I’ve always been a goal setter. As a swimmer growing up I set goal times every season. I’ve been through the process more times than I can remember and it was always the same. But when I tried to apply those same skills to other areas of my life post college I could never get the same results.
It turns out I was missing some important pieces that make all the difference. Goal setting is just the beginning. It’s goal achieving that counts.
Know WHY before you get lost in HOW
If I had to pick a single key to dramatically increase your chances of achieving your goals it would be this:
Why power, not Will power.
It might seem obvious, but even knowing this I often violate the rule. Darren Hardy illustrates this principle brilliantly in his book The Compound Effect (I’ll summarize here):
Suppose I laid a long plank of wood on the ground thats 30 feet long and one foot wide then asked you to walk across it without stepping off. For this impressive athletic feet I’ll give you twenty bucks.
Heck yeah! Who wouldn’t jump at that easy money?
Now suppose the same plank was 40 stories in the air between two (close together) buildings. Would you walk that for $20?
Same board, different answer. What gives? Now the risks of falling far outweigh the twenty bucks you could earn.
What if your building was on fire! Who cares about the twenty bucks? I’m outta here!
Each of these three scenarios involves the exact same goal, but each of them dramatically changes the Why.
- What are the risks of chasing your goal?
- What are the rewards if you make it?
- What will it cost you to fail?
Why in real life
Even understanding this key to goal achievement I’ve messed it up plenty of times. One of my initial goals for 2011 was to pay my mortgage down by 20%. It was a big goal and one I was excited about accomplishing. However when I tried to write down a Why to go with it things fell flat. Sure it looked good on paper, it stood up to the S.M.A.R.T. test, but I was doomed from the start without a Why.
— Deacon Bradley (@deaconbradley) May 8, 2012
How many of us start out the year with fitness resolutions only to give up half way through January? From my experience the goals I never succeed at are missing an important Why to fuel them.
Apply your Why
Go back to your list of goals (you wrote these down right?) and for each one write out the Why. When I find myself writing Whys like “because it sounds cool” or “because my wife thinks I should” it’s time to scratch those off.
Don’t get lazy on this step. Write them down under each goal. Refer back to them over time both for motivation and to make sure it’s still valid.
You probably noticed I said write it down (underlined) several times. Writing down your Why is very different than just thinking about it. It forces you to create something concrete instead of just a vague notion of a why. I’ll spare you the brain studies illustrating this so let’s just acknowledge that it’s true.
How many goals on your list didn’t have a compelling Why backing them up? For me it’s usually a pretty high percentage (like 80%). This has just become part of the process of goal setting for me and is a great filter to make sure I’m staying true to myself.