How to Set Goals
That Won’t Drive You Crazy
Should we set goals? I’ve had bad experiences with them.
When I’ve gone “all-in” to achieve a “SMART” (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) Goal, I often end up acting pretty stupid.
I over-work. Instead of acting like the well-intentioned, kind and caring mom I want to be, I end up hyper-focused on achieving the goal on time, regardless of the consequences. They’ve been bad, too. I’ve overworked myself into several serious health challenges.
I am certain that creating goals or dreams or resolutions is part of human nature.
It’s what we must do. Growing into our future, better selves, is essential to fuel our brilliant lives. The struggle inherent in achieving goals brings up obstacles to cross. We get to know ourselves better through the struggle and can really appreciate how fabulous we are in the process.
Our brains need problems to solve. Picking goals, reminding ourselves of them, and figuring out what to do next keeps our brains focused instead of wandering about like an unsupervised toddler. Intentional concentration tells our brain what to do.
It’s satisfying to create. Seeing our vision transform into reality is full of joy. It also gives our brain the dopamine it loves for fuel.
So, how do we avoid the downsides of goals to get the benefits of blooming bigger everyday?
For me, it’s been a combination of five actions:
1. Listing the payoffs of my goals
2. Asking healthy questions to find the feeling that fuels action
3. Identifying and noting the obstacles, including the sabotaging thoughts I will think, and payoffs of achieving a goal,
4. Creating a daily routine of 7 Habits that I repeat every week day. Each habit requires tiny steps that add up to big things, and
5. Scheduling chunks of time to focus on actions that complete my biggest goals, and honoring those commitments.
1 | List the Payoffs and Reminders Why You Want This Goal
No, really. It may seem obvious today why you want to achieve your goal, but will you remember the payoffs after a few months of discouraging progress?
For example, noting why I want to eat food as fuel (here’s my list) helps me process urges for processed sugar. I read the list whenever I’m discouraged by a setback — when I eat something unplanned and feel like I let myself down.
2 | Ask Healthy Questions
Identify the goal and then ask, what have I already created in this part of my life?
When I used to set stretch goals, I’d get this anxious flutter in my belly. I think it was my primitive brain creating anxiety that I should stay safe and efficient, right where I was.
But I could picture having my goal vividly, and wanted it so badly.
I’ve learned that anxious is not the feeling I want driving me. It causes panic, hyper-focus for survival and very bad decisions. Sleepless nights are a predictable side effect, too.
So, reminding myself that I have already created what I want, and that I can create more, creates calm determination.
That’s a better feeling to fuel the actions I need to take.
3 | Identify Obstacles that Hold Your Goals Hostage
You know you’ll encounter challenges. Line up your defensive actions in advance.
My biggest obstacles come from my mind. I’m really good at coming up with sabotaging thoughts. Here’s my list of sabotaging thoughts around eating food as fuel.
I’ve learned to write them down and create helpful responses in advance. I store them on my notes app.
4 | Habits
SAVERS + 6S
It used to be a habit to review my advantages, reminders and sabotaging thoughts around eating food as fuel when I ate lunch. I probably should do that again!
SAVERS is the acronym for my daily morning habits. Hal Elrod invented and speaks about the system that helps change lives, one morning at a time.
- Silence: Sit very calm, very peaceful and breathe deeply in silence.
- Affirmations: Focus on what’s important to you; what reminds you of your limitless potential.
- Visualization: See the day going perfectly. See yourself enjoying your partner, family and work and getting done that day what you intend to accomplish.
- Scribing: Open your journal and take a minute to write down what you’re grateful for, what you’re proud of and what you’re committed to create today.
- Exercise: Stand up and spend one minute doing burpees. Get your heart rate up and feel energized to create your brilliant day.
- Reading: Spend one minute reading your self-help book. Use it to feel better and be better today.
I also apply 6S principles to my home every morning (Sort, shine, sign, standardize, sustain and safety) to my morning. That’s when I empty the dishwasher, shine the silverware and find one thing to do to improve our home.
5 | Scheduling
I’m a slow learner with this skill.
I know that blocking out my time and planning what I will do ahead of time works. It helps me in these ways.
- See what needs to be done and when I’m going to do it helps me limit my unlimited ambition.
- Know what needs to get done when helps me focus on that activity until it’s done.
- Select high-value tasks critical to achieving my goals means I’ll get there faster.
- Say no to myself. So much steals my attention, that it really helps to say no to distractions when I have a plan in place that I’ve taken time to make.
- Constrain how much time I put into a task limits my perfectionistic tendencies.
First, I put my family and self-care time on my calendar. I learned that tactic from Helene Segura in The Inefficiency Assassin.
Then I schedule appointments.
Finally, I add the work I want to do in blocks. I add notes to those blocks each week when I make my plan.
I’m practicing the skill of limiting the work to the time available. I know I have to tell myself to just get it done, as if I really didn’t have any additional time. It’s a work in progress.
How I move toward my goals is as important as achieving the goal
I’ve learned the hard way to keep the big picture in mind at all times.
Overworking is my Achilles heel. I’ve worked my way to several serious health challenges.
That’s why I created the GPS for Life as it helps me keep an eye on all aspects of my life.
Listing the payoffs and reminders why I want a goal, asking a healthy question to get the best emotion to motivate me, anticipating obstacles, creating habits that support my goals and scheduling my day have really helped me achieve goals without going crazy.
What works for you? I’d love to hear in the comments below.