How To Use Goal Setting Theory For Your Best Year Ever

goal setting theory - monks destroy goal mandalaMost goal setting theory guides say to form a life long, 25 year plan. Then work your goals back from there to do what you should right now. I don’t agree.

I’ve been there and tried that. The problem is that you truly don’t know the person you want to be in 25 years. You think you do. If you are living life fully, you never know what experience might turn all your best-laid plans on their ears!

14 years ago I was in the Canadian infantry and my goal was to become a sniper, crawl around in the jungles of panama and save the world. Now I’m writing to make a living. How does that work?

Life has a habit of changing. That means you and your goals will too. Why do you think there are so many divorces? People grow, they evolve and they become new creatures. Sometimes they turn into creatures that just don’t see eye to eye on things anymore. Their goals and expectations for life change.

Goal setting theory is a great place to start though. It’s good to set goals and know where you are heading on this trip (maybe – my cat has no future goals and seems pretty content). However sometimes you just decide to change your course because the old destination doesn’t interest you anymore. Strange, but that’s just the way it goes. We change our minds about what we like and enjoy. We change, so our goals change in time too.

You’re probably thinking, “Great, now what am I supposed to do with that?” Well, here is a way of setting goals that you’ll never regret.

Enjoy Everything Or Don’t Do It

Here is one of the most important things I have ever learned. It doesn’t just apply to setting goals either. Ready? Here is is, “Enjoy what you are doing at all times.” If you don’t like something, get it out of your life. Get it out of your life or at least have a plan that you can start on immediately to change your circumstance.

I honestly feel that people concentrate way too much on the end point using goal setting theory. The result or the payoff if you will. What ends up happening is a lot of investment in an unpleasant activity. All in the hopes that the agitation and drudgery will have a payoff once the goal is achieved. HOPEFULLY.

The flip side would be to always do something that you enjoy and then if the payoff comes, great. If there is no payoff then you were happy the whole time and in fact, that is really the payoff you were after anyway.

The only reason we use goal setting theory in the first place is to achieve something at the completion of the goal that will either cause us more happiness or avoid further pain. That is the general way of thinking at any rate. But what if the process of achieving the goal had its own rewards. Would you worry if your goals changed at some point? You wouldn’t stress that you weren’t getting there at mach 1 at least. Would the effort expended be classified as life sucking work? NOPE!

It’s all about the process, the journey. Learn to enjoy each moment of the process and the journey will be spectacular. That way you won’t just be happy at an end point, but happy all the time.

Goal setting theory is making an action plan designed to motivate and guide you toward a goal. Nothing wrong with that.

Studies by Edwin A. Locke (“the goal setting theory guy”) and his colleagues have shown that more specific and ambitious goals lead to more performance improvement than easy or general goals. As long as the person accepts the goal, has the ability to attain it, and does not have conflicting goals (like enjoying themselves), there is a positive linear relationship between goal difficulty and task performance.

Some goals can be achieved but not held long term. These are the ones that suck and can lead to regret. You sacrifice for a long time doing something you dont want to. You show discipline and sacrifice. Maybe you actually achieve the goal but then something out of your control takes it away. Huge feeling of loss with this scenario. But if you loved the activity. No loss. Just a little bit of suck at a 90/10 good to suck ratio.

Look at those buddhist monks in the picture up top. They spend hundreds of hours making pretty sand mandalas. Then they wipe it away and spread the sand into a flowing river. All that work, gone forever.

The end game is not in your control. Only what you do now. You can have fun and head towards a chosen goal. You cannot control the outcome and when you get there. The world is too unpredictable.

2017 has begun and if you are like me, you’ve made a few goals for yourself. So what goals have you set for yourself this year? Finally get in your best shape? Get out of debt? Whatever goal you have set, I’m going to give you some tips that I use below.

First Tip To Goal Setting: Reminders to stay focused – 

Put your goal where you can see it. When I log off the net, sitting right there on my laptop for physical goals I see:

PHYSICAL GOALS 2008: (It’s 2017 now)
Do 5 freestanding Hand Stand Pushups.
Be able to do backflips on demand.
Walk 100 feet on my hands.
Do a 360 on my snowboard.

