Been a big fan of Matt Harding for a while for making me connected with the world.
This is his video from 2012. Enjoy!
Been a big fan of Matt Harding for a while for making me connected with the world.
This is his video from 2012. Enjoy!
Internal goals are about changing your psychological constitution, or mental representations of the world and how you interact with it. They are goals which are very specific to yourself, and how you interact with the world.
Skills goals are about learning, or improving skills you have. Thus, they might include linguistic goals, music, sports, or art goals. They could also include inter-personal skills, such as empathy, delegation or management skills.
External goals are goals which have their outcome outside of yourself. They tend to be fairly generic goals which could be shared by a number of people. Thus, external goals could be about material possessions, events, relationships, travel, business, or the community etc.
Goals can be categorised in two other ways too:
Open-ended goals do not have a specific target date for completion – they are about an on-going process. Thus, they are more often goals to either change or create new habitual behaviours. These types of goals are called COMMITMENTS in the Big Big Goals Club.
Open-ended goals can sometimes be more effective if they are re-phrased into closed goals. To do that normally requires a slightly different outcome. While this might be a change in emphasis of the outcome, it is not necessarily a change in the means or method of achieving the goal. Changing an open-ended goal to a closed goal often can be achieved by making your goal an example of what you can do as a result of your changed habitual behaviour – eg. a demonstration of your new fitness levels, or having enough money to lay down the deposit on a property for rental income.
Open-ended goals are particularly useful for very simple goals which are achieved by a single simple action repeated on a regular basis, where there is little psychological resistance to taking the actions necessary to completing the goal.
Closed goals have a target date for completion. Consequently, they tend to be more powerful in creating change. The reason why they tend to be more powerful is due to their inate ability to create a sense of urgency. If there is no specific reason to take action today, then our natural reaction can be one of procrastination or laziness due to taking the path of least resistance! Closed goals, however, help give you a reason to take action today as they have a deadline for their completion, which also can help to provide you with a time-mapped understanding of what needs to be done, and when.
Other than where external circumstances specifically get in the way, there are three major areas which can cause you to struggle with achieving your goals. These can be classified as:
From these three classes, there are ten major reasons which can cause you to struggle to achieve your goals:
The first major factor that causes people to struggle with achieving their goals is that their goals are too poorly defined. A lot of inexperienced goal-setters may set a goal to “lose some weight”, for example. The problem here is that the goal is not tightly defined enough. There is no measurability in the goal. Without that measurability, it is difficult for the goal-setter to really know what they are aiming for. There is no end-point. The goal-setter will not know exactly WHEN they have achieved this goal. Without that measurability it becomes really difficult for the goal-setter to judge their progress towards achieving their objective.
Another common aspect, which many goal-setters overlook, is they do not have a definite date by which time they want to have achieved their goal. The effect of not having a deadline, is again that it becomes much harder to judge progress towards their goal. Their psychology may then allow them to procrastinate on actions that would progress their goal as there is no sense of urgency. For example, if your goal is simply to “be fitter”, then when the weather turns bad and you don’t want to go on that run, it becomes much easier to put it off “until tomorrow” as there is no deadline for achieving the goal.
I personally do not have a problem with setting almost ridiculously large goals. BIG BIG Goals can be a lot of fun, and the result of achieving such enormous goals is a phenomenal state of self-achievement – half the fun comes from trying to see how close to attaining them you can get. This can sometimes lead to a performance WAY in excess of where you might be with more realistic goals. This is because really outrageous goals can force you to think “out of the box”. You will have to approach the world in a whole new way to achieve really big goals – For example, if your goal is to “pay off your $150,000 mortgage within three months” then it will force you to be creative and start thinking in a totally different way. The solutions for big goals are often not immediately obvious, and can open up whole new vistas of knowledge or technology. For example, the goal to put man on the moon led to whole new technological developments. Such goals tend to lead to revolutionary leaps and advances, rather than evolutionary incremental steps.
The problem comes if you set yourself goals that are too large when you don’t have the support structures necessary to support yourself, or the psychological resilience to setbacks. Then, the goal can appear to be infeasibly large, or even impossible to achieve, which leads to your motivation waning. When a goal appears too large to achieve, people’s psychology often then prevents them even taking the first step – “because it won’t make any difference”. If the goal is too large and setback after setback appears, the average person will struggle with being persistent and maintaining their motivation in the face of such adversity.
