Setting Goals that Don't Turn into To-Do Lists

Have you been watching all the social media posts about goal setting and goal getting in 2020 and feeling a little intimidated?

It’s the start of a new decade so apparently this year counts for way more than last year did… and the pressure is on.

What will you do with this brand new year and decade of your one precious life?!

Let’s all calm down for a moment.

Today, this week, this month, this year, this decade… should be no different to any other. It could very well be our last and if we’re not living well, it won’t matter if we get another week or several decades more time.

So here’s where my head’s at about it all.

I’ve decided that we’ve got to start with bigger goals and then work, not first of all on the goal, but on the skills needed to reach the goal.

Lightbulb moment.

If you’ve been around these parts long, you might have guessed I’m generally a “SMART” goals kinda gal. You know, all goals have to specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

In other words, boring.

Ah, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to diss all the great self-help gurus out there or make you set a goal that has you toting a newborn across the Himalayas. I’m just reflecting on my own experience.

Whenever I’ve set classic SMART goals in the past, they’ve very quickly turned into to-do lists. Because let’s be honest, if the goal is that specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, it’s probably boring as heck.

I’ve been listening to a bunch of research on goal setting recently and the latest theory is that “achievable” or “realistic” goals don’t push us outside our comfort zone. If we’ve set a goal that we consider to be achievable and realistic, chances are we won’t need to go outside our comfort zone to get there. Certainly my own experience reflects this.

Let’s break it down.

Unless a goal pushes you outside your comfort zone enough that you have to:

  • Learn a new skill
  • Meet new people
  • Upgrade a mindset
  • Figure our something you didn’t know before…

you’re not really doing anything different to what you did yesterday, or last month or last year.

So this is where I’m at at the moment. I haven’t actually set any goals yet for this year, because January always seems to be a write-off from a planner perspective, but I’m heading off on my annual 3-day silent retreat this weekend and I plan to get goaling.

But with this question in mind: Does the reaching of this goal require me to go outside my comfort zone to learn something new?

In other words, I shouldn’t be able to reach a goal that doesn’t require some new learning, experience, skill from me.

And this is, of course, often more than half the fun and value. Improving ourselves, learning something new, allowing ourselves to feel uncomfortable while we hone a new skill… that’s where the good stuff lies. The “goal reached” is the cherry on top.

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