Looking back now and seeing goals I did not accomplish STINGS. I know the reason behind not accomplishing these goals is a lack of focus. You need to be constantly reminded to stay focused on one main goal. You don’t have enough time or energy to give only 10%  of yourself to multiple activities unless they are synergistic.

For example: Writing, editing and promoting a new book this year while trying to learn freestanding handstand pushups. Not going to work. But walking 100 feet on my hands and the handstand pushups ARE synergistic. So the stretching, strength training and balance work I do for one, helps the other.

I put my primary goals on a list in my phone and in my workout planner. I also always leave a tab on my computer open to know what related research or activity I am doing related to that goal.

Second Tip To Goal Setting: Replacing The Routines

The second thing you want to do is set up a bunch of regular and routine actions that will bring you closer to your goal if you do them on a daily basis.

For example, if getting leaner and losing some fat this year is a top priority then diet is going to be a big factor. Take a look at some of your habitual actions that you do night now that might be blocking your progress. Then replace them!

FOR EXAMPLE: If you wake up and usually have a bagel and a coffee, that’s a great place to start. Take that morning ritual and replace the bagel with a three egg omelette.

Something as simple as this over the course of a couple of weeks will really make a difference on the scale.

Tip Three For Goal Setting: Dare To Dream

There is something to be said about falling asleep with your goals on your mind. I use it in all areas of my life on a continuous basis. When you go to sleep, or when you have a moment with nothing else to do, daydream like when you were a kid. The kind of daydreams you had where you totally got sucked in and everything felt so real.

Athletes have proven the effectiveness of visualization.

When I first started lifting, I saw a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a side chest pose. It blew my mind. I knew that the secret to getting a well muscled chest like that was to lift heavy with proper form and give my body proper nutrition.

Every night before chest day I would think about my routine and doing one more rep than last time on the bench press. I would really get into it inside my head. So much so that my chest would twitch while I lay there falling asleep. I would dream about the workout and how I would look after all my hard work. I could see myself on the beach looking ripped and muscular and feeling confident in how I looked.

You can laugh, but that was very important to me at that time. Never be ashamed of why you want something. Just want it and go after it. Set your goals in stone.

Those little dreams by themselves didn’t help me create the body I wanted but those thoughts fed my desire to train as hard as I could and to eat correctly. I knew what I wanted and I was willing to do what it took to achieve those same feelings I would get when I was falling asleep.

In my mind, I knew how good it would feel to achieve my goals and because of my “day dreaming” I was motivated. I could see and actually FEEL what it would be like to achieve my dreams.

Tip Four On Goal Setting: Get Your Tools

Once you have your goals written down, and you are replacing old habits with better habits and dreaming of success there is one more thing you need to do. Set up your tools. Make sure you know exactly what you need to do and get the tools to help you succeed.

If you need to eat better to lose fat, one of your tools will be well thought out food shopping lists and perhaps buying a scale. If you feel like you are one of those “skinny fat” people then you will want to know how to add resistance training into your lifestyle so that you have the right “bumps” in the right places.

Perhaps this year you simply want to feel better and have more energy while losing a few pounds. You want to learn proper stretching techniques and how to combine weight training with cardio into your lifestyle. You want to do it without getting worn out by the end of the week.

That’s good stuff.

Doing a little research and finding the tools you need will allow you to know exactly what you should be doing and when you should be doing it so that you don’t get held back by confusion and indecision. This way you can apply all your energy to what’s important. Making 2017 your best year ever!

Changing Your Goals Midstream

If you learn or stumble across something that makes you want to change your goal, then just do it.

You should keep in mind that failure to meet goals does not matter as long as you learn from it. Feed lessons learned back into your goal setting theory system.

This brings us back to the point I was talking about before. You must enjoy the process as well as the final outcome for this very reason. If after 15 years of working towards a goal it suddenly no longer holds any sparkle for you, simply move onto something else!

There is absolutely no loss in this because striving for that goal just gave you 15 years of pleasure. It just happens that at this point in your life now, the outcome is no longer important. Move on, no big deal.

You must remember that your goals will change as you mature. Adjust them regularly to reflect this growth in your personality. If goals no longer hold any attraction for you let them go.