An equal problem comes where your major goals are too small. When your major goals are too small, or not challenging enough, they become impotent. The problem here is often that your reason for achieving the goal is not desirable enough to provoke action. Consequently, it becomes difficult to build motivation. Small goals often struggle to be compelling enough to create that strong desire within you that launches you into action. We humans perform best when we have something worthwhile to aim at, or have something to react against for a greater purpose. A small goal doesn’t help here because it doesn’t stretch you enough. It isn’t significantly worthwhile enough. Thus, it doesn’t inspire action.
The best goals are goals that stretch you, challenge you, but are realistically achievable too.
It is really important that you create goals that are congruous with your values, and goals that do not act against your own sense of integrity. For example, if you’ve always wanted to start your own business, but you value security and stability in your life above all else, then you will undoubtedly struggle to achieve your aim. Starting your own business often involves an inherent amount of risk-taking, which directly opposes your values of security and stability. Consequently, you are pitting your desires against your very own psychological make-up: your desires do not reflect your values. You would have three choices: 1) save yourself the stress and find another goal that reflects your values instead, 2) continue to struggle with the goal, or 3) change your psychological constitution and alter the things you value.
If you know exactly what qualities you value – both those “pleasurable” values that motivate you in a positive way (eg. Respect, adventure, security, love, creativity), as well as the “pain” values that you specifically try to avoid (eg. Embarrassment, rejection, frustration) – then it becomes a lot easier to design goals that reflect those values, and it becomes easier to create a life you find fulfilling.
A common experience is that people go through cycles. We reach a point where we want change in our life, and NOW! – but we don’t manage the implementation of that process realistically. Suddenly, we start an exercise program, undertake to read seven books per week, start two new hobbies, and work towards launching a new business all at once! The result is that two weeks later, the exercise program goes out the window, you’ve a pile of unread books on the shelf, you’ve stopped going to the evening classes, and the new business just isn’t going to happen. This is a classic case of overwhelm: you’ve tried to change too much, too quickly, all at once! You hit your comfort zones, and bounce straight back to where you came from! The typical example of this would be New Year where everyone sets their resolutions determined to improve their life, but by the end of January, their life is back where it was before. It can be very demoralising.
The answer is to concentrate on just two or three changes at a time – perhaps even less if it is a major life changing goal! Then, as your new habits embed themselves into your personality and habitual behaviours, then you slowly add the next change. It is a managed process of change.
Merely having a goal does not create the motivation to achieve it. Motivation derives instead from the unbridled desire for achieving that goal being transmuted into the force which causes you to act towards achieving it – i.e. Motivation is only truly apparent when you actually do take action! There may be many multiple reasons for a lack of motivation, so we will only cover two principal ones: not being bothered, and procrastination.
If you can’t be bothered to achieve your goal, then basically your reasons for achieving this goal are not compelling enough! Without a strong enough “why” you don’t have the leverage upon yourself to take action – As there is too much inertia in your previous behavioural patterns, it is easier not to bother! The solution is to build really compelling reasons why you must achieve the goal, or change the goal to one which IS compelling if you can’t find a strong-enough motive. Compelling reasons can include realisations and knowledge of both the positive effects of achieving the goal, and negative consequences of what happens if you do not take any action towards achieving this goal. You can use both to re-associate the things you link pain and pleasure to, in order to spur yourself into action.
Procrastination – the act of putting off taking action – often results when the “pain” you mentally associate with taking action right now, is stronger than the “pleasure” you mentally associate with taking that action! Ie. You don’t want to do it now. The classic example of this might be preparing your tax return – you know it has to be done, but you procrastinate until the pain you associate with NOT doing it right now is greater than the pain of doing it right now! The solution here is to control what you focus upon in your mind, and re-associate what you link pain and pleasure to. You might need to think a bigger picture, find new ways of extracting pleasure from a situation, or minimise what “pain” you associate with any particular action or circumstance. You might actually need to increase the pain you associate with the negative consequences of not taking action. Either way, procrastination is a choice NOT to act right now. As it is a choice, it is something which you have the power to overcome – if you choose!
Lack of commitment stems from not having a goal that is desirable enough to you. You do not want it badly enough to keep going. If you are 100% committed, you will do what it takes to achieve the goal – because achieving the goal is an expression of who you are at this point. It is no longer merely something you are interested in, or something you want to happen. Instead, when you are committed, you have the will to achieve it.
A periodic lack of commitment can be combated by improving the desirability of the goal – perhaps by rewording it, or alternatively changing your values to reflect who you would be in order to achieve it. A continual lack of commitment would imply that your motives for wanting the goal are suspect. Is it something you merely wish for, or feel that you should do? – Effective goals are about something that you truly desire to happen!
