if your habits are a sports team, you develop drills and strategies. You build your skills, and implement your strategies. The score watches itself.
A Mantra to Remember
I have determined a mantra to repeat to myself as often as possible. It will probably find a home on a sticky note beneath my monitor at work.
Smaller Goals – Better Habits – Bigger Results