Cars have new models. Software gets upgraded. Malls undergo renovation.
Everything around you seem to be improving – maybe it’s about time you do too. And what better time to do so than at the start of the year.
People are always setting goals – “downgrading” three sizes from XL to small and strutting around like a beauty queen, or plunking down a small fortune for VIP seats for that dream concert without even batting an eyelash.
But here’s the thing. According to Atomic Habits author James Clear, both winners and losers have the same goals. So, what makes one group reach them while the other fall short?
Well, let’s find out.
Goals are double-edged swords
Goals are important. It gives you a sense of direction and injects renewed excitement into your life. However, goals can also become a trap.
Implicitly, we tell ourselves that satisfaction is achieved only when the goal is accomplished. Therein lies the problem. To understand that, let’s take a step back.
Why set goals in the first place? A lot of it has to do with our self-esteem. Slimming down to your old high school figure goes beyond just fitting into clothes. More importantly, it sends a signal that you’re a strong beautiful woman who’s in control of her life, who sees age as merely a number she conveniently ignores.
Clearly, we associate such accomplishments with our view of ourselves. But the harsh reality is that goals worth achieving takes time, and if we feel like a winner only upon hitting our goal, then it means that during the entire journey of getting there, we feel like losers.
That can be debilitating, because even if you give 100 percent effort, there is no guarantee that your goal will be achieved.
Let’s say you’re a basketball coach and winning the championship is your goal. You’re a game away from the title when your star player slipped on something wet and broke his arm.
So, despite doing everything perfectly, you lost the crown through no fault of yours. If you’re just focused on the end result, you would only focus on putting the blame for the loss on someone who forgot to mop the floor, and discount the countless hours you’ve put in to bring the team to championship level status.
See how a goal-centric focus can distort your self-perception? Even in the best-case scenario where you win the championship, you’ll celebrate for a little while, bask in the glory and feel great about yourself.
That will last a few days. Then what? You set new goals and the cycle starts all over again. At this rate, you’ll feel like a loser 95 percent of the time, with sporadic highs, IF you achieve your goals. That’s not a fun way to live, is it?
So, what if there’s a way to feel great about ourselves every single day and is probably the fastest route to achieve our goals?
Focus on behavior instead
I recently brought a friend, who now lives abroad, to a mall we frequented during college and he was amazed at how much it has changed. It never dawned on me since I visit it often.
It reminded me of the saying: “It’s funny how day by day, nothing changes. But when you look back, everything is different.” It just goes to show how small subtle tweaks can lead to massive changes. That’s the key to achieving our goals. It’s by focusing on the tiny building blocks that make it a reality – behavior.
Are you a swimmer? Your goal is to break your personal fastest time. The behavior is to train two hours a day. Are you an author? Your goal is to write a book. The behavior is to write at your scheduled time every day.
The problem with most goals is it’s vague. We often state the WHAT such as “I’m happily 30-lbs. lighter by Dec. 31, 2019” but fail to state the HOW, which is, “I’ll remove rice, bread and sugar from my diet.”
So, consider writing an action plan to supplement your goal.
Goal (Status Based): I’m happily 30-lbs. lighter by Dec 31, 2019.
Behavior (Action Based):
- I’ll remove rice, bread, and sugar from my diet.
- I’ll walk for 30 minutes everyday starting at 6 a.m. Focus all your effort on the behavior and the goal will take care of itself.
Bonus tip: Make this public. Post your goals publicly and document your progress along the way. Peer pressure has a funny way of getting us into action.
Lastly, whether or not you achieve your goal is secondary. What truly matters is the person you become in its pursuit. A point that Jim Rohn, an American author and motivational speaker, aptly sums up here: “The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.”