Achieving your goals will take discipline and self-control. Life contains too many distractions and temptations, therefore having self-discipline is a necessity. When the weather turns unpleasant, it is then that your exercise plan requires mastery over yourself to maintain that discipline. When you fancy a snack, or choose to have an extra pint of beer in the pub – these are the moments when you need discipline to succeed with your goals. As Anthony Robbins says, “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”.
Overcoming a periodic lack of discipline is about being able to concentrate on your longer term objective, in spite of attractive short term gains or pleasures. It is about changing how you represent the outcomes of the choices you have before you – to one where the longer term picture is by far the most attractive and desirable option to you, right NOW. It is about being aware of the choices you make, and being fully aware of the long-term consequences of your daily actions and behaviours way down the line of time.
If you slip, get back on the horse. If you only succeed 51% of the time, you are still making progress towards your goal. Don’t waste energy chastising or berating yourself about your past failures, instead concentrate on what you want to happen, and use your self-control to become who you want to be. Habitual behaviours are the most difficult to change. Still, all it takes is a decision to make, or become, that change – a solid, unwavering decision – and backing that decision up with the actions you know you need to take.
Lots of people falter with their goals as a result of a lack of persistence, or by becoming impatient in the process. Goals can sometimes take a long time to show the results of your labour, and it is too easy to become despondent if there is a large time gap between you making an effort, and being able to see the visible effects of your efforts. A prime example is if you are trying to lose some weight, after several weeks of a new diet and regular exercise, it is a common experience to find your weight either not going down, or even going up. The fact that there is no weight loss could be caused by a whole host of factors, including actually turning excess fat into muscle. However, this is a crucial time when it is too easy to say that your efforts are not working – are not being rewarded – just at the time when you need to be resolved, persistent, and patient.
In such an instance, the best way of approaching such a goal is to concentrate on WHO you are, and upon those habitual behaviours which create your personality. For example, although your original goal might be to “lose 10 kgs”, a better goal might be “to become a person who exercises regularly three times per week, and eats and drinks healthily and in moderation”. The desired weight loss would be an effect of your improved lifestyle, rather than merely being the end-goal itself. Although we are introducing some elements which aren’t specific, it is much more focussed on who you are, much more positively phrased, and creates a really firm sense of who you wish to be. Can you see how you would approach each goal in a very different psychological manner? You would measure your success very differently! In the first goal, only the result is important – losing weight – whereas, with the latter goal, it is the process that is important – the journey – who you become by changing your habitual behaviour.
Everybody suffers setbacks when they strive for their goals. Things do get in the way. Obstacles do present themselves. The difference between success and failure is to never allow the setbacks to dampen your enthusiasm and motivation for your goal. Instead, see them as interesting events or situations on the journey to your achieving your goals, and continue to be persistent – even if that means rethinking your strategies on how to achieve success. Failure comes only when you give up or abandon your goal.
One mark of advanced goal-setters is that they design an environment that supports them to achieve their goals. They construct an environment that takes them halfway to achieving their goal without them putting in any extra effort. Using our weight loss example, an unsupportive environment might be living above a fast food restaurant, and having crisps, cookies, chocolate and candy stored in your kitchen, whereas a supportive environment would be living next to a gym with a pantry stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables and juice. Perhaps moving residence is a little extreme, but you could put the fattest, worst photos of you on the fridge door, and put posters of how you’d love to look over your exercise bike!
You can take control over many aspects of your environment to help you achieve your goals. Design an environment that supports you best. If you need peace and quiet to write that novel, check out the local libraries, churches, or parks. Find those things which help you to progress on your goals with the least effort, distraction, or temptation – so that your energies go directly into achieving your aims.
Nothing helps you fail quicker with your goals than being surrounded by naysayers, and people who don’t believe you can achieve your goals. Alternatively, if you surround yourself by people with similar aims, goals, and ambitions, you will find it much easier to help maintain motivation, momentum, and commitment.
Fear interacts with the way we represent the world to ourselves. It affects both how we automatically filter our perceptions of the world, and how we manage those perceptions. Humans react strongly to change, it pushes us out of our comfort zones, so fear is a naturally occurring reaction to the threat of change in our lives or circumstances.
Fears gain strength when you focus on the negative possibilities of a situation or event. Should such possibilities ever actually arise, fear generally dissipates and is negated because, once you are in the situation, you can react against it. You can take appropriate action to change the event, and deal with the situation.
