I’ve always been a very “all or nothing” sort of person. When I decide I want something, I typically want it “tomorrow”. I’m that person who decides they want a haircut and must find whatever hairdresser is available to do it immediately. So unsurprisingly, I love a good fad. I’m a sucker for anything that includes the words “fast” and “easy” in the title (as a marketer, I really should know better).
Over the years, as I’m sure many have also experienced, I have successfully smashed some short and long term personal goals, changed my routine and created new habits however I can also admit to a laundry list of goals I have failed to meet.
At the start of the year, I’d taken the time to deeply reflect on how I’ve achieved success in my life so that I could understand what was truly sustainable for me and what my blueprint for success looks like. Were there patterns within my approach that could help me to understand how and why I am successful in achieving my goals? If so, could I develop a framework that would allow me to successfully achieve all of my goals?
Turns out, there was
My long term personal goals are not dissimilar to what most people’s goals are (or at least that’s my understanding from the evidence I can see across Instagram and Pinterest). I want to live a healthy, happy and balanced life and I want to do so in a way that feels relatively effortless and is therefore sustainable for me and the lifestyle I lead.
I know, pretty groundbreaking stuff…
The struggles I’ve had in the past have come from unrealistic expectations. The main shortcoming of an ambitious idealist is that we can set hugely unrealistic expectations that any mere mortal would fall short of.
I needed a plan to change my approach and a means for keeping some of my changes that were focused on developing new habits, sustainable.
After some deep reflection and careful planning, I uncovered a framework that mirrored my approach to successful goal setting and underpinned it with what I knew of psychology to keep me on the path to making successful changes in my lifestyle habits.
I couldn’t be anyone else even if I wanted to. Being an idealist is who I am and it does allow me to become somewhat of a visionary, to first identify the goals that I’d like to achieve. In the world of an idealist, absolutely anything is possible. It’s not “if” it’s “when” and “how”. So true to form, I’d set the vision and commenced working on the how.
With that said, I have found myself at times becoming paralysed and demotivated by a vision or goal that feels very far out of reach. It is during these times that the idealist requires a dose of realism to “check oneself” and ensure that goals are broken down.
Break it down:
We’re all motivated by different things so at this point, it’s a good idea to reflect on how you’ve been motivated to achieve your goals in the past. I know of some people who love to set goals that are easily achievable. They get a sense of satisfaction from “ticking” items off the list.
These are the same people who start their daily to-do list by writing “brush teeth” on the list so they can start the day with an item already ticked off. *Not judging. You do you.*
I’ve found that I am mostly motivated by stretch goals. It has to feel ever so slightly out of reach (read: to some this may be described as ‘unrealistic’). It’s these goals where I find myself feeling as though I have quite a bit to learn/do before achieving them that it gives me the motivation to “get started now”.
Know your weaknesses:
I know that my biggest competitor is within myself and I call her, apathy. One of the things we learn as behaviour change marketers is that “the easiest thing is for people to do nothing”. It is this that I find to be my ongoing challenge.
Setting stretch goals, as mentioned above, is one way that I tackle this demon of mine. Another is to surround myself with reminders of why I am focused on my goal. This could be setting my desktop wallpaper to a reminder of what I want.
The other two key components for me are finding someone to be accountable to and setting a time in which I want to achieve my goal by. Without both of these pieces in the puzzle I can inevitably find myself procrastinating and taking my sweet time to achieve my goals. On accountability; for me it’s as simple as telling a friend what I’m trying to achieve and by when. Or you can keep accountable to yourself by using a Habit Tracker.
The Habit Tracker:
I developed this Habit Tracker as a way to keep accountable to myself as well as track and measure my progress over time.
I wouldn’t allow myself to feel guilty for missing a day (which is important as guilt for me, as an idealist, can send me into a state of paralysis) but I would enjoy being able to see how many dots I could fill my page with throughout the month.
Then alongside my habit tracker, I added in some checks and balances to make the process more powerful.
I remembered I once listened to a podcast by Tim Ferris where he mentioned the most important lessons he learned during his 4 Hour Body stint was tracking and measuring progress combined with “loss aversion”. Loss aversion, researched and understood by my Behavioural Economics hero, Daniel Kahneman, is the human brain’s ability to perceive a potential loss as far more difficult (and therefore something that myst be avoided) to process than when we attempt to focus only on improvement or achieving a goal.
This means that in addition to setting yourself goals, committing to having to “give up” something (and staying accountable to that loss with a friend) will be more motivating than the promise of achieving the goal itself.
So for those of you who may identify with aspects of my personality and approach to goal setting, or for those of you who would like to try my approach, I’ve decided to share my Printable Habit Tracker with you. Simply click on the image below to download!
Download it here and be sure to share with your experience with me and tell me whether you found it helpful.
How well do you know yourself and your approach to achieving your goals?
I learn the most when my thinking is challenged so let’s share and challenge each other!
Share with me in the comments your approach and what you find works for you.