We all know about SMART goal setting, right?
They have to be
Yeah, that’s awesome, and once we set those goals, we work on our “process goals”. We tell ourselves that if we just do this, and this, and this on a regular basis then within 6 months we’ll have nailed it.
So why don’t we? Why do we miss so many of our goals?
I’m going to use weight loss as an example, because it’s a goal that I set myself many times over the years.
I would say, “I want to lose a stone in 2 months”.
That meets all the SMART goal setting criteria. Totally doable.
Then I’d promise to weigh in every week, and promise to stick to a calorie limit 6 days out of 7, and promise to reward myself for every pound I lose, and promise to go to the gym 3 times a week and spend an hour on the treadmill.
And then I’d lose 4lb in the first week, and then put it all back on again by the end of the first month.
Because secretly I didn’t give a crap about losing weight and I forgot to take into account that I am not a robot who can be programmed with a goal and left to get on with it.
Seeing as we’re so close to the switch over from my old blog to here, I will use it as another example. Retro Chick always had far more visitors than this site. It was busy and it was making me money, so even though the concept of it didn’t excite me any more I set myself goals to grow it. I promised myself I would plan posts ahead, I made process goals to promote them and grow my social media following and visitors.
And then I achieved nothing. Because I forgot that what excited me about blogging wasn’t the numbers, or the money (but that is nice, you can’t pay bills with a warm fuzzy feeling), it was when I got comments and emails from people saying that I’d made a difference in their lives in some teeny tiny way. That a blog post had affected them, or even helped them find a frock for a wedding.
Setting goals is a totally pointless endeavour, unless we really understand our own motivations first.
When we set that weight loss goal, we forgot to think about the why. Unless that goal really meshes with what you truly want out of your life right now. You’re never going to make those hard steps towards achieving it. Turns out that actually what we want from life is to eat pizza with our friends, and skip the gym to go to the pub.
Think about what you really want from your life. Think about your motivations. Before you even think about setting pointless goals you’ll never reach, imagine what your life looks like when you’ve met your goals.
Once you’ve lost that imaginary stone, are you imagining your future life to be one where you dress in amazing clothes and go out to dinner feeling fabulous, or are you imagining a future where that stone in weight loss means that you can run faster and take up a new sport.
If it’s the first one, then maybe losing a stone isn’t your goal at all, maybe feeling fabulous is your goal. Maybe it’s time to work towards how you can feel fabulous right now and learning to love yourself for the amazing, fun-loving, pizza-eating person you really are.
If it’s the second one, then maybe losing a stone isn’t your goal at all, maybe taking up a new sport is your goal. Maybe you should think about how you can take up a new sport right now, and maybe all the other stuff will come when you have that to work toward.
With my blog I realised that setting myself “success goals” was pointless, as what I was interested in was making a connection with people. I wanted to share what I’d learned and inspire people to try new things. That’s why higher numbers were just even more depressing when they didn’t come with more interaction. My goal wasn’t really to get higher numbers, it was to make more connections.
Too often when we think about goal setting we get stuck on the “specific” and “measurable” parts. We want numbers attached so we know exactly how well we’re doing.
So, instead of setting SMART goals, I try to set LIFF goals.
I tried for a long time to find a word ending with E that fitted what I wanted so I could make that spell LIFE, but sometimes we just have to accept failure.
LIFF goals include a long-term vision of the future that resonates with who you are and your personal values. They should still be realistic, but also flexible, so that as your situation changes your vision may change, and your goals change with it.
Once you have that vision of your future, you can ask yourself if your actions fit in with that vision. If they don’t, that’s where we set ourselves “process goals” to make those small, every day changes that add up to the future we dreamed of.
Does your future vision of you sleep in till noon, or is she up by 5am and at the gym? (Mine definitely sleeps in till noon). Is she spending most of her day at meetings being high-powered and go-getting, or is she making just enough money to take nice holidays and spending her afternoons in a coffee shop with friends?
That vision can also help you make a big leap. When opportunities come up we’re often too scared to say yes as it would mean a big change. If you can imagine that opportunity as a step on your way to your LIFF goal (srsly, there must be a word beginning with E.) then it can make taking that leap a bit easier, and the rest of your vision and goals can adapt around it.
What I really want from my life isn’t high blog numbers, a size 8 figure and lots of money. So setting myself financial targets, weight loss goals and follower figures to achieve is pointless. I want to be able to live my life without worry and stress, I want to have control of my own future, I want to be strong and competitive in sports and I want to be able to write about things that inspire me and make me who I am.
Goal setting can be a great tool to help you work towards a future that will truly make you happy. But only if you first understand what that future actually is.