Goal setting is such a Generation X thing to do. Ready for the usual goal setting tips? Here they are: set goals—long term, short term, medium term. Set goals for overachieving. Do it! Right now! And make sure it’s as unreasonable and stress-filled as possible so that you forget why you set the goal in the first place!
We are so busy trying to prove ourselves to the world that sometimes we forget how incredible we already are and the capacity that we have for greatness…all this without the crazy shit that we hold ourselves to doing. Damn all those accountability structures that we’ve put into place for ourselves!
There are probably a lot of life coaches out there that would suggest that if you don’t have goals, you could potentially fall off of the face of the earth and die of dullness and boredom and lack of productivity. Just to be extra dramatic, we’ll add an overdose of every 90’s antidepressant that’s still on the market to that list, too.
Here’s the thing, folks: setting goals is just another way to focus on something in the short term. It’s actually kind of a step in the healing process of a bigger problem that we all suffer from: being grown-ups in a culture where productivity is the most important thing. So, this week let’s look at some short term goal setting tips to put things in perspective.
Instead of following the crowd, go your own way.
I love the Dave Matthews song, “Ants Marching.” It’s about the average super productive overachiever who just marches along doing the same thing that everyone else does because it seems appropriate and culturally acceptable. I also just watched a 60’s documentary about the hippie revolution. They were described as poets, writers, artists, and others that wore funny clothes and had long hair and became accepted into society in California, simply because there were so many of them that people didn’t have any other choice but to tolerate them.
Maybe this cleared the way for some new acceptable ideas or maybe it just made it okay for people today to have long hair, get tattoos, get on birth control, and express their agendas through their external appearances. Who really knows?
Either way, it shows is that what we tend to do is follow the biggest, fastest, loudest overachieving ant, and march behind him. Maybe we see a more colorful parade of ants going a slightly different direction and we go that way. Most do not go off in their own individual directions. Is there any difference between the “establishment” of the 60’s and the “establishment” of today? Probably not. We’re just arguing for slightly different things now. And honestly, I’m not really sure what those things are anymore. Okay, rant over. Back to goal setting tips.
So instead of trying to worry about what lines the ant people are marching in, I decided to go my own way (yeah, I know that line’s from an even older song) and set a new 90-day goal, which I started on August 1 (I’ll reveal my goal and talk about my progress as I get into it).
Sounds like a great plan, right? Well, I suppose it all depends on what it is and how much effort and focus it will take to stay on my own regiment (TBD). To break free and learn something new is a commitment to marching in new territory. I dig it.
Goal Setting is All About Training the Brain:
See, short term goals are really about training. It’s about creating a new muscle memory that begins a new thought pattern. The brain is plastic, we know that from neuroscience. So we can train and re-train our brains to do whatever we want to do. Easy right? Ha.
I just finished editing a book on nutrition and losing those last 10 stubborn pounds, so I’ve got “dieting” on my brain. Let’s say that my new 90-day goal is to change up everything that I eat that has canola oil in it because I know it gives me a belly ache. The thing is, it’s hard because almost everything that’s prepared or processed, even by good food manufacturers, has canola oil in it. So, for the next 90 days, every time I pick up a bag of plantain chips at Trader Joe’s, I have to look to make sure it isn’t baked in canola oil. And if it is, I have to put it back on the shelf.
This is a really simple way to explain that after 90 days, I probably will have found a slew of new plantain chips and other yummy things that are better for me and there will be no reason to go back to my old ways of munching down corn oil. So short term goals can actually turn into big lifestyle changes. Hm.
In the workplace, goal setting is how we grow. We set short term goals in order to change the way we do things, so that we get better. We can indeed become more productive this way, by expanding our capacity to focus. We can all get smarter.
But it has to be done through challenging ourselves. In this way, productivity is not a frenetic process where it could look like an ant farm from the outside, but instead, it is innovative growth and a continued journey away from the frenetic mindlessness and into that which makes anyone great.
What about long term goal setting tips?
Long term goals are good too, but ant marchers love to talk more about long term goals than short term goals. It’s always more fun to dream about the future, than to sit down and figure out a plan, let alone implement the plan, to get there. Thinking about an endless string of long term goals allows for procrastination and a “free beer tomorrow” mentality. If we are always planning for tomorrow, then there is never an opportunity to grow in where we are today, such as the growth and health that will occur with my canola-free goal.
That’s not to say that long term goals are bad, by any means. Having 1, 5, and 10-year goals is great for business, but having shorter term goals and actually adhering to them on a daily basis is more likely to result in an actualized long term goal.
It’s silly to think that achieving anything comes from doing the same thing every day and expecting a different result. But yet that is how most people live and work within the structure of their lives.
Overachieving is just that: moving ever more deeply and intensely with frenetic, angry determination. It’s like head-butting a brick wall harder and harder every day, assuming that there will be rainbows and sunshine on the other side of the wall after about 100 concussions. Shoot. That sounds kinda inefficient.
With short term goals, we can make actual changes and watch actual growth occur because we’ve put forth methodical effort toward focusing on a single prioritized task at hand, rather than taking everything all at the same time and feeling overwhelmed and frenetic.
So in honor of short term goals that can add up to long term goals, here’s a quick list of goal setting tips I put together to help you out:
1. Be realistic.
It’s probably on the top 5 of any organized person’s “best practices” for goal setting tips. You can’t grow or learn unless you accept your limitations and weaknesses, along with your expansiveness and strengths. You’re not going to climb Mt. Everest without a bit of a training period, so know where you are and how much time it will feasibly take to learn what you’ve gotta learn to get where you’re going so that you can climb from there.
I would say I personally struggle with this tip the most. I habitually overestimate how much I can get done in a single day, so figuring out what I can do in 90 days is super overwhelming. I always bounce my 90-day goals off of other people for that objective perspective. It also helps to think small. What’s the worst that could happen? You finish a 90-day goal in 30 or 60 days. Great! Rinse and Repeat, right?
2. Be prepared to fall.
And then get back up. You’re going to lose focus. You’re going to be in a hurry and forget to read the labels on your plantain chip bag. You’re going to bring them home and see them there, feeling a tinge of failure or guilt. It’s okay.
The most important thing about falling is learning from the fall. So, chuck the guilt. Instead, try being interested in why you missed your goal. Make the adjustment going forward, so that next time you are in a better place to choose differently. Any time you lose focus, require yourself to learn from the scenario so that it can be a part of achieving the goal, and not a complete distraction. There will always be distractions.
3. Be passionate.
Remind yourself WHY you are doing what you’re doing, and HOW you’re doing it differently than before to see different results. You can’t remind yourself of these things often enough. Often, creating structure for ourselves is the hardest thing to do. But most of the time it’s not what we’re doing, but how and why we’re doing it.
If I spent all my time thinking about how I love plantain chips, I’d never concern myself with the belly ache that canola oil gives me. So plantains are awesome and I’m passionate about eating them, but I’m more passionate about feeling good, and so that intention is the driver for my motivation to stay focused.
Creating our own goals, timeframes, and rules means that we only have ourselves to answer to. Which means that we absolutely have to stay sharp in order to hold ourselves accountable. When you create short term goals, the only way they can falter is through a lack of willingness to shift and change and move within the confines of the structure that you have created.
And this is probably the most valuable of all goal setting tips: staying true and close to your own intention is paramount to achieving anything. That probably means getting off of your plate some of the things you aren’t so passionate about.
A passionate intention is always one that will stay focused. If you’re passionate, willing, and real, contact me. I can always help you to achieve your goals without feeling like an ant marching.
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