Where People Go Wrong With Goal Setting

With a new year coming upon us, now is the time to plan ahead and set goals for what you want to accomplish, whether that be a new job, a new home, get healthy, or save money to name a few. Goals give us a purpose and a plan for how to proceed, i.e. the direction and steps to make them a reality.

However, goal setting is something that a lot of people simply don’t really understand. That is to say that they take the entire wrong approach to it, which in turn results in them never seeing the results that they hoped to see.

Many set a goal and then want to jump into action before they are fully prepared to do so. That is: being too ambitious right away. Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with ambition – we need it.  There is nothing wrong with deciding your goal is to become president of a company, to have the best body that anyone has ever had, or to become filthy rich.

These are all fine.  The problem becomes when you try and achieve a goal immediately.

There are lots of things we can improve about goal setting, but for now, let’s look at one aspect, which relates to the Japanese concept of “kaizen.” According to Robert  Maurer, Ph. D., author of the book,  “The Kaizen Way: One small step can change you life’ (2004), slow and steps are what lead to bigger changes and outcomes.

Our brain, and the hormone Cortisol, are behind this. Moving outside your ‘safety’ and at full-force, leads the fight-or-flight to flip, releasing Cortisol which goes to the executive functions in the brain (prefrontal cortex), essentially shutting it down and leading to uneasy feelings. Avoidance sets in, and the goal, or goals, you wanted to achieve are put on the back-burner, so to speak.

The perfect example of this is working out (getting fit and healthy, which are typically the number one goals come January). So many people will go from not exercising at all, to taking on a training program that is hugely too ambitious for them. They may set a goal to lose 25 pounds – this is not unrealistic if done in a set time-frame, but many will want to lose that weight in a few months.

Going back to the example of exercising, they might decide that they are going to try and work out four times a week at the gym. That sounds like a reasonable and modest goal, until you realize that it’s going to involve training for an hour, probably traveling each way for 30 minutes then throw in getting changed and preparing for the next day, and suddenly you’re introducing more time and hours of work into your routine.

If you work an 8-5 job, you are looking at not being done ‘working’ for another 2-3 hours, that is  if you go directly after you finish working (and that is if you can out at the 5 pm hour). This is more time added on to your day, not to mention the extra energy you have to expend after performing all day.  It’s better to set a target of training at home for 20 minutes, then you work up to going to the gym when your motivation is higher.

Ambition can get you in over your head if you don’t plan ‘extras’ into your goals-setting. This is why the principle of Kaizen helps – you start with the smallest step until that feels comfortable, then you go onto the next, and so on. Working with your brain, instead of against it, will lead to the changes you want to see.

There is nothing wrong with having ambition but it shouldn’t lead to setting goals so big that you don’t follow through on them

Set realistic goals, with time-frames, start  small and be consistent. These will lead to achieving your goals as success takes time.

Now is the perfect time to goals for the new year; if you’re having difficulty with goals setting – for you and/or your team – we’re here to help you achieve realistic and implementable goals that will lead to success. Reach out to get started!

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