When a friend was asked to list down her goals, this is what she wrote:
- I want to lose weight.
- I want to be popular with the opposite sex.
- I want to earn a high salary.
If you’ve read enough on human motivation and the psychology of success, you’ll immediately see the error in this list.
What’s wrong with these goals?
Setting Personal Goals Requires Defining and Fixing Parameters
Let’s take the first one. She wants to lose weight. Fair enough. To lose weight is every doctor’s order to overweight people who run the risk of getting heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Our friend is all gung-ho, proud of the fact that she’s managed to set her goals. Our instincts tell us, however, that she needs to refine and qualify that goal some more.
- How much does she want to lose?
- What time frame is she thinking of?
- How will she achieve this goal?
It isn’t enough to say “I want to lose weight.” Our friend has to word her goal such that she narrows the field of visualization and creates benchmarks. Benchmarks – oh dear – sounds like big business and the typical corporate lingo – but even goals need benchmarks and we apologize. So our friend’s goal statement should read thus:
“I want to lose weight. More specifically, I want to lose a total of 20 pounds. My target is to lose 7 pounds in January, another 7 in February and the final 6 in March. I now weigh 165 pounds. By March 31, I want my weight to be 145 pounds. To lose excess pounds, I will run three times a week for half an hour, go to the gym and work on resistance exercises twice a week, take a dance class on Saturday and go for an hour-long walk on Sunday. Once a week I will weigh myself and if I see that I may not be able to lose 7 pounds in the target month, I should double my efforts at the gym by increasing frequency and intensity. I may have to go on a vegetarian diet for three months until my weight reaches the ideal number.”
Doesn’t that sound like our friend knows what she really wants and is determined to achieve it? By setting parameters, you’re breaking a goal into more manageable components, and therefore there is less of a likelihood of giving up when you don’t see results immediately.
Our point is this: stating a goal isn’t enough. You can compare it to making a salad. Your salad dish does not begin and end with a bag of spring greens. You’ll need other garnishings like carrots, tomatoes, sprouts and pine nuts. Then you’ll need virgin oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a squirt of fresh lemon. As your salad gets dressed, it’s naturally more appetizing, palatable, and no doubt more delicious. If you do the same with a goal, the goal becomes a more attractive, more do-able and a more manageable objective. It also shows that you take your desires up one level – two levels if necessary – and you have an exciting challenge before you, energizing you to really want to do it and get to the finish line.
If Setting Personal Goals Involves a Man…
Our friend’s second goal of wanting to be more attractive to the opposite sex – goodness, don’t we all? Don’t we also know – with a tinge of regret – that the ratio of 2 women to 1 man is common knowledge these days? Quite a competition we’re facing. In fact, about a year ago, there was an article online that had an eyecatcher for a title: “Want to Hook a Man Quickly? Relocate to Manville.” (We invented Manville, because we forgot the name of the place).
The article said that women who are looking for a man shouldn’t be looking in large cities like New York, Boston or Toronto, because the fishing gets more difficult. Women should be heading towards small towns. The article actually named two or three towns in the US where the men outnumber the women. It’s a pity we didn’t bookmark the page because we could have shown it to our friend, who by the way, lives in the big city.
We got sidetracked there for a moment.
Going back to our friend’s second goal – she should state it this way: “I want to be more attractive to the opposite sex. Specifically, the type of man I’m interested in is someone with a steady job, does not have curly hair, believes in commitment and family life, enjoys sports and is comfortable being with tall women. I will not waste my time on individualistic types, men who drive red sports cars, who snort, snore and are a bore. I’ll say no to married men, no to paragliders and bungee jumpers, and no to men who talk about their mother’s perfect canneloni dish. To attract the man of my dreams, I’ll invest in pheromones, a fitness trainer, an image consultant, and an esthetician. I’ll have my nose fixed, and I’ll hire a relationship consultant who will teach me how to develop empathy and sympathy and really coach me on my people and conversational skills.”
Not an ounce of balderdash there. The lady knows what she wants and is determined on getting what she wants. Do we think she’s going to succeed? Chances are, she will, because she’s narrowed down her universe of men. In accomplishing goals, the crux of the matter is trimming down the fat, focusing on a realistic and feasible agenda and then taking aim.
Setting Personal Goals Also Requires Flexibility
The element of flexibility is critical for a couple of reasons:
- Circumstances in life change, so goals have to be changed. For instance, if your goal is to be more active in your community and helping the homeless find subsidized housing, and then your company announces to you that you’re being promoted to vice president but you need to relocate to one of their branches, this goal may have to be shelved, or else modified.
- Success isn’t always guaranteed. If you want to set up a landscaping business but despite your efforts you can’t get enough clients and you’ve already spent a fortune, you may want to re-think this goal and go into a different kind of business. Or else, find a job, save up, learn a few marketing strategies and go network. Perhaps you plunged too soon into the landscaping business without evaluating it 100%, so a second – even a third – chance is still open to you.
To be successful, setting personal goals is priority # 1, because it is in setting goals that you tell yourself where you want to go. Priority 2 is to qualify those goals and breaking them down into parts that can be accomplished at certain time periods; priority 3 is to decide on the measures you’re going to take to arrive at those goals. Flexibility is the one ingredient you’ll need because in-between priorities 1, 2 and 3, you may learn a few things that you had not been aware of before, forcing you to adjust or replace your goals with other goals.
What’s vital is knowing what you want. Then you bite the bullet and fight to the bitter end – like a true soldier.