You may have heard at some point in your life that you need to set your goals low so that you build confidence. The idea is to set your expectations low so that you won't be too disappointed if you fail. With that attitude, it's not "if" but "when" you'll fail...
I call these "lame goals" because you are already cutting yourself off at the knees by setting your sights low.
Of course, you usually don't say to yourself that you are "setting your sights low". What you say to yourself is that you want to keep your goals "realistic". Aarrggghhh! This infuriates me! That's another reason I say to skip the R (and the S and the A) in SMART goal setting and just focus on the M and the T.
While having some easy goals can help you build momentum, easy goals are really only useful as supporting goals. By that, I mean there are major goals and minor goals. Major goals have many supporting goals (minor goals) that are required along the path. I'll write more about major/minor goals in another article but here's an example:
A major goal could be "To have enough assets by 2015 that my passive income is enough to support all my basic living expenses." Then many minor "supporting goals" follow, for example "Purchase a small rental property by August 15, 2010 that is immediately cash-flow positive and that requires less than a $20k down payment." Or, as a really easy one, "Read 3 books on real estate investing by July 1." As I'll write in a few weeks, confusing your minor goals for major goals can cause major problems and limit your success.
Why Easy Goals Backfire
The problem with setting easy goals is that they easily slip into what I call the self-esteem trap – the idea of feeding your self esteem without actually accomplishing anything worth being proud of.
Setting goals that are too low or too easy undermine your true confidence. On the surface, you feel good because you “accomplished” that (lame) goal. But subconsciously, your heart and mind know you are just coasting and (again, subconsciously) you start to believe that you are incapable of achieving anything ambitious.
A Real-World Example That Hurts Individuals And Society
One real-world example area I am increasingly alarmed about that fits this description is obesity.
There are a growing number of fat people (pun intended) who are promoting the idea that being fat is ok. Actually, more than ok. It’s to be celebrated.
These are almost always people who have tried to lose fat, several times, and have given up. They believe they simply can’t do it. It’s just a belief, but they view it as fact.
Having failed at the true goal, they set a new (lame) goal of "well, I guess I'm just built this way, but I probably shouldn't get fatter". So their new goal: "Don't get fatter."
Let's say they successfully "don't get fatter". Well, they accomplished their goal. Sure, they are 300 pounds with no muscle, but hey - at least they can be proud of accomplishing their goal of not getting fatter!
In an effort to save their self-esteem, they convince themselves that fatness is ok, even good. But that’s all external show. Inside, they know they have failed. And their self-confidence is cut.
Let’s get this straight- it is not ok to be fat. It’s unhealthy and it’s selfish. That’s an internal and an external expectation there for those of you keeping track…
But what worries me most is that they have the potential to change society’s view on obesity. If kids start hearing from an early age that it’s ok to be fat. And if kids “learn” that, then they’ll grow up without any inner sense that they need to be other than fat. So it may never occur to them to have a goal related to fitness that is any more challenging that being fit enough to walk from the couch to the fridge.
Ok, let me step off the soap box and wrap up this article...
Set Non-Lame Goals
Why not set ambitious goals? What are you afraid of?
Today’s post is a quick salute to other great articles/podcasts on goal setting. A common theme that I’ve picked out is that RESOLUTIONS ARE NOT GOALS!
Please read these over – you’ll gain an appreciation for goal setting beyond my own slant and you are sure to be inspired!
This is a good one because it’s a audio – listen online. However, I think his approach is a little off. His 5 rules are a variation on the SMART system, and in an upcoming article I’m going to simplify that for you.
2) From the master, Brian Tracy: http://www.briantracy.com/blog/general/planning-your-year/
This is inspiring and his 7-step process is better than “rules”; it’s a method you can actually make use of.
3) In the fitness world, I love Tom Venuto: http://www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2009/12/a_new_fitness_challenge_for_20.php
I’m not including this to get you to buy his, book, but rather because he’s the best I know of for helping to set the right fitness goals. But if you do decide you want to purchase his book, I’d love it if you did it through my affiliate link here.
4) Tim Ferriss is a superstar, not really focused on goal-setting per se, but this is one of his best posts: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/06/19/why-bigger-goals-less-competition-plus-eco-bounty-winners/
It’s an excerpt from his book and highlights how you can win big by having bigger goals than you might think.
5) On the financial side, I love the Get Rich Slowly blog. However, I’m gotta slam his goal setting technique for 2010 on http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/01/01/happy-new-year-my-one-goal-for-2010/.
I love the fact that he’s got a single biggest goal for the year. But it’s so big that he needs to define intermediary goals (milestone goals) along the way. He’s a little squishy on having goals that are truly measureable and timebound.
6) And then there’s my own fitness site and a recent article I wrote there: http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/2009/12/new-years-resolutions-bah/ .
Have you read other sites that have really good messages for goal setting? I’m totally fine with you dropping their links here!
One of the most effective ways of ensuring that you’ll meet your goal is to make it public. Tell someone. Or many someones.
This is one of what I call “external motivators”. They are outside of yourself. For most big goals, a mix of internal and external motivators helps to keep you on track and progressing.
Keep in mind, 99% of the people who know you probably don’t care too much about your goals. They are consumed with their own world and while they care about you as a person, the details about your goals and struggles usually go in one ear and out the other. Sharing your goals isn’t about them helping you. It’s about adding another carrot and stick to your own motivations: you’ll be even more proud when you accomplish your goal and you’ll be more embarrassed if you fail. So you will be much more motivated knowing that someone (or someones) are expecting you to accomplish your goal.
So who should you tell?
The answer of course varies based on the goal itself.
The first key is whether the goal itself is an external goal or an internal goal. External goals are essentially where the results are shared with others. Finishing a project at work. Building a playhouse for your kids. Hitting a sales target. These results aren’t private.
Internal goals are more private. For example, trying to think more positive thoughts every time your husband talks about his brother… Or shedding body fat is pretty personal unless you are a competitive bodybuilder.
To complicate matters, it’s obvious that most goals are in between.
Here are some guidelines about who to share your goals with:
- For internal goals,
- Make sure it’s someone you can trust entirely
- It should be someone you respect
- Make sure it’s someone who isn’t personally affected by the goal (for example, if you are trying to be nicer to an obnoxious co-worker, don’t tell them about your goal ; I can hear some of you saying that sharing the goal with the “beneficiary” will make you even more motivated but I disagree – it can backfire in a major way, especially if you fall short of your intended goal)
- For external goals,
- Tell the people who are affected by it
- The more external the goal, the more people you should tell.
- Except in rare cases, don’t tell people your goal expecting them to help you; remember, even to people who love you and you can trust, your goals are likely to be less important to them than they are to you; they don’t want to become your Goal Warden.
Challenge: So right now, pick one of your top 5 goals. Ask yourself if it’s an internal or an external goal. Then decide if telling someone would make you more motivated to achieve it. If not, pick a different goal. Once you have the right goal, list 3 people you could possibly tell. Write their names down. Tomorrow (after you’ve let it percolate in your subconscious a bit), choose one of those people and tell them. Good luck!