The Paradox of Goal Setting
Raise your hand if you’ve set a goal that you didn’t achieve.
Most of us have, save for the perfect few of you out there.
For the rest of us, it’s a worthwhile review to examine why we so often start out with the best of intentions to change a behavior yet end up back where we started, wondering what went wrong.
Setting Useful Goals
First, how do we make goals more concrete and tangible, instead of just being ‘a great idea you had on Dec 31st’ for the following year?
Very simple, goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
But having a SMART goal isn’t enough.
A study was done in 1979 on Harvard Business School students, who were asked “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” This study revealed a lot about the power of simply writing goals down.
Only 3% of Harvard MBA graduates that year answered yes and had written goals. 13% had goals, but not written, and the remaining 84% did not have defined goals at all.
What was the impact of not having goals, written or otherwise?
Ten years later, the study revealed that those 3% who had written goals were earning more than the rest of the entire graduating class combined!
The 13% who had un-written goals were on average making twice as much as those who had no goals.
Keys to Actually Achieving Goals
So, if we all just write down our SMART goals, we’ll surely achieve them, right?
While it’s more likely that you’ll achieve them, there’s still something standing in the way……..our own behaviors and habits.
Goals are what we should do; behaviors are what we actually do, so we have to change behaviors to reach our goals.
Changing behaviors is understandably difficult to do.
Behavioral Expert BJ Fogg has studied this very topic for almost 20 years, and has outlined the 3 ways in behaviors can be changed in the long term:
- Have an epiphany
- Change your context (what surrounds you)
- Take baby steps
Epiphanies don’t come easy or painlessly in most cases, so the best path to success is to change your surroundings, or to take baby steps in developing habits that will ultimately change behavior.
Aristotle said long ago, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Five Simple Steps
Here are some simple steps to change a behavior through habits and small actions.
- Start small and keep it simple. The simpler and more specific the habit is, the easier it is to master. Don’t take on too much at once.
- Write it down. As with the broader goal itself, it’s paramount to write down the good habit you are trying to establish or the bad habit you are trying change.
- Develop a short-term action plan. The simple plan must detail exactly what you are going to do (or not do), how often, and/or under what circumstances.
- Write down obstacles. Think through the situations you’re going to encounter that will trigger a relapse in the habit you’re trying to form or break. This will help prevent it from happening since you’ll recognize it.
- Give yourself adequate time. Research shows that it takes 66 days in order to instill a long-term habit, so give yourself adequate time for the habit to become routine.
Three Tiny Habits
BJ Fogg has developed an even simpler and shorter method, which is available to anyone free of charge called 3 Tiny Habits (http://tinyhabits.com/) which works like this:
Sunday: Write down 3 tiny habits you want to employ in a statement structured as follows: After I [something you already do], I will [your tiny habit].
Mon–Fri: Do your 3 habits daily and communicate your results.
Good habits and behaviors on little things lead to short term successes, and short term successes lead to goals being achieved over a longer period of time.
Let’s put this all into action in a quick example.
You’re in sales and have a goal to increase your sales by 50% this year, so that you can save more into your retirement and buy something nice for your significant other (a lofty goal!).
To do so, there are a number of tiny habits you can employ to slowly transform your behavior, such as:
- Get up 15 minutes earlier each morning.
- Make 1 new sales call/pursuit each day.
- Get 1 new business card each week.
As you achieve these small behavior changes week after week, they will become routine, and then you can go further, getting up an additional 15 minutes earlier each morning, making 1 additional sales call per day, getting 1 additional new business card each week.
Slowly, through these small actions, you will be taking the steps and changing your behaviors that will help you reach your bigger sales and savings goal.
If this still sounds like it takes too much initiative and discipline, we are here to help.
We specialize in behavior modification, and would love to help implement new tiny habits to help reach your goals.