How to make sure you achieve your goals
26 September 2016, 10:09
With the end of the year fast approaching, it is a good time to take stock and look ahead to setting new goals for 2017.
You can set as many goals as you want, but even if they are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based), you are still unlikely to achieve them unless you perform the daily actions required to achieve these goals.
A problem with classic goal setting methods is that the mere act of setting a goal gives you a certain feeling of accomplishment. We can in fact feel so proud of our commitment that it actually decreases our efforts to achieve that specific goal.
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It's weird, right? It's a kind of self-sabotage linked to avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of change and the need to decrease our chances of failure.
This is why I'm going to show you how to upgrade your goal-setting method by distinguishing between "outcome goals" and "behaviour goals".
Outcome goals vs. behaviour goals
Knowing the difference between outcome goals and behaviour goals is critical in turning your dreams into actions.
An outcome goal is the end result you hope to accomplish.
For example, an outcome goal could be losing weight. If you're clever, you will know that the goal "to lose weight" is not enough. It should rather be something like "I want to lose 10 kilograms by 1st of July so that I can perform better at work and play with my kids more comfortably."
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If you're already in the habit of setting clear and meaningful goals like that, then well done – you are already way ahead of most other people, and I'm sure you have experienced much success as a result.
However, something is still missing... We need to solve the problem that even with clear, detailed goals we often don't take enough action. A goal without a plan is just a dream, so this is where your behaviours and habits come into play.
A behaviour goal includes the steps you need to take to achieve your desired outcome.
For example, a behaviour goal includes such details that you will need to go to gym three times a week in order to lose 10 kg by 1 July.
Behaviour goals usually involve a set of actions – such as going to gym three times a week, preparing a healthy lunch to take to work the night before, and waking up 20 minutes earlier to cook a healthy breakfast rather than just grabbing a granola bar.
As you can see, suddenly your goals are much more "actionable".
How to create goal systems
When you clearly distinguish between outcome goals and behaviour goals, you automatically start creating systems that will help you achieve your goals.
• Are you a writer? Your goal might be to write a book. Your system is writing for two hours three times a week.
• Are you a runner? Your goal might be to run a marathon. Your system is to run 20–30 kilometres a week for 12 weeks.
• Are you a sales rep? Your goal might be to earn more commission. Your system is to make five sales calls a day.
• Are you a rugby player? Your goal might be to play professionally. Your system is to train twice a day – a total of four hours a day.
So once you have decided on an outcome goal, you need to figure out what behaviours you need to acquire on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to help you achieve it. Then keep breaking down those goals further and further.
If you are someone who thinks "Forget losing 10 kg, I can't even get myself to the gym once", then maybe you need to focus on what behaviour will help you get to the gym before focusing on what will help you lose weight.
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If an outcome goal is getting in a workout at the gym, behaviour goals might be scheduling it into your day, packing your gym bag the night before, convincing a friend to join you so that you are accountable to them, and then getting a good night's sleep so that you wake up energised and ready for action.
You can systematically go through this process, looking at how you can create more and more tiny behaviour goals that will help you reach your outcome goals.
• Maybe you need a pre-bedtime routine to help you get a good night's sleep, so that you have energy to work out, so that you can lose weight?
• Maybe you need to plan your day better in order to have enough time to unwind properly before going to bed.
• Maybe you need to block out distractions so that you can be more productive and stick to your daily plan.
The best part
Many people go back to doing nothing once they achieve their outcome goal (such as running a marathon or losing 10 kg).
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However, if you have focused on behaviour goals and turning them into systems, there is a good chance you will have developed some solid healthy habits along the way:
Going to gym might be as solidly cemented into your Monday morning routine as brushing your teeth. Doing meal preparation the night before could already be second nature. You suddenly love waking up early when it's quiet and peaceful, and a healthy breakfast has become a must-do in order to maintain your high level of energy and performance throughout the day.