Revisiting Goal Setting:

Goal setting has to be the single most useful skill we can develop if we want to achieve tangible accomplishments. Achieving goals contributes to a positive sense of self and purpose and ultimately is a scaffold to further success. Consequently I want to explore a tool for increasing the liklihood of successful goal setting.

If you are like me you have set a lot of goals over the years some of them have been realized and others have not. This being the time of year when New Year’s resolutions either realize fruit or not I have been pondering what makes a goal succeed and following becoming acquainted with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle I believe I may have a stronger grasp of the situation.

Sinek’s book is titled “start with why” and his thesis is simple. Successful companies have a sense of purpose. They know why they want to do something before they explore how they are going to do it and the details that will make it happen. Ultimately success is the result of a strong belief and clear vision and a drive borne from knowing who you are, what you represent and where you want to go.

Using this framework here is what I now know about the goals I achieved:

  • The goal had been generated from a place of purpose; it was very clear to me why I wanted to achieve it. (why)
  • From this place I created a resolution – something I was going to achieve. (how)
  • Finally, I broke that down into measures or goals – specific, tangible actions with a timeframe. (what)

The ones that did not play out well were the ones where I started with a resolution and the ones where I failed most miserably were the ones where I totally forgot to turn that resolution into a goal.

Let us explore this a bit more by using an example. This is the time of year when I play with that classic old chestnut of resolutions. “I want to lose weight”

Why How What
I am going to lose weight

If I do not flesh it out then nothing ever happens. However, when I take a step back and examine why I want to do this I come up with several potential reasons.

Why How What
Health benefits 

Look good

Feel good about myself

I am going to lose weight

When I look at this list of “whys” I see that there are a number of different motives and each will require a different approach. By understanding my purpose it is easier to maintain motivation and more importantly I can choose the most successful strategy. At this point it is often a good idea to throw out the initial resolution even if it did serve as a useful tool to finding out why something is truly important.

Why How What
Feel good about myself

From this place I can now examine what strategies will be most effective at achieving this vision. I then need to arrange them in order of importance.

Why How What
Feel good about myself Maintain a discipline 

Daily affirmations

Daily appreciations

Lose weight

So now I recognize that while losing weight is a good resolution it may not be the best one to tackle first. The likelihood is that it will be easier when I have done some foundational work and I might as well start with something that will bring me quicker rewards.

The other thing I recognize is that there exists a huge potential paradox. If I fail at one of these resolutions I am actually going to be doing something detrimental to my original purpose. If I do not lose weight I am actually going to feel bad about myself which defeats the whole purpose of the exercise

So where to from here? Well now I select resolutions and maybe I even plan a goal staircase, a sequence of resolutions based on completing them in stages.

Why How What
Feel good about myself Maintain a discipline 

Daily affirmations

Daily appreciations

I will meditate for  15 minutes every day. 

I will state two positive things about myself each morning

I will journal 3 things for which I am grateful every day.

To ensure that I maintain my resolution I will find a tool that allows me to track my progress and on completion of four weeks of consistent success I will move onto phase two. Also in phase one I will lay foundations for phase two by walking three miles daily.

Why How What
Feel good about myself Lose weight Start a running program – the couch to 5k program

Obviously, there are infinite ways I can move on from here and I need to take time to plan the following stages as I succeed on the ones I am working on. The thing to remember is success is motivating and when I change one behavior in my life I naturally change others.


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