Most goal-setting programs are hard. The system might sound easy, but achieving the goals is difficult. It usually takes discipline, willpower, a strong mindset, hard work, sacrifice and struggle.
No wonder most people fail at their goals or New Year’s Resolutions!
I’ve got a different approach to goal setting: This coming year, choose, plan and achieve goals that bring you joy, ease and happiness – not only when you achieve them, but along the way as well.
Now I know this flies in the face of many (most?) goal-setting programs! So be warned that what I’m going to share here might be controversial, confronting or conflicting with other advice you’ve seen. But hey – if you do embrace my advice, you will enjoy the next twelve months. So what have you got to lose?
The title of this article is tongue in cheek. A hedonist is purely motivated by pleasure, perhaps even selfish pleasure. I’m not suggesting that’s appropriate as a way of life. But I do think we spend way too much time in our life doing things we don’t want, that we’re not good at, with people we don’t like, and without getting any reward. Why not do something different this year?
Heck, there’ll be plenty of times when life isn’t perfect. Sure, you might get stuck in traffic, fight with your partner, struggle getting the kids to sleep, do work that you don’t want to do just because it’s in your job description, or force yourself to be more disciplined at work. But those things are going to happen anyway. Why would you deliberately schedule more of those things in your goal setting as well?
So do yourself a favour when you’re setting your goals for the year: Don’t create goals and activities that involve struggle, complication, hardship and sacrifice. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, especially if you’ve done other goal-setting programs. But hang in there – I’ll explain …
I’ve got ten guidelines here, broken down into three areas: Choosing the right goals (4 guidelines), planning (3) and taking action (3).
1. Do what you love
It’s surprising how many people set a goal because they think they “should” do it, or they “need” to do it, or somebody else wants it for them. Those goals are the first to go when life gets in the way.
So only choose goals that you want to achieve. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say you should only choose goals that you will love to achieve. This isn’t about being selfish; it’s about choosing wisely.
2. Love who you’ll be
Think carefully: Are you going to be happy – truly happy – with the person you’re going to become if you do achieve your goals?
If you get that big promotion, will you be OK spending more time away from your spouse and kids? If you go on that carrot juice diet and lose 20 kilos, can you tolerate having to gaze longingly and wistfully at chocolate cake from now until the end of your life? If you get all those business travel opportunities, can you cope with spending wasted hours in airports, taxi queues and hotel rooms?
Be sure you’re willing to accept all the consequences of achieving your goal.
3. Think big
Most people don’t fail because their goals are too big; they fail because their goals are too small. Those goals are easily forgotten or tossed aside when something bigger comes along. So make sure you set big – but achievable – goals.
As Jonathon Kozol says:
“Pick battles big enough to matter; small enough to win.”
4. Know the reason why
It’s not the “what” and “how” of a goal that motivates you; it’s the “why”. Sometimes you’ll end up with something that wasn’t exactly what you imagined, but it still achieves the same result.
5. Love what you do
Plan to enjoy the journey. If it takes willpower, discipline or sacrifice to achieve your goal, it’s harder to do and easier to slip up. Instead, make it fun!
It’s no fun to crawling out of bed an hour early to exercise, but perhaps you can make it fun by exercising with a friend, so you make it a social event as well.
It’s no fun to set aside 10% of your income for wealth creation, but what if you also set aside another 10% as “play money”, to be spent on fun and frivolity?
It’s no fun to call past customers to bring them back into your fold, but what if you invited them to a cocktail party instead?
6. Hang out with people you like
Life’s too short to spend with people you don’t like, love, inspire or are inspired by.
Decide who you want to spend more time with this year, and make sure they’re part of your journey. They don’t have to be actively involved in helping you achieve your goals – although that’s a bonus. But make sure they’re around. And be especially sure you don’t neglect them while achieving your goals.
7. Get help
Whatever your goals, there’s a good chance somebody else has already achieved them. So find the right mentors and ask for their help. You might have to pay, or you might not. Either way, it’s the best way to fast-track your success.
8. Start before you’re ready
You won’t have all your preparation complete. You won’t know exactly what path to follow. There’s always a reason not to start today. But if you’re waiting for the perfect moment to get started, you’ll be waiting a long time. The perfect moment is now.
9. Take a big step first
A rocket uses most of its fuel in escaping the Earth’s atmosphere. After that, it takes very little energy to keep going.
Many of your goals – especially the biggest and most important goals – are similar. Don’t start with baby steps; start with massive strides. The good news is that often just a few strides can make a big difference, and then everything else is easy.
Obviously I’m not suggesting you do dangerous things, like suddenly taking up squash if you’re unfit. But if it’s OK to start walking for 30 minutes a day, start walking. Don’t “build up to it” with unnecessary little steps – e.g. buying new sneakers, starting a journal to record your progress, telling all your Facebook friends, shopping for a new T-shirt to celebrate the start of the journey, and plotting the optimal walking route for different weather conditions. Sure, these small steps are easy, but it’s the first big step (literally in this case) that matters.
10. Do something every day
Do something towards at least one of your goals every day. After all, why wouldn’t you? These activities are fun, not a burden or a chore. So, in addition to working towards your goals, you’re adding some fun and enjoyment to every day of your life!
More importantly, at the end of the year, you will have taken 365 steps – enjoyable steps – towards achieving your goals. That’s 365 more than the average person.
So that’s it. Those are my ten guidelines for easy goal setting.
Good luck, and I wish you all the best for making 2020 the best year of your life.