How Your Goals Can Ruin Your Life

Goal setting is good, right? Yes it is, but the way you set your goals can actually hurt you...

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How Your Goals Can Ruin Your Life

You look at your favorite actor/actress on television, sigh, and say to yourself
We all have those thoughts.  I would be so happy if I only _____.  (Fill in the blank with whatever you want:  "...had muscles like Aaaaahnold", "...was a size 0", "...had a visible 8 pack", etc.)
"I wish I could look like that".

Yup.  Welcome to the "so I have unrealistic goals" club.  We're having matching tee shirts made. 

What's so wrong with having goals like this, you ask?  

There's nothing wrong with wanting abs.  The problem is that the way you structure your goals can be the ONLY (and I say only) thing standing between leaping, jumping, clapping success and demorilization and inevitable failure.That sounds like hyperbole for comedic effect, but I am actually quite serious...

Goals are good.  That's obvious.  It is the sign of a smart, forward-thinking, and motivated person that they know where they want to be X days/weeks/years from now.  

The difference is that if we structure our goals wrong, they don't actually lead to a way to achieve them.  Instead, they just sit there as this beautiful, wonderful, unattainable things and we are completely clueless as to how to get closer to achieving them.This is why goals can ruin your life.  (I knew you were wondering.)  

If you don't structure your goals in a clear way that helps contribute to achieving them, they might just be constant reminders that you HAVEN'T achieved them yet, which will make you bummed/sad/depressed, which will make you more likely to give up and less likely to take steps towards achieving them.

So, let's rework some of these goals the right way.  We'll take a common one and put it through the "magic goal machine" and see how what comes out is way more likely to be accomplished than the original. 

Original Goal:  I want a 6 pack.  

Step 1, Reality Check:  Here's where you ask the question "Is it humanly possible for a person similar to me to attain this goal?"  Now take note, I didn't say is it possible for YOU to attain this goal, just for A PERSON to attain this goal.  Why, you ask?  Because we have weird issues with thinking rationally about ourselves.  So think about all people.  Has anyone accomplished your goal?  In the case of this example, yes.  Many people (of every race, height, build, and creed) have six packs.  

So this goal passes step 1 and moves on to step 2.

 (If the answer was 'no', don't give up hope.  For example, if you're 6' 2" and you want to weigh under 100 pounds (and not die), the answer to your reality check would be NO.  It is not possible for a person like you to attain that goal.  

HOWEVER, here is Secret Step 1a,

Motive Check: Figure out what your goal really was saying.  In this case, you probably don't actually have a real attachment to weighing a number with a zero in the hundred's place.  You probably meant "I want a lean physique", "I want to be skinny", "I want a flat belly", or "I don't want obvious or awkward muscles".  These, unlike the way you phrased your original goal, are completely attainable.  Pass go, collect $100, and proceed to step 2.

Step 2, Factor Analysis:  Ooooooh, I used a scary math-sounding term.  Fear not, all this means is that you have to brainstorm the different factors that go into succeeding at your goal.

For the goal of having a six pack, you would be looking at factors such as "how much I eat", "how much cardio I do", and "what kind/frequency of abdominal exercises I do".  Really take the time to think of ANY factors that might affect the outcome of your goal.

Step 3, Make "Journey" Goals to Accompany your "Destination" Goal:  So we have all heard the mumbojumbo about the journey being more important than the destination.  I say mumbojumbo because A) it is an incredibly fun word to say and B) I have never really agreed with this.  

The petulant 5-year-old in my head always stamps her foot and pouts that she doesn't care how she gets there, she just wants to be there and she wants it NOW.  Well, as bratty as my inner child sounds, she has a point.  We all want the end result.  If you don't believe that, try to say that "I don't care about losing weight as long as I get to do burpees everyday" without laughing.  Go ahead.  I dare you.

The journey isn't more fun or more important than the destination.  It is, however, the only way to GET to the destination.  Hence, "journey" goals.  These are the footsteps you will walk in to get to your goal.  Like footsteps, there will be more than one of them and they will be different from each other.  So, for the example "destination" goal of having a six pack, the "journey" goals would be something like this:

  1. Cut my junk food consumption down to 1 meal a week.

  2.  Eat between 1500 and 1700 calories a day.

  3.  Do a murderous ab workout 4x a week.

  4.  Do 30 minutes of vigorous cardio 6 days a week.

These are your four "journey" goals.  Notice, that there was one "journey" goal for each factor you named in step two.  Coincidence?  I think not....Here are the rules for your journey goals:

  1. They have to be MEASURABLE (i.e. do this specific thing, this number of times, in this amount of time)

  2. They have to be ACHIEVABLE (don't suggest you run 15 miles a day if you work 18 hour days and still require some sleep at night)

  3. They have to be RELEVANT to your "destination" goal (duh)

  4. They can (and probably should) be MORE MODERATE than you think they should be (i.e. don't set crazy ambitious goals; set moderate, easily achievable goals).  If you don't see progress after 4 weeks, you can up the intensity of your goals, but seriously start small.  If you stay consistent the small stuff is all you'll need.

Step 4, Do Your "Journey" Goals:  Seriously, this is the step most people forget.  If you set the "destination" goal but don't follow through on any of your "journey" goals, you officially surrender your right to complain that you haven't achieved your "destination" goal.

Yup.  Gone.  No gritching and moaning from you.  If you pick a realistic "destination" goal (a la step 1), you do a thorough factor analysis (i.e. you don't miss any major contributing factors to your goal), and you set a relevant "journey" goal for each factor, you WILL achieve your destination goal.  It's only a matter of time.  

Liz's Note:  This is why we made your "journey" goals MEASURABLE.  It is easy to lie to yourself about weather you're "eating smarter" or "working out harder", but you cannot lie to yourself about whether you have done 30 minutes of cardio 6 times that week.  You either have or you haven't.  If you have, you'll get to your "destination" goal eventually.  If you haven't, you know exactly why.

Step 5, Readjust (after Time):  If you did steps 1-4 thoroughly and diligently, chances are you may never need step 5.  However, if you did steps 1-4 (especially 4, lots of 4) and you still haven't reached your goal, you might need to readjust.  This is just troubleshooting.  Maybe you missed a factor.  Maybe you could be a little more ambitious with a "journey" goal.  Or maybe (and this is usually the case) you just need to give it more time.  

Hard goals take a long time to achieve.  You can't lose 100 pounds in a week unless you have a leg or two you wouldn't mind amputating.  You will see progress within 4 weeks of setting most goals (if you're doing your "journey" steps), but it might take a bit to fully accomplish the "destination" goal.  Be (as) patient (as possible).

The one thing that IS certain is that you WILL get there.  Definitely, positively, certainly, absolutely.  It WILL happen.  Keep doing step 4 and you will get there.

 Take one of your goals through this process.  Do it in writing.  Seriously.  Go get a pen, open a word document, get a crayon and a Maccaroni Grill tablecloth, whatever it takes.  Write down a goal, do each of the first 3 steps IN WRITING, and then start on the ever-important step 4. 

By: Liz

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