By Jeremy Newcombe
My Problem With Goals
You’ve probably heard before that one of the keys to being successful (in anything) is setting realistic, achievable goals. Personally, I’ve always struggled with this. It might be ironic, but I’ve even had to make “making achievable goals” one of my personal goals. I’m very pleased to say, however, that after working on this skill for the past few months, it’s already starting to pay off for me, and I though I might impart some of the things I’ve learned here.
Back in July I made a commitment to myself to be healthier. While well intentioned, goals don’t really get more vague than that. For one solid week I awoke every day and made a fresh, nutritious breakfast. I got more exercise. I also went to bed at a reasonable hour, knowing full well the effect that a proper night’s sleep would have on my personal wellbeing. All of these things are undoubtedly healthy. The problem was that I didn’t continue those habits. After that week I woke up and thought, “I’ve been so healthy this week, I can let myself slide a little. Just for today.” So I had a bowl of sugary cereal and didn’t exercise. The next day I felt equally unmotivated to going back to being healthy and ended up going out with my friends and having a few drinks, meandering home somewhere in the vicinity of 2 A.M. Now neither of these things are terrible, but I’m sure it’s not hard to see the pattern that’s forming. My original goal of being healthy fell by the wayside, and I had no discernable plan to get back to it. This, I came to learn, is where I failed.
Making goals—even well intentioned ones—too broad destines them for failure. Without clear steps on how to get there it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to stay on the right track. The key that I missed in this instance was to make smaller, more attainable and measurable goals that will build up to a larger objective.
Since the summer I’ve come to learn quite a bit about setting goals, and perhaps more importantly, how to put in place steps to achieve them. It started when I was catching up on some podcasts while doing some household chores. I listened to an episode of This American Life about Superheroes (which you can find here), and a particular story about a lady named Zora jumped out at me. Zora is a real life Wonder Woman. She trained herself to be a superhero ever since she was a girl, learning to fly helicopters, master martial arts, and defuse bombs. She managed all of this by keeping a list (which she referred to as “The List”) that she would constantly update and revise with all of the skills she wanted to learn if she were to become a real superhero. Amazingly, it worked. Zora didn’t become a superhero overnight, but with time and a hefty amount of diligence she’s been able to accomplish some incredible things.
The methodology behind achieving incredible things by setting smaller, achievable goals is well documented. One of my favorite reads on the subject is here at How Stuff Works. It’s great food for thought, and it can be applied to your career, your health, your personal life, or whatever else you choose.
As corny as it sounds, I took this lesson to heart. I made a list, and I didn’t just fill it with goals like “be healthy,” either. Now I wake up every morning and take my dog for a 30-minute walk, come home and make a nutritious breakfast that I’ve laid out in a meal plan the week before. Three times a week I exercise using a set schedule and workout plan. I haven’t started regulating my sleep yet, but that might come in a later iteration of my list. So far, my goal is to keep those habits and eventually bring myself down to a manageable 15% body fat. When I can put a check beside that goal I can readdress my list and work out a new plan for my health and my future. I might even start doing my own 30 day challenges like our own Renee Masur here at Sokanu. The lesson here is that making attainable goals can make all the difference between failure and success.
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