The Future Myth: Why Your Goals are Broken (and What to Do About It)

I recently wrote about the fundamental challenge with New Year’s resolutions.
Resolutions, are, at their core, goal-setting exercises. They’re about choosing a target–something we want to have or be at some future time. While that post was about ensuring that your resolutions were focused on the right things–hard work versus working hard–there’s more to the story of successful goal setting.

The Problem With Goals

Problems with GoalsWhether it’s pounds lost, dollars earned, