Disclaimer: I wrote this back in December 2015. My views on goal setting hasn’t changed much, but it definitely expanded.
I left the first half of this post minimally edited, with a 2016 addendum.
Let’s take a feels trip back to January, the month where calendar planners hit record sales, a zillion people make resolutions, 99% of these resolutions being fitness related, and less than 2.74% of these goals were realized (trust me on these stats, okay?).
Many people hit top gear in the first week of setting up their resolutions, but as months pass, they start hitting the brakes, and before March, the engine’s out cold.
If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone.
According to Forbes, only 8% of people actually achieve the resolutions they set at the beginning of the year.
Well, NO, you’re not supposed to feel better, you failed.
Now take a deep breathe, grab a box of tissues, and wallow in the misery you’ve brought upon yourself.
When you’re done, let’s make damn sure this doesn’t happen again.
Why do we make the same mistakes year after year?
What’s the problem here?
I’m sure most are familiar with the SMART way of goal setting. Losing 10 kilos in 60 days doesn’t sound like a bad one, right?
It’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
Go on a no carb-diet, 1 hour a a day on the treadmill, stop going for yum-cha sessions, order salads on dates, pass on your best friend’s birthday cake…
Off goes 10 kilos.
But what happens after that 10 kilos? Do you see yourself carrying out such a life for years on end? When you revert to your old lifestyle, expect your weight to rise faster than the US Dollar (@#$@*#).
Drastic measures work, but they are unsustainable. Don’t redesign your entire life just to look good in jeans.
The problem is not the goal, but the process.
Instead of total revamp, make small, specific changes to processes that lead to the end goal.
Process Solving 101
Identify and work around potential problems. Use data from failed goals to get better results:
If you were not hitting the gym as often as you’d like, find out why. If it’s because of the distance from where you live, find a closer gym; if you don’t know what exercises to perform, do some research; if you’re bored performing the same routine, join a class, or get a training partner.
There’s always a solution to a problem.
Also, cascade into the root of the problem, example:
Why can’t I cut calories successfully? I’m drinking too much calories.
Where are these calories coming from? It’s coming from coffee.
Why am I drinking so much coffee? I get extremely tired during the day.
Why do I get tired so easily? I don’t get enough sleep.
Why don’t I get enough sleep? I have a hard time saying no to outings that extend till late.
This form of self-inquiry goes a long way, and tackling the root issue of FOMO is a far more lasting solution than merely cutting coffee.
These strategies require work.
You need to sit down, uninterrupted, with a pen and paper, think things through and map things out.
Also, don’t let my examples limit your scope of change, work out your problems, they are your own. The same reason why some generic weight loss plan doesn’t work for you.
Make the process achievable,
and the goal will fall into place.
Everyone’s obsessed with results but pay no attention to the process. A sustainable process makes goals achievable. Engineer your environment for success.
Here’s 4 actionable insights to help bulletproof your process:
1. Write your #1 down
First thing in the morning, with a clear, objective mind, write down 1-2 main things you need to get done for the day, nothing more than 2.
Then, be relentless in getting it done, as soon as possible.
When crap compounds for the day and you lose track, read what you’ve written before the bombardment of trivial tasks, and get back to achieving daily goal #1.
2. Fill out “time suck”
On a working day, I spend 3 hours in the car. It used to be a huge time-suck.
When YouTube introduced “Save Offline”, I devoured the long form interviews that have been sitting forever on my “Watch Later” playlist.
I realized how much content I was able to absorb while driving, more so compared to when watching on my computer or phone, where my attention just fritters away at the ease of access to “open new tab”.
Since then, my driving has been an immense exploration of ideas, books and interviews related to matters I have interest in.
Of course, one also has to be an amazing driver like I am.
3. Say no to “Hidden Procrastination”
“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency
something that should not be done at all”
– Peter Drucker.
To get important work done, NO is perhaps the most important word you have to master saying and applying.
Reject requests to things you don’t need to do, you don’t enjoy doing, things that don’t matter, people you don’t want to meet; this helps clear up time.
But the universe is a bitch. It’s far more cunning.
I have talked about perfect preparation previously: You will find ways to self-sabotage. When doing work that truly matters to you, the voice in your head will tell you: “You’re not ready.”
“I need to take this course, I need to read this book, I need the right equipment, I need this amount of research…”
There is definitely a case to be well-prepared, but beyond the minimal equipment to get the job done, any further is procrastination in disguise.
Ask yourself: Am I constantly preparing as a means to escape getting work done?
Whenever you’re erring on the side of self-doubt, questioning whether or not you’re ready, remember this:
You’ll never be ready, but you are good enough.
(Check out this relevant, and extraordinary piece by Charles Bukowski – Air and Light and Time and Space)
4. The Final Piece
Once you’ve “sorted” it all out.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, or over a week, or over a month. When you signed up for this, you’re in for the long haul. So be patient, be consistent, be dogged.
The myth of instant success is just that, a myth.
Beyond a perfect diet and a perfect workout routine (which doesn’t exist, mind you), you still need time to seal the deal. Fat loss, muscle building, goals and dreams worth chasing are painfully slow processes, and they should be, too.
Like great empires, great success takes time.
I have no direct advice for patience, but I’ll leave you with a habit that has transformed the second half of my 2016- Meditating.
Being calmer, more conscious and more present are just some of the benefits I’ve derived from meditating 10 minutes a day.
If you’re concerned, there doesn’t need to be a secular association to derive benefits from meditating, nor do I have a leaf toga wrapped around my head,.
How this helps productivity: I believe being less reactive is the precursor to making better decisions, and if the number of good decisions outweigh your crappy choices, It compounds for the better
Wrapping things up (again)
Seeking a “mentor” in this journey has always been a futile struggle; I’ve never had the luxury of a blueprint to life, and I doubt any of us do.
As the year closes out, I think I’ve come to terms with that; rather than looking for the right person, or the right ways, I’ve learnt far more by exploring and experimenting.
And these are the few habits that worked for me. However, I would like to leave you with a contradictory message to end:
“If you look at the daily rituals of 100 different people you’ll find 100 different things that work. For them.”
While I hope these strategies work for you, I implore you, go forth, explore, experiment, fail, repeat.
I wish upon you self-understanding in 2017.
Happy New Year!