You’re Setting The Wrong Goals. Do This Instead.

Goals provide direction and progress in a world full of chaos. Setting the right goals could be the difference between living the life you want versus the one you dread. In this article we will talk about the ‘traditional’ method of setting goals (SMART goals), why it doesn’t work and different techniques you can use to set more effective goals for lasting results.

  • SMART goals rely on the ability and expertise of the goal setter to understand their own capabilities. A lack of understanding of one’s own ability leads to unrealistic expectations of goals and eventually leading to unmotivated, inconsistent results.
  • SMART goals are effective for one and done goals, not for building long lasting habits
  • Leading and lagging indicators takes all the benefits of SMART goals and converts them into a methodology that creates great HABITS and then lasting results.

The traditional method – SMART goals

For those at the beginning of their personal/self-development journey, SMART goals are a good place to start. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-based. This acronym is commonly used to help people set goals but from my experience aren’t effective in doing so. Let’s look at an example: fitness, specifically weight loss.

People work out for different reasons, general fitness, strength training, fat loss, etc. When people first start, setting goals is usually the first thing you do, however, this raises the first concern – what goals are the correct goals to set? Let’s look at an example: Let’s say you want to lose 5 kg.

Using the SMART goal method, we start by being specific. I want to lose 5 kg of body weight.

Make it measurable. Ok – today I weigh 80kg and I want to weigh 75kg

Make it actionable. Ok – I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week

Make it relevant. Already is.

Make it time-based. I want to lose 5kg of body weight from 80kg to 75kg in 3 months.

Fast forward 3 months, you’ve realised you have only lose 2 kilos and you have missed your goal. You still made progress but according to your goal, you failed.

The problem with SMART goals

When setting SMART goals, it assumes an accurate assessment of one’s own ability in that domain (fitness) to define what a reasonable or achievable goal is, however, one’s own assessment of their own abilities is almost certainty inaccurate thus leading to inaccurate/unrealistic goal setting and a formula for failure.

Takeaway: From my experience, people who define their own goals and fail to meet their OWN expectations almost certainly revert back to the former habits before pursuing said goal.

If SMART goals don’t work, what can you do?

A not-so-common goal setting approach – leading and lagging indicators

What are leading and lagging indicators?

A lagging indicator is a direct result of things you do, or in other words, your habits. Your physique, body weight and general health are all lagging indicators of your health habits – the food you eat, the amount and quality of your sleep, your fitness routines. Your wallet is a lagging indicator of your spending habits, your income, your saving habits.

A leading indicator is a signal or a habit that when performed should push these lagging indicators or metrics in the direction you want them to go. If gaining weight is a result of over eating, not enough exercise, poor sleeping habits, then focusing on amount you eat (eating less), level of exercise (exercising more) and sleep amount and quality (sleeping more and higher quality) are the leading indicators. Leading indicators are what you should be focusing on, not the end result.

How do you set leading and lagging indicators?

  • Start with the end in mind

Picture what you’re thinking about in your mind. After its all said and done, what does the vision of the future look like? Be as specific as you possibly can. I like to use fitness and finances as examples because its easy to put numbers against them. I want to weigh this much, I want to make this much, etc. The key here is to be AS SPECIFIC and DETAILED as you can. In cases where numbers don’t help (relationships, connections with other people), have a clear idea of what a ‘good’ relationship looks like.

Takeaway: Define the future by being as specific and detailed as you can. If you can use numbers to support your vision, then do it but if not, ask yourself ‘what does good look like’?

Feel free to skip but these are my fitness goals – note the specificity of the goals and the habits that’ll get me there. The devil is in the details.

I see – body weight 74kg at 15% body fat. Being able to lift 120kg bench, 140kg squat and 160kg deadlift. I wake up with no back pain after a solid 7.5 hours of sleep. For breakfast I eat 2 pieces of toast with 2 eggs and 2 rashes of bacon; lunch 150g of meat with 100-150 g of rice and a side of veggies, dinner follows the same formula. I supplement my protein intake with 3 protein shakes throughout the day, in between meals. My leading indicators are the number of times I train at the gym a week, the goal is 3 gym visits a week minimum, anything more is an above expectation.

  • Define your current state

Defining EXACTLY where you are gives you a platform to start closing the gap from where you want to be (step 1) and where you are now (step 2). I want to be 75kg, right now I am 80kg, therefore the gap is 5kg.

  • Define what progress means

Generally speaking, people’s goals are a stretch and when they are a stretch, the leap from the first step to the second is HUGE. This is why most people fail and give up and also this is why it is critical to define what smaller steps of progress looks like. If you want to lose weight and you’ve never visited the gym or gone for walks or exercised frequently, don’t start going 5 times a week or walking for 3 hours at a time or exercising at a high intensity. START AS SMALL AS YOU CAN. Go to the gym once, exercise for 10 minutes OR even smaller, just stand there, don’t even walk. If your current state was just sitting in front of the TV and now you’re outside and standing there – THAT. IS. PROGRESS.

  • Get comfortable before moving on to the next level.

It is critical that you get comfortable at each level before moving on. Building a track record of following through with something you have set your own goals for develops momentum within yourself but more importantly develops the self-confidence that you do what you say you will do. If you spend $100 a week on coffee and you spend $99 the next week on coffee, be glad instead of hating yourself that you are still spending so much. That $1 is PROGRESS.

Image]. Small, consistent steps yield big results. : r/GetMotivated

If you are reading this, thank you for reading till the end. I hope you got some value from this.



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