I thought I wanted a Porsche, maybe a H1 or a Dodge Viper. So I worked on motivating myself to make enough to get one. I went out and bought some car magazines and looked through them. I was following my own advice about taking action and visualization. But while I was doing this I suddenly realized I didn’t really want a fancy car. I was actually very happy with my 2005 Chevy Blazer! It did everything I always wanted an SUV to do.

The expensive car goal was set in me by common society. I was trying to motivate myself to make money for something I didn’t even want. At least now I new that this particular item wasn’t on the list anymore. I was free to pursue something that had deep seeded meaning to me.

Goal setting theory is your servant, not your master. It should bring you real pleasure, satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

If you are no longer feeling those thing, there is no longer a point.

My Key Points To Make Goal Setting Theory Work For You

Goal setting is an important method of accomplishing any lifetime achievement. However, there are some key points that you should consider before setting your goals. Let’s take a look at what those are.

1. Deciding what is important for you to achieve in your life and making your choices based on this knowledge.

This one is a big bump in the road for some people. When I was younger I wanted a massive, worthy, “save the world” kind of goal. I just couldn’t find a mission that I wanted to fully apply myself to and I knew this was a problem according to most experts in the field. “Unfocused you will be,” Yoda says.

Then I realized something. What I really wanted out of life was freedom, fun and happiness. At that point, I didn’t want to achieve any pinpoint objective at all. What I wanted was a “way” of life. My goal was not a thing but a lifestyle.

Now this realization was important because I didn’t have to pick one thing and center my life around it. What I ended up doing was following my heart and passions all the time and having fun in each moment. “YES” if it led to freedom and happiness. “NO” if it didn’t or there was no massive payoff.

When I started having fun all the time, I was being active in the area of my joy. The funny thing is that until you are in your area of joy, you’re probably not doing all the things that you need to do in order to be a “success” in what you’re working on anyway.

Kids are pushed into university all the time without any idea what they want to do or who they are at their core. They get pushed into chasing a goal that they didn’t pick in the first place. They never wanted to be a doctor so they hate studying doctor stuff and they flunk out. Maybe if they had just a year off to explore different areas of the world and think about what brings them joy at the core of their being they would be able to get into the flow developing a self with more integrity. Which turns into a successful person in the end.

How To Choose The Right Goals For You Using Elimination Rounds And Happiness

So the first step is deciding exactly what goals you want to accomplish. For me that’s freedom and happiness. Now you have to define that. What is happy? What is free?

Sometimes picking the actual goals you want to go after is harder than setting and accomplishing the goals themselves. Basically to narrow down what you should be focusing on, you can choose to work any goal that you feel is necessary for your health, stability and happiness.

No matter how much time you invest in accomplishing these goals, you always feel that your time is well invested.

Goal setting is nothing more than a formal process for personal planning. By using goal setting theory on a routine basis you decide what you want to achieve, and then move in a step-by-step manner towards the achievement of these goals.

The process of setting goals and targets allows you to choose where you want to go in life. By knowing exactly what you want to achieve, you know what you have to concentrate on to achieve it. You also learn to recognize what is actually nothing more than a distraction.

Goal setting theory is a standard technique used by high achievers in all fields. Note “high achievers” not necessarily “happy people”. It gives you long-term vision and provides you with short-term motivation. As long as you’re chasing unicorns and not dragons. Unless you like dragons…. tangent.

By setting goals, you will also raise your self confidence as you recognize your and ability to meet the goals that you have set. The process of achieving goals and seeing this achievement gives you confidence that you will be able to achieve higher and more difficult goals later on.

I’ve pulled on the memory of finishing bootcamp, battle school and a tour many times. I look at those experiences and it gives me confidence that I can handle even more challenges.

There was also a day when I realized the Army was no longer for me. Let go. Move on.

Conclusion? Pick goals that are truly want you want out of life and the motivation will be there to take the required actions. The time it takes to achieve the goal becomes secondary, thus eliminating a ton of stress. Even if you never achieve the goal or change your goal 15 years from now the time will still be well spent.

Aim for deep happiness now. Not the “I just bought a new car and am now in dept,” kind of temporary happiness. You know what I mean. The, “I just spent six hours painting a woodland scene. It was great.” Puts down brush and takes a sip of coffee.  A man behind him asks, “Excuse me. Are your paintings for sale? I run a small art studio…”

“Why yes they are! Funny you should walk by, I always wanted to be able to make a living painting.”

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