Setting & Measuring Your Goals
What is goal setting?
Experts say setting and measuring your goals is the act of selecting a target or object you wish to achieve. Sounds simple enough but setting goals is the easy part of this process.
The real challenge is not determining if you want the result, but if you are willing to accept the sacrifices required to achieve your goal. A great question to ask yourself is “What kind of pain do I want?” Your lifestyle might change drastically depending on the quest you take on. Are you ready to endure the boring and ugly process that comes before the exciting outcomes?
Everybody wants a gold medal. Few people want to train like an Olympian.
So first things first, we need to have proper systems in place to achieve goals. Here are some good examples of systems and goals:
- If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
- If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. The system you follow is your training schedule for the month.
In this example, we see that setting and measuring your goals are useful for setting the direction but systems are great for making progress and closing the distance on your goal. The system itself is what actually achieves the results.
How to Set Goals: Three Basic Strategies
Ruthlessly eliminate your goals
Think about this as your goals are competing with one another for your time and attention. Whenever you start setting and measuring your goals, you have to full focus and energy on your other pursuits. Sometimes this is pausing your other goals to focus on important goals. Other times you may just need to reprioritize yourself and reorganize where your attention should flow.
Ever heard someone say “If only I had more hours in the day!” What often looks like a problem of goal setting is actually a problem of goal selection. You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.
Stack your goals
Habit stacking works well to create a specific plan for when and where you will implement your goals, but also link your new goals to something you are already doing each day.
- Meditation: After I brew my morning coffee, I will meditate for one minute.
- Flossing: After I set my toothbrush down, I will floss my teeth.
For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”
Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were 2x to 3x more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior.
Set an upper bound
Whenever we set goals, we almost always focus on the lower bound. That is, we think about the minimum threshold we want to hit. Let’s reframe a few ways of thinking about this concept of setting upper bound goals. If you can do more than the minimum, why not go for it?
Before: An individual might say, “I want to lose at least 5 pounds this month.”
After: “I want to lose at least 5 pounds this month, but not more than 10.”
Before: An writer might say, “I want to write at least 500 words today.”
After: “I want to write at least 500 words today, but not more than 1,500.”
How to Achieve Your Goals Consistently
Showing up is more important than succeeding because if you don’t build the habits of showing up, then how can you close the distance between you and your goal?
Too often people set the right goals, but develop the wrong system. If you’re fighting your system every day to make progress, then it’s going to be really hard to make consistent progress. In the book Atomic Habits these are called Hidden forces. This hidden force is the environment in which you operate. Your ambition needs to align with the environment to make progress in the long run.
How to Align Your Environment with Your Goals
Even though we have free will at any given moment, we often make decisions based on the environment we are in. Whatever goal you choose to pursue, the environment should align with how you are setting and measuring your goals.
For example, if you want to not check your phone in the morning, then sleeping with your phone next to your bed won’t make it easier for you to wake up and not check email or social media. Try to remove the chances of making that “default decision”
A positive example would be; If you keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, then drinking water rather than soda is more likely to be the default decision.
Scientists refer to this process of making decisions as to choice architecture. The bottom line is: It’s very hard to stick with positive habits in a negative environment.
Here are a few strategies that are useful to better default decisions in your life:
It’s hard to focus on the signal when you’re constantly surrounded by static. It’s more difficult to eat clean when you walk into the kitchen and the fridge is filled with junk food. For most people multitasking is a myth. When in doubt, eliminate options.
There is something called the Paperclip clip by Trent Dysmid. “Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar.”
This is great for those that are visual people. Making progress is satisfying, with visual measures, it provides clear evidence for your progress. As a result, this will reinforce your behavior and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity.
Opt-Out vs. Opt-In
There is a famous organ donation study that revealed how multiple European countries skyrocketed their organ donation rates: they required citizens to opt out of donating rather than opt-in to donating.
You can do something similar by opting in ahead of time like for a workout class for next week because you’re feeling great today. When that day rolls around, you have to give excuses to opt-out rather than motivate yourself to opt-in.
How to Measure Your Goals
The last key factor for long-term progress on your goals is measurement. We as humans love to receive feedback. Can you recall how great it felt seeing your progress pic after working out for a few months? One of the most motivating things we can experience is evidence of our progress.
Measuring your results, it’ll give you feedback and insights on whether or not you are making progress. We measure things that we are currently doing or improving in our goal.
- When I tracked my reading habit of 30 pages per day, I read more books.
- When I journal my values, I began living with more integrity
- When I measured my reps and sets during my workouts, I got stronger.
The trick is to realize that counting, measuring, and tracking are not about the result. Measure to discover, to find out, to understand. Are you showing up and making progress? Are you actually spending time on the things that are important to you?
Watch the full Episode 83 by clicking here 👇
1:00 Cup of Nurses Introduction
3:13 Episode Introduction
4:44 What is Goal Setting?
11:31 Ruthlessly eliminate your goals
15:15 Stack your goals
16:18 Set an upper bound
19:25 How to achieve your goals consistently
20:04 How to align your environment with your goals
31:28 How to measure your goals