Your ability to manage your thought processes gives you strength against fear. You can do this by various techniques, such as reframing situations, creative visualisations, and by controlling the scenarios you play in your mind. Worry is the complement of fear, resulting from indecision. It results from asking too many negative “what if” questions inside your mind, and concentrating on what you don’t want to happen. Thus, when you improve your ability to make firm, strong decisive choices, and focus on what you do want to happen instead, naturally your worries lose strength and subside.
Goal setting theory talks a lot about SMART goals. There are a number of different versions of what exactly SMART stands for. I have read versions where the ‘A’ stands for agreed, attractive, achievable, attainable, acceptable, and even action-oriented. Whilst the origin of the acronym is lost, and the specific traits are not universally agreed, SMART goals still provide a great framework to improve your goal setting and help you create more effective goals.
Basically SMART is an acronym for the following traits:
When you create a goal with these traits, they help you to focus on what you want to achieve in ways which psychologically improve your ability to see the goal through. Nevertheless, there are four traits which are not part of the acronym, but which are equally, if not more, important! With these four traits missing, the power of your goal setting is diluted. It is possible to create SMART goals which fail to create enough psychological engagement with your goal, and also fail to take aspects of your own psychological constitution into account.
There are nine elements to creating a goal that is really effective for you. If you craft your goal correctly, both in how your goal is worded, and what it is about, then it becomes a springboard to the motivation and commitment you need to bring that goal to fruition.
Your goal should be:
Your goal should be specific. This means that the goal is clearly identified, and free from ambiguity. It should have a tightly defined outcome. For example, “Save more money” is not specific enough. How much money? Over what time period? For what purpose?
By making your goal specific, you really nail what the goal is about in your own mind – which allows your psychological processes to kick in and help you bring it into reality. It helps allow your “reticular activating system” – those brain cells that filter perception – to bring opportunities to your attention, and help you become more aware of your behaviour in situations that affect how you achieve your goal.
Your goal should be measurable. By introducing some element of measurability into your goal, you can be much more aware and informed of your progress with the goal. Again, it allows you to have much stronger and reliable feedback. Also, by making your goal measurable, it generally helps with increasing how specific the goal is.
It should be noted that with some goals, the measurability can be whether the goal “event” has actually happened, or not. For example, if your goal was to “Watch a Tchaikovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg” then the element of measurability here is simply whether you did, or did not. With other goals, the measurability is much clearer – for example, “Run the mile in under four minutes thirty seconds”. Here, the measurability also allows you to chart your progress, which is an excellent feedback tool.
If your goal is not desirable to you, if you aren’t attracted to your goal, then how can you become effectively motivated towards achieving it? The best goals are ones which literally have you leaping out of bed in the morning to complete. They get you excited and inspired. Attractive, desirable goals maintain a high interest level for you in attaining your outcome. They keep you emotional engaged with the end result that you desire: your goal’s completion.
The best goals aren’t wishes. They aren’t wants. The very best goals stem from desires so deep and strong that they attract you at such a core level that the meaning you attribute to their completion becomes ingrained within your very personality – basically, completing the goal then becomes an expression of who you are.
Do you have the time, talent, resources and commitment to achieving this goal? If not, are you being realistic in setting such a goal for yourself? If you’ve only just started running, then it is unrealistic to expect to beat the world record within three months!
One person’s “achievable” is another person’s pipedream, so you do have to be very aware of your own capabilities. Often times though, people can perform well in excess of what they would normally expect when they have the support, and encouragement of others who want to see them succeed. You need to strike a balance between goals that are too small to get you motivated, and goals where you are simply setting yourself up for failure.
What is realistic can also be a factor of what society has conditioned you to believe as being realistic though – and it is interesting when those paradigms are broken. In 1983, an unknown 61 year old farmer, Cliff Young, ran 875kms in less than 6 days to win the Sydney – Melbourne ultra-marathon race, beating world-class athletes by over six hours. For most people, it is not really realistic to believe that an unknown person of that age could win such a race, but it provides a wonderful example of just how the power of one’s beliefs can affect just what may appear to be “realistic”.
When you give your goal a target date for completion, you do two things. Firstly, it acts as a structure which helps you develop strategies for its completion. For example, the strategies to build a business to 100,000 customers may be very different if the time period for its completion is either five years, or five months. The second thing is, it creates a sense of urgency over its completion. Instead of merely talking about what you want to do, having a time period helps spur you into action because you start to think about when things need to happen.
Having a target date for completion also helps you to evaluate exactly where you are in relation to completing the goal. Thus, it helps provide you with a feedback mechanism, and a means to measure or chart your progress.
Always ensure that your goal is phrased in a positive manner. Your brain is wired towards creating what you DO want, rather than avoiding what you don’t. In addition, positively phrased goals then become much more inspiring, and fun – instead of being about fixing some aspect of yourself, positively phrased goals are about extending and enhancing yourself.
Try to avoid creating goals with words like “stop, quit, lose, don’t”. Think about the positive things you gain by your goal. Ask yourself what you gain by achieving the goal. Aim at where you want to be, rather than where you don’t want to be.
For example, a positively phrased version of “lose 15 pounds of weight” might be “gain a svelte toned figure”. Instead of “stop smoking” a more positive phrased version might be “savour the fresh taste of life as a non-smoker”.
A challenging goal will bring out the best of your performance. A challenging goal will demand for you to extend yourself, your capabilities and beliefs. It will ask for you to be a better person tomorrow than you are today – in a whole host of different ways. A challenging goal gives you something to aspire to, as well as a strong focal point for you to aim your energy.
Challenges help you to discover things about yourself that you never really knew before, and by setting out to achieve them, they enable you to rise to produce a superior performance.
For a goal to really be effective, it is necessary that you find the outcome inspiring in some way. The best goals leave you slightly nervous and excited at the prospect of achieving them. When the goal inspires you, it gives you energy and purpose, which will help drive you onwards towards success when obstacles appear.
When the goal is very inspiring for others, the universe conspires to help you. Call it synchronicity or whatever, but when your goal inspires others, people often appear in your life to help you succeed, to help be a part of your success, encourage you, and spur you onwards. People like to feel part of something bigger than themselves, and if you have a goal that could change the world for the better, others want to be a part of that and feel like they have helped. For example, in 1961, Peter Benenson, a British lawyer read about two Portuguese students who had been arrested for making a toast to freedom in a Lisbon bar. Benenson decided to create an organisation which would expose and confront government injustice. His brainchild, Amnesty International now has over one million members in over 140 countries.
Most people create goals that are congruous with their integrity because it automatically creates psychological discomfort if they don’t, but perhaps the biggest error is to create goals which contradict your values structure. Basically, values are the set of emotional states that you wish to feel on a regular basis. Examples of values include: adventure, comfort, security, health, love, family, prosperity. People struggle with their goals, for example, if they create an exercise goal, but then value comfort more than feeling healthy.
The solution is to be very clear about what values you currently have, and what values it will take to achieve your goal, and then actually alter the things you value in life. Once you actually know what your current values are, together with how you prioritise them, you can mentally choose to change and alter the priority you place upon them – or even discard them altogether. By then reinforcing your new values structure with your new behaviours, you can gradually change the way you experience life. You can do this because you can actually decide which emotional states are important to you, and the priority you place upon them – it’s a choice.
You must have the force which drives you to take action. The force and the action are inseparable: motivation does not exist without there being action, else all you are left with is no change and no progress. Conversely to what you might expect, the first step to generating motivation is to take action. Where you might expect to require motivation before you take action, by inverting it, and actually taking action first, it then builds your level of motivation.
The difference between involved and committed is like the difference between eggs and bacon. The chicken was involved. The pig was committed. This little joke illustrates the nature of commitment. To be truly committed means giving your heart and soul to completing your objective, and really caring about the outcome. It means having the resolve and will to create the outcome you desire, regardless of the amount of energy it will require to achieve.
Determination is the quality of resoluteness to achieving your objectives. To be determined means that you have decided to achieve your aim, and will not waver until you have achieved your goal. I want a trimmer body, but I have not been exercising yet – why? Because I have not decided to do what it takes to achieve that aim – i.e. I am not determined enough yet.
Persistence is the quality of remaining resolute to your goals while you are in the process of trying to realise them. It is the quality that prevents you giving up when obstacles get in the way of your progress. Being persistent means being flexible, and committed to finding the solutions to problems that would otherwise stop you from reaching your goal. Being persistent means spending two years knocking on 1,009 doors with your recipe for fried chicken like Colonel Sanders did!
Discipline is the quality of self-mastery that allows you to make progress on your goal when your “dark side” tempts you to behaviour that is a movement away from reaching your goal. It is discipline that allows you to forsake short-term pleasures or gains, in favour of your longer-term objectives. Again, having discipline is a choice which you exercise by choosing to accept the responsibility for all your behaviours, and then choosing the behaviour which aligns with your overall objective.
In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death.