I don’t know about you, but the minute somebody starts talking about goals, I start looking for a door.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to dream big and have idea sessions and talk about what could be — I’m a creative type, you see — but what goal-setting inevitably means is that work is involved. LOTS of work, most of the time. And when it’s LIFE goals, I figure I should just find a window instead of a door and jump.
I’ve known the depression of failed goals. I’m sure you have, too.
In a meeting last week, Dr. Karen Naufel, a psychology professor at Georgia Southern University, gave a great talk about goals. She talked about some of the obstacles people face when setting goals, and how avoiding these roadblocks can make people more successful at achieving them.
She said there are three main obstacles to goal setting.
1. The Planning Fallacy
This obstacle points to the problem of underestimating the time, cost, effort, etc. that a certain goal will require in order to be reached. I have this problem often. I love to strategize, to make plans and to solve problems in a creative way, but when it comes to the task list required to accomplish the big dreams, I get lost.
Dr. Naufel says there are two approaches to overcoming this obstacle, because just acknowledging it won’t fix it.
The first, she says, is to “double it.” Estimate the time, cost and effort that your goal will take and then “double it.” Not the best way to handle it, she added, but it certainly gets at the old adage, “under promise, over deliver.”
The second approach is to “unpack it.” A more reasonable approach, this solution requires the goal-setter to think about every detail involved in attaining their goal. How long will it take? What specific items will have to be purchased, produced and realized to attain the larger goal?
2. Getting Stuck In A Rut
This obstacle is a tough one. Being a creative person, I’m much more wired to start a project with enthusiasm, but the longer it goes on, the less enthusiastic I become. And with nutrition goals, especially, this can be a momentum-killer.
Because of the time it takes to lose weight the right way, and because our weight can fluctuate greatly in that time, it’s easy to get off track because the results aren’t coming faster.
Dr. Naufel says one of the best ways to combat this problem is by adding a “speed bump” while the goal is still fresh.
The idea here is to take the focus away from the goal you’re working on (and the goal which you’re still excited about) by doing something else, or meeting another short-term goal on another project.
This, she says, makes you more eager to return to the goal you’re trying to reach.
I think, too, that perspective helps a lot in dealing with this goal. My goal isn’t necessarily to lose so many pounds over so long a period of time. I’m specifically hoping that by eating a certain way, my arteries will start to heal and reverse the life-threatening disease which has built up over the years. It’s not something I can just hope will change in six months, eight months or a couple of years for that matter. It’s really a lifestyle, lifetime change. If I don’t think about it that way, I would easily jump ship.
3. Side Trips Are Appealing
The final obstacle is our tendency to wander. At work, we’re distracted by Facebook and email. At school, we’re distracted by the opposite sex, cell phones and the beautiful day just outside the window.
It’s hard to stay focused, especially when cheesecake is on the table.
The best approach to overcoming this obstacle is what Dr. Naufel calls “implementation intentions.” It’s basically a way of reminding yourself to stay on track when thinking of something else.
For instance, if I come to the realization that email is really getting in the way of getting my work done, I might say to myself, “Okay, when I check email, I’m going to remind myself to get back on the task at hand. That email ding is going to remind me that I need to stay on task.”
In a restaurant, it might look like this: “Okay, when they bring that dessert tray around and I see that cheesecake, that is going to be my reminder that I need to stay on track with my nutrition and refuse it.”
Sounds simple, right? Studies show, however, that this practice works…and works well.
I know I have to do this intentionally when I go to restaurants with co-workers or friends. I generally know what kind of food they’re going to have, so I’m reminding myself — long before I arrive — that I have to find alternatives to the food I can’t eat. I may go so far as to look up the restaurant online in order to see their menu.
Preparation, people. It’s the name of the game.
I honestly hope this was helpful for you…not only in thinking about nutrition, but in thinking about life and work as well.
What are some ways that you deal with goal-setting and the obstacles it brings?