One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals is to desire things based on their impulses. It’s like a child being distracted by something shiny. Soon enough a shinier thing will come along and before you know it the novelty has worn off. That is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. You get swept up in the moment. Everyone is drinking champagne and at midnight, when the fireworks are blazing in the night sky, idealistic new beginnings appear on the horizon. Through your bleary eyed haze, all those new goals feel undeniably attainable.
Even if you manage to achieve some of those ill planned goals, the satisfaction you anticipated does not fulfill your perceived desire. You wonder if it was worth starting the new health regime, looking for a new career or committing to that course to improve yourself. The recurrent thought that people have is ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’.
Here are five things to consider when you are setting goals, to avoid sabotaging your own success.
1. Explore your own needs
Establish goals based on your own desires, not external influences or the need to please others. Ask yourself what you truly want and what will make you happy. Think about your motivation and try different things. Let your own personal experiences inform your decisions and don’t be afraid to push your own boundaries. You should also consider the short, medium and long term impact that a particular goal will have on your life. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to be healthier, make more money, travel to a place you’ve never been, explore a creative outlet? These aren’t easy questions to answer and deserve your time and attention. Take time to formulate your goals. It’s your life.
2. Consider Authority Bias
Authority Bias refers to the way in which we can be influenced by people we look up to and make their goals our own. Decisions are subconsciously informed by experiences and the authority figures in our lives. It begins at home with parents, extending to peers and teachers in our formative years and then developing further through mentors and experts such as bosses or idols throughout adulthood. Research your desires and goals and broaden your horizons. Ask questions and seek answers from unpredictable sources. You don’t need wealth to live a full and independent life, just a broadened mind. Seize every opportunity and seek out new experiences. Find your individuality and revel in the things that make you unique. You can still find commonality with others and look up to those you admire while still retaining your own distinct qualities.
3. Avoid the Sunk-Cost Fallacy
Often we fall into the trap of thinking that we have wasted previous investment of time and money into a particular goal and so feel obliged to finish what we started. You can change your mind. All learning is valuable and anything you have invested into achieving a goal is worthwhile. It is all part of the process, even if it has shown you that you are on the wrong path. Try to be aware of the bigger picture, while at the same time focusing on the immediate decisions you make and living each moment as it comes. When you aim for happiness and satisfaction as the end result of each goal, the journey you take to get there is just a detail. The end will justify the means.
4. Goals vs strategies
Work out the difference between what you want and how you will get it. CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, Peter Winick says,
“Strategy is an exercise in problem solving…….Goals that support the strategy are critical, but goals do not solve problems. Goals are a measure of progress. Goals support the strategy.” Strategy Is Not the Same as Goal Setting, Thought Leadership Leverage.
The steps and decisions required to move you forward can be broken down into smaller and more attainable goals; all culminating and contributing to the ultimate goal you have set for yourself, but they are not goals in themselves. Strategies are the choices you make, the tiny bites you take to get you to your destination.
5. Self belief and determination
Setting goals can seem daunting and sometimes we set goals that are so unattainable, just a shiny dangling carrot, that we have already set ourselves up to fail before we’ve even begun. Self sabotage, creating limitations, looking for obstacles and making excuses prevent us from achieving our goals. The flaw is not only in the goal, it taints the strategy. When you set realistic goals and are true to your own desires, the choices you make happen naturally and easily. Having self belief and learning to trust your instinct will ensure you make the right choices to take you closer to achieving your goals. Stop comparing yourself to others and keep your eyes on the prize.
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