Be Wary of Setting Goals When the Outcome Really Matters!

I’ll begin by saying that goal setting is wickedly effective. In other words, if you desire an outcome and make it a goal, the odds are pretty good that you’ll achieve it. And therein lies the problem. For example, suppose you’re going to set a goal to clean your garage or paint your house. In that case, that’s the perfect application of goal setting: You set a task, execute and voila, mission accomplished. It’s over and done with.

However, if our goal involves a behavior or lifestyle change, goal setting will almost guarantee long-term failure. For example, suppose we set a plan to lose 30 pounds. We go on a diet, or we begin a vigorous exercise routine, and so on, and then, after some time, we manage to lose those 30 pounds … wonderful, goal achieved. 

But now what? What happens next?

From both personal experience and years of observation, I can answer that in one word … regression.

Regression inevitably follows this type of goal because we’ve confused a self-contained goal like cleaning the garage with something that requires a permanent change in lifestyle or behaviour.

I made this personal discovery or observation through the process of overcoming a crippling addiction.

From the time I was fourteen until I was twenty-seven, I was a seriously heavy chain-smoker, which pretty much means that exercise and a healthy lifestyle were the furthest things from my mind.

However, when I eventually overcame my addiction (and that’s a story for another day), I decided to pursue health and regular exercise as a way of life. Part of my plan was to be very careful not to associate quitting smoking with the initially “uncomfortable” feeling of exercise. After breaking my addiction, I deliberately waited a full six months before doing any formal exercise whatsoever.

When I finally began to incorporate exercise into my life, I started with a simple walking routine. Then after a few months, I began to jog for just a mile, then slowly worked my way up to a daily five-mile run.

I never set a goal to run a marathon or run ten miles or anything like that. My “goal” was to incorporate exercise into a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the word goal in this instance is the wrong word. What I really did was switch my thinking from that of a “goal” to that of an intention … and by that, I mean a way of life.

As a result, I have managed my exercise program for over thirty-five years. It has been such an integral part of my day that I simply couldn’t imagine living without it. And that’s the thing; intending to live our lives in a certain way is infinitely more powerful than setting a goal.

You see, there really is no goal when it comes to a lifestyle because it’s so much more than that. It becomes something that we are. It’s an intention to choose how we’ll live, and when we do, it no longer requires any conscious thought or effort; it’s just a natural way of life.

For this reason, if you’re considering a lifestyle change, why not change it from a goal to an intention?

It will require a little more thought, consideration, and planning. Still, it works because once it becomes a part of your life, it no longer requires any cognitive effort or decision; it’s just something you do; it’s just a part of who you are.

Goals represent a finish line, but intention represents continuous achievement and a lifetime of mastery.

Thanks for reading; I appreciate your being here.