Even though I’ve done a million things, there are a million more I want to do. Some of the things I’ve done have been planned and others have just happened. When something planned actually comes to fruition there’s a certain satisfaction to it. It’s an accomplishment because it was intentional. There’s a different satisfaction when something wasn’t pre-planned but still has a positive result. For me that’s more of a feeling of luck or good fortune, like hitting all green lights on the way from point A to point B.
While I’m a fan of random, unexpected experiences, I also value the benefits of purposeful action. In my experience, goal-setting works. What does ‘works’ mean? It means the ability to set goals has been a powerful self-development tool for me. That’s not to imply that every goal I set is always met, rather that there’s value in the process. Sometimes, after-the-fact, I’ve even been relieved that I didn’t meet the goal I’d set.
There is purpose to setting goals, beyond just accomplishing them. This includes the self-improvement that occurs when navigating the goal-setting / achieving process. The commitment to setting goals is much greater than what it seems on the surface. Take a simple example…Let’s say I have a goal to run a marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes.
(NOTE 1: I have never run a marathon and it’s not a current goal of mine, NOTE 2: I’m not saying it’s a simple goal to achieve, rather that it’s a simple example to use here).
When setting a goal there’s an underlying motivation. It could be personal (health, relationship, family, education, risk-taking, travel, volunteer, financial) or professional (advancement, skill development, leadership, career change, entrepreneurship, income), or a combination. The motivator is ‘the why’ for setting the goal.
Why run a marathon…Health benefits, personal goal, friendly challenge, competition, etc.
Goals force us to make choices and get to a level of specificity about what actions we need to take that go beyond the day-to-day priorities on our never-ending task lists. Goals require an acknowledgement, whether explicit or implicit, of opportunity cost. Essentially choosing to do X instead of Y, in order to make progress toward the goal.
Marathon-induced choices…Eating (what, when?), sleeping (when, how much?), training (how much, where, how?)…all at the opportunity cost of doing what?
Setting the goal is the first and likely easiest step. Achieving the goal is the hard part. Like any good project manager, you’ll need to outline the tasks, the milestones and any interim accomplishments to be achieved or recognized. Inevitably there’ll be challenges, some of which can be planned for and others unexpected. The process should be flexible enough to mitigate these when possible.
Marathon process…Research marathons to run and how to train for one, create the training / eating / recovery schedule, procure needed equipment, identify training resources, train, track / manage / adjust plan, run the marathon!
One of the benefits of deliberate goal-setting, as opposed to just winging-it, is the discipline that comes as part of the process. You’ll hold yourself accountable to creating and following a plan on your way to achievement. You may engage others to be part of the accountability and motivational team that support you on your journey. There are many distractions, and it’s only through discipline that those can be shut-out and focus is attained.
Marathon discipline…To me the words ‘marathon’ and ‘discipline’ go hand-in-hand. Without being extraordinarily disciplined there is no way I’d be able to successfully meet a goal of running a marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes.
In summary, goal-setting has helped me survive and thrive. I believe it’s the foundation for success in many aspects of life.