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Published on September 1, 2017

Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

Losing weight, saving money, getting fit, quitting smoking… Haven’t you ever gotten excited about your New Year’s goals?

You’re not alone. Unfortunately, as studies show, most resolutions don’t go beyond the wishful thinking stage. A staggering 92 people out of 100 fail to achieve their New Year’s goals.[1]

When the “fresh start effect” fades away, motivation falters and the first bump on the road often signals the end of the journey. We end up the following year with the exact same goals, again and again –as if we were stuck in life.

There may be many reasons why people end up giving up on our goals. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Picking up the wrong objectives;
  • Not setting the goal properly;
  • Setting the bar too high and feel overwhelmed;
  • Lacking guidance and support;
  • Not planning strategies for overcoming obstacles; etc.

But there is another one, a more obvious one, so obvious that most seem to forget about it: if we want to achieve a goal, we need to follow through. Setting the objective is a good start –but it’s only the beginning of the journey.

A lot of people have the misconception that when they have set a goal, they will be able to achieve it. It’s definitely not enough. We can’t expect success when we don’t follow through.

I have been setting and tracking goals for about 20 years now. It started after a deep teenager crisis which left my life as a mess. Setting goals was a way to rebuild myself, set eyes on a new horizon and move forward. Find out more about my story in another article I’ve written: How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

Goals stayed with me since that day. When I started to work in investment banking a few years later, having goals helped me maintain a work-life balance and stay healthy in a high-pressure environment.

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My approach to goals evolved over time. It started with a pen and a blank piece of paper; then an Excel spreadsheet; and finally, I built a goal-setting app called GOALMAP.

In total, I have set hundreds of goals and tracked hundreds of thousands of steps towards reaching them. If there is one secret I have learned and would like to share with you, it’s this one: tracking is the key. So let me try and explain how you can unlock the power of goal-tracking to build your dream life:

1. Be a S.T.A.R.

There is a lot of stress put on setting goals, but setting goals is just one of the phases of the overall success loop. If you want to achieve your goals and engage in a meaningful personal growth process, you need to take a broader approach.

I have a name for that. I call it the S.T.A.R. method: Set goals, Track progress, Analyze results, and Reset your goals. It’s a loop, a dynamic process.

2. Make your goals trackable

First things first, most objectives are bound to failure simply because they are not clearly defined. If your resolution is too vague, you can’t measure success and you can’t define a proper plan of action. It’s like saying “I want to go somewhere nice” to your GPS: it probably won’t help you.

Set your goal properly using the S.M.A.R.T. goal technique:

  • Specific: Your goals should be precise. You can’t hit the bull’s-eye if there is none. Don’t say “I want to lose weight” but rather “I want to lose 4 kilos by year-end”.
  • Measurable: Your goal should be quantified so that you know at any point in time whether you are on track or not. This will enable you to follow your progress on a regular basis.
  • Achievable: Don’t over-plan, be realistic, your objective must be within reach. If it’s too big, then try and break it into smaller manageable goals that you can achieve step by step.
  • Relevant: Your goals must be relevant to you, connected to your deepest aspirations and aligned with your personal values.
  • Time-bound: Your goal should have a deadline, or a recurrence (x times per day, y hours per week).

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Read for more tips about setting a SMART goal: How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

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3. Focus on habits

One day, I checked my goals and tried to determine what the difference was between those I achieved rather easily and those for which I seemed to struggle or procrastinate. I found a clear pattern.

I had a few long term goals, like maintaining a certain weight, or getting a new degree before I reach 40. I was doing well with the first one, less so with the second one.

Why did I seem to have a two-speed motivation? I was not less motivated by the new degree. But I had nowhere to start from, while my weight goal instead was linked to habits, such as eating five servings of fruits or vegetables per day, eating fish twice a week, exercising at least four times a week, etc.

These daily and weekly habits helped me reach the long term objective. They made it easy to track progress. I had not set any corresponding habit for my degree goal. And I was not going to achieve it just by looking at it.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

Have a vision for who you want to be in the long run, and focus on the little habits that will get you there. We tend to underestimate how far we can go by taking small steps in the same direction day after day. Be great in the small things. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

4. Keep track

“A goal properly set is halfway reached” Abraham Lincoln.

The second half is all about tracking. Okay, you have entered a proper address in your GPS instead of “somewhere nice”, but what is the point if you then switch it off?

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Track your progress in a consistent and structured manner; i.e., not just in your head. Use an app, write in your journal, etc. Make it so that you can easily follow your evolution and compare with previous periods.

A study of nearly 1,700 participants in a weight-loss program showed that those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.[2] Tracking fosters self-awareness. When you understand yourself better, it becomes much easier to change.

Tracking is also motivating in itself. It gives you immediate feedback on how you are performing. It provides you with a sense of achievement. Instead of a never-ending to-do-list which sometimes demoralizes you, you visualize the things you have already completed in your done list and get motivated. Find out more about the benefits of done list here: Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work and Done Lists Do

5. Reward yourself

Another benefit of tracking is that it allows you to define milestones, break down progress, and reinforce the habit loop by rewarding yourself for reaching certain milestones.

We all know that we are more motivated to do something when there is a reward at stake. The pleasure induced by a reward reinforces the activity which helped get the reward. This is called extrinsic motivation. It can be helpful to kick-start the process when intrinsic motivation is a bit low.

A simple way to introduce rewards is to plan/get/offer the rewards yourself. You need to set the bar properly. You need to do a decent effort to get it. It can’t be too difficult, or else you may end up feeling discouraged. It can’t be too easy, or else you’ll get the reward without the need for motivation.

You also need to define a reward that makes sense. Eating junk food for a week if you manage to lose three kilos is probably not the best choice! Ideally, the reward and the effort should be somehow aligned in nature. This will help create a virtuous circle.

Buying a smaller-size dress when you lose a few kilos or getting a massage after a few weeks of physical training are good examples. These rewards help you build milestones on your path to a better you. They become the symbols of your positive behavior change.

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6. Analyze your results and adjust your goals

Goals are not meant to be cast in stone. They must be alive and reassessed regularly. Monotony is a big motivation killer, so tracking gives you everything you need to stay motivated smartly.

When you track your progress, you can easily compare your actual results with the targets you had set. It is then time to take a step back and reset your goals. Here are a few examples:

  • Adjust down: “Hitting the gym three times a week was too ambitious. I manage to go once a week, two sometimes. I’ll change my target to twice a week instead and build up from there.”
  • Adjust up: “I have consistently hit my target of reading two hours per week. I enjoyed reading that much and learned a lot. Let’s increase the target to two and a half hours.”
  • Stop tracking: “I used to drink too much coffee some days when I hadn’t slept enough the previous night but over time, I managed to ingrain a new habit. I don’t drink more than two cups a day anymore. I can probably stop tracking this goal now.”
  • Give up: “I liked the idea of practicing martial arts but I fail on this goal week after week. I realize that I don’t enjoy the process as much as I liked the idea. It’s time to switch to another sport.”

Once a month, or every other month, try and take an “appointment with yourself” and review your goals. Assess what works well, what works less well, update the targets, add, remove, refine, etc. This will help you keep it interesting and inspiring.

Track it till you make it

A goal you don’t keep track of is doomed to fail. Setting it is not enough. Actually, setting goals is only about making them trackable and actionable.

By keeping track of your goals, you will engage in a virtuous personal growth circle. It will allow you to analyze your results, get motivated, improve, set better goals, and so on.

Ready, set, track!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Damien Catani

Founder at GOALMAP

You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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