If you’re reading this, you’re probably not new to goal setting. You have probably heard of strategies like making S.M.A.R.T goals. Be specific you’re told. Set a timeline. Make it measurable. Keep them top of mind. Track them tirelessly.
So you go ahead and go through the motions. You might have short-term, medium, and long-term goals. You might have personal, fitness, and business goals.
Nice! You have goals! You’re good to go right?
No! Setting goals is easy, reaching them is hard.
It’s nothing to be disappointed about, this happens to everyone I have ever talked to about goal setting.
In fact, if you set really high goals, that can have an adverse effect of frustration when they’re not met. Speaking from personal experience, here.
What’s The Problem With Goal Setting?
I’ll start this part off by giving a little bit of perspective on this.
A study done by the University of Scranton tells us that 92% of people will never reach their new year’s resolutions. 92%?!?! What?! I don’t know about you but that doesn’t make me feel good about goals.
Let’s say your feeling ambitious when you set your goals. Unstoppable even. You set crazy-visionary-dreamer style stretch goals. The type that you know are going to take an extreme amount of grind and dedication, but you’re up for the challenge.
You start putting in the time and the work to achieve these goals. If you’re anything like me or most people, halfway through your 90-day goals, you realize your half way from where you should be at this point and it feels like you were hit in the face with a brick for every goal you set.
This used to happen to me with my sales goal all the time.
For me, that brick was the feeling of self-doubt, unrealistic expectations, and stomach twisting discouragement.
Following those feelings comes anxiety, more doubt, then the thoughts.
“Maybe I’m not nearly as good as I think I am.” “Am I capable of accomplishing my dreams?” “Is McDonald’s hiring right now?”
Is Setting Smaller Goals The Right Way To Go?
“Your goals were too big”, they say. “You need to set more ‘realistic’ goals”. “Take it slow”. “Make it easier on yourself so you feel good”.
So you’re back to the drawing board and reset your goals to half, or maybe even a quarter, of what they were before.
This seems like the obvious answer to most and it does have its benefits.
Firstly, you are very likely to actually hit these goals and feel good about it!
Now that’s not a bad thing, but when you think about it, all you really did was just dramatically underestimate your true potential and waste your most valuable asset, time, doing less than you really could have.
How do you the most you’re capable of without setting the wrong expectation?
Ok, so now that I have expressed why goal setting, with anytime frame, will rarely lead to a successful attempt that also truly is your maximum potential, let’s talk about the right way to make sure you are optimizing yourself and your growth.
The paradigm around goal setting needs to shift completely.
When I realized this, my career and personal life changed faster than I ever expected it to. Faster than setting major stretch goals ever could have done for me. In every area. Fitness, personal relationships, business, education; all of it.
Why Setting ‘Intentions’ Is Better Than Setting Goals
Goals, in their essence, are a prediction or expectation of where you should be in a given amount of time relative to the outside world or circumstance.
Ex: I want a new car within 6 months.
Intentions, on the other hand, are actions you intend to take in the present moment and are much more self-oriented instead of outside world oriented.
A good way to see it is understanding that goals are really more like plans, and intentions are geared toward taking action now.
That’s important because the main reason people never reach their goal is because they are not taking enough action.
The most common example of an intention is when your parent or coach used to say to you, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you play the best you can.”
Now the hyped up competitive frat boy in me wants to say, “screw that, I want to win.”
But when you think about it, the only way to win as much as possible is to consistently play the best you can.
Playing the best you can isn’t a goal, it’s an intention, and it’s a good one.
And that may seem like a vague intention which is why I think people shy away from it. However, when looking introvertedly inward at yourself, it is always super clear and obvious whether you feel like you could have played or tried harder.
Nothing is worse than losing knowing you could have tried harder. That comes back to the problem with goal setting. Setting a results-based expectation, losing, and then realizing that you didn’t constantly do everything you could do to ‘win’ that goal
How Do You Set Good Intentions?
When I asked Nicole Bray, a very specialized and trained coach/teacher who helps people find the roots of their mental blocks and fears and pulls them out, what intentions are she responded, “Intentions are the underpinning of movement”.
I couldn’t have described it half as well as that.
Intentions are focused in the short term. They are right now.
They have nothing to do with the outside world and everything to do with the only person you have full control over, yourself.
My intention for this article was to write this to the best of my ability and provide as much clarity as possible to this concept.
With an intention like that there is only one variable to worry about. Me.
There isn’t a goal for how many people I want to read this, only an intention for how hard I will try to do this to the best of my current ability.
Try setting the intention to do whatever task is in front of you to the best of your capability.