Why Goal Setting is Dead

What to do Instead

New year resolutions are just goals we set for ourselves at the start of each year, hoping to achieve them. How are your new year’s resolutions going? Are you still working towards them, or have you given up like most people?

According to US News, 80% of new year resolutions have failed by February.

Maybe you don’t have new year’s resolutions because you know they’re doomed for failure. Maybe you set actual goals instead around what you’d like to achieve overall this year, or in specific areas of your life.

Do you also go the extra mile and create action steps to take for each goal? Bonus points if you do, but for most people, it’s still not enough. Here’s why…a lack of motivation. Only the most determined of goal setters will take regular action on the steps they’ve created.

It’s Not Your Fault

Life gets in the way. You’re busy. The kids get sick. You’ve got deadlines to meet. You have to have Friday night drinks with the girls, or watch that TV show. I get it. Unless you have a compelling reason why you need to achieve this goal, life will stop you.

It’s just how you’re designed. You won’t work hard unless you really have to. It’s hardwired in. This is where the fight or flight response comes into play. Sam Ovens describes it best when he says you won’t do anything to achieve your dreams, but you’ll fight like hell if your standards are breached.

The example he uses is your bank account balance. Most people look at their bank account wishing there was more money in there (your desired balance), but won’t actually do anything about it. That is until it reaches or drops below your “panic balance.” Then you’ll explode into action and do whatever it takes until your bank balance is back in the safe zone.

Raise your Standards

His solution is to raise your standards. Easier said than done I know. But there is a way. Creating habits. Jeff Goins agrees with this.

What if you decided that for 30 days, you would do one of your action steps every day no matter what? Set a time and place that suits you, and take action.

Here’s an example. Say you want to write and publish a book this year. An action step you could create each day is to sit down and write. There are two ways you can approach this.

The first is to choose to write a set number of words each day – 250 – 500 is a good starting point. This means you stay in that chair until you’ve reached your word count no matter how long it takes, or how good/bad your writing is. The point here is to practice the habit of writing, so your quality improves over time.

I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning – William Faulkner

The second approach is to set a time limit – 30 – 60 mins is a good starting point. This means you sit down at the same time, in the same place every day ready to write for that whole time, whether you write anything or not. The point here is to create the habit writing, so inspiration knows when to strike.

It’s important to choose a time when you’re at your best and most productive. Are you a morning person who can get up a bit earlier? Or are you a night person who prefers to stay up a bit later to get things done.

Doing either of these strategies will help to create a writing habit. As you practice these, you’ll also start to discover how long it takes to write a certain amount of words.
When I first started writing, I used the second option.

I carved out 30mins every morning before I went to work. It was hard at first because it meant I had to get up a bit earlier to write when it was quiet, but it was worth it.

In that time, I found I could write about 300 words. If I did that, it was a successful session. There were some days, especially in the beginning, when I would just sit there and nothing would come. There were no ideas or words flowing, but I still sat there anyway for my allotted time because that’s what professional writers do.

I also created a routine around my writing habit so my mind would know when I’m getting ready to write. Get up, feed the dog, turn the computer on, make a coffee, start writing. Once I started doing this, writing became easier.

It’s important to note that it doesn’t seem to matter what order I did my routine in, only that it was done. You might be the same. If I changed my routine, like walk the dog or have breakfast, I found it harder to get into the writing mindset. My mind didn’t recognize I’m getting ready to write and trigger my creativity.

Creating Habits

Habits are just small, regular and consistent actions. After a while, they become second nature and part of who you are. This usually takes around 30 days – the time it takes for new cells to generate in your body.

I recommend focusing on one habit at a time. You can move on to another one in 30 days. Pick something you can stick to. Start small if necessary. To create a habit, follow these steps:

  1. Find the goal you want to achieve.
  2. What action step you can take daily to support the achievement of that goal?
  3. Decide when you’ll take that action step.
  4. Measure its success.

In the example above, the goal was to write and publish a book. The action step was to write for 30 mins a day every day (or 250-500 word). I did this first thing in the morning. I considered it a successful session every time I wrote for 30 mins or more.

There may be a day or two you miss here and there. Don’t beat yourself up about it or use it as an excuse to give up. Just do it at a different time that day or let it go and start again tomorrow.

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