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by Jared Johnson June 02, 2019 5 min read

 

For many of us, personal goal setting kind of has a cringey feel to it.

The first week of January, the gyms are full of new memberships from well-meaning New Year Resolutions. But by the end of the Month, 99% have given up, and they are back to the same old grind.

And so we learn to generally avoid setting goals. Why try if you’re going to fail?

For example, I know I should improve self-control on eating, spend more time with my kids, and get a better sleep pattern so I’m more focused during the day. Right now, my wife has been having some fairly serious health issues, and friends have brought by some meals to help us keep up. Meals like mashed potatoes, cookies, ice cream, stuffing. Easy prep for us, but not so great for self-control.

Or when I’ve purposed myself to get to bed at a reasonable time, but tonight the wife has something on her mind she wants to talk about. Then, at 2AM, the dog takes a dump in the kitchen and wakes me up to let her outside so she can finish the job. Seriously? I was in bed by 10!

Or when I’ve decided I’m going to play with one of my kids. You know, a little one-on-one time. But the bathtub clogs, and my whole evening is spent getting it fixed. You know the drill. You’ve been there.

So why try? It doesn’t seem to make a difference. I should just let life’s tidal rage take me where I go. Maybe when I’m rich and retired I’ll have more time for that stuff. The cold, hard truth, however, is that you, just like me, lay in bed at night, wishing you had done better. Discouraged that you hadn’t met your goal…again.

Why do we do this? What’s the solution? The answer is incorrect motivations in goal setting, and really, unrealistic goals to begin with. Hear me out.

You want to exercise and have a fit body. In your mind, you picture the ripped stud on the cover of Men’s Health. You know it’s probably going to involve kale and yogurt. You go to the store, buy new gym shoes, and stock up on healthy food. A day later, your half a mile into a jog, out of breath. Your breakfast was a nasty green sludge. And that image of the handsome guy flexin’ at the beach? You’ll settle for plain old you. But now you’re a little more discouraged, and probably a little more depressed.

  

What went wrong? Is that fit bod unattainable?

As human beings, we have a yearning for more. A yearning to better ourselves, to become greater. When we see the pinnacle of greatness in something, we want that, even if it’s not very reasonable. The perfect body, flawless time management, successful investments. Heck, even a decent savings would be nice. But that perfect body you see, while it may look great, took crazy amounts of effort. And it’s not more healthy then what you can attain. Flawless time management? That’s for single men with no chaotic dependents, relying on you tuck them in or take them to school. Better time management? Now that’s certainly doable.

I recently was listening to a popular entrepreneur.

They talked about their 2018 goals. They wanted to lose 30 lbs. and have earnings of let say’s $100k. By 2019, they had lost 20 lbs., and made $80k that year, up from $60k the year before. Would you call that failure? Certainly not. They set realistic goals, that they didn’t quite hit. But they lost lots of weight and increased their earnings substantially. That's a huge win. Imagine if the goals had been this:

  • $200k in earnings
  • Lose 50lbs
  • Get a 6 Pack and run a marathon
  • Buy a yacht.

 

That would’ve been really hard to hit. And yet, we do the same things to ourselves. We sabotage our goals by setting them too high – so high, we are doomed to fail.

Set smaller goals, that give room for growth, that are OK if you fail

Let’s re-imagine our goals for getting fit. This time, you’re going to try the following:

  • Walk a mile every day for a month
  • Skip sweets for breakfast
  • Eat one salad a day

And that’s it. How hard does that goal seem? One month into it, suddenly your legs feel stronger. You don’t run out of breath walking up the stairs as easily. Your mind is clearer as your reading that book. You even lost a couple pounds, despite having a bowl of ice cream once or twice.

 You’re not shooting for some made up image of greatness that you can’t really attain. You’re shooting for a daily Renewed version of you, something better than the day before.

And that one day you skipped walking because you spent the day doing something else? It’s ok. Because tomorrow you know you’ll walk a mile, and it won’t be that difficult.

A year later, your running that mile. You’ve cut most heavy carbs out of your diet. You feel really good – both because you’re in better shape, and because you’re progressing. You’re not shooting for some made up image of greatness that you can’t really attain. You’re shooting for a daily Renewed version of you, something better than the day before.

And something else to consider – the reverse is true. You think by putting off some basic goals to better yourself, you’re staying neutral. But the reality is, you’re regressing. Your body is running less optimal, you’re becoming less focused and more tired. Things start to hurt more. Or suddenly, your kid is grown up and you have no idea how it all happened so quickly.

So even if you set that goal, and you just couldn’t get to it today for real, legitimate reasons, it’s ok. You set your goal easy enough that you can still tackle it the next day, and still hard enough to produce a better version of yourself. A daily Renewed Man.

Renewed Results: Application

  • Why do you want this goal? Is it for someone else? That's not always bad -for example, to be a better Father for your kids. Either way, nail down your exact motivation, and make sure it's the right reasons.

  • Set a realistic goal to get you moving in the right direction. You want to feel better physically? Start with a mile a day, or even cutting out sweets. Want to save money? Start tracking your spending. Once you attain those goals and implement better habits, you can expand the goals further. Try keeping at it for a month.

  • Write down those goals! Simply "I want to be fit" doesn't count. What specifically do you want, and what will you do each day to attain it?
  • Be somewhat flexible. If you set a goal, and you realize it won't work, tweak it so that it will work but still push you. For example, I was trying to increase my strength for backpacking, but I hurt my knee. I had to do other exercises while it recovered. 
  • Keep track! Mark an X on the calendar. Did you hit your goals each day? It acts as a score keeper and helps you keep you motivated. Tell your wife or friend about it, so you can solidify it as a goal. 
  • Once you've been doing your goal for a month, try pushing yourself and changing your goal.  

 

Let us know what goals or questions you have in the comments below!


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