Working with a group last night, I explored with them some of the interesting aspects of motivation and goal achievement – with some interesting results!
How often is it that we set ourselves a goal – like ‘I want to lose 20 kgs’ – and only manage to lose 18? How do you judge this?
One of our participants had this very dilemma. By being so focussed upon the ‘fixed’ goal, they had forgotten what they had achieved along the way. Even worse, as they were now ‘scared’ of not making their goal by the planned deadline, they were starting to demonstrate avoidance and self-sabotage behaviours. Because if you ‘fail’, you may as well ‘fail properly’!
And yet, a goal is something that is completely FICTIONAL. You set an arbitrary point out in the future, an imagined value or outcome. You can never KNOW if you will reach the goal when you set out to achieve it, but you can sure try. What specific information do you use to set your goal? Do you just pick a number, effect or outcome out of your imagination, or do you specifically plan in detail what the goal will be based upon known information? In fact, most ‘goals’ are just plucked out of the air. They are no more real than any other imagined thing. If we allow the goal to be a ‘possibility’ and a ‘target’ rather than create a concrete, fixed, ‘pass-or-fail’ event, we are much more likely to strive for it. We can certainly celebrate when we reach it!
How you then reflect on your goal – and even course correct as you go – is an important component of goal achievement. When we explored this particular participant’s circumstances their ORIGINAL goal was to lose 10 kgs – they had blown straight past that and were about to achieve 18kg weight loss. Had they achieved their ‘goal’? Absolutely! By shifting the goal posts (and then making it a ‘pass-fail’ event for them), the participant was becoming fearful of failure, demotivated and self-sabotaging. How would you evaluate what this person had actually achieved?
It is great to have ‘all or nothing’ thinking in your commitment and actions to achieving your goal, but having the ability to see your goal in perspective can really support your motivation. Another member of the group had only lost 3kg instead of the ‘goal’ of 10kg. However, they were able to realise that because of their previous fitness regimes, losing another 10kg was probably unrealistic (even unhealthy) for them. The 10 kg goal loss target was again ‘plucked from the air’, but this participant saw only smaller losses or her journey, and had the ability to step back and put things into perspective. They make the decision that their goal was not going to be 10kgs, but to focus on the centimetre changes to their physique that would occur in the process. This participant had the skill to re-evaluate their goal in an appropriate manner and still commit 100% to achievement.
Their motivation increased, rather than decreased, by checking in against their goal in a realistic way. They were able to see their goal as part of their bigger overall purpose and put things in perspective.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t ‘dream big’. Be clear on your bigger purpose (what the goal serves) and setting yourself big goals can provide strong motivation. However, given that the goal is completely fictional when you create it, allow yourself the capacity to reshape, reword or rewrite your goal as you go to ensure that you are actually staying motivated toward your bigger purpose.
Success is the journey, not the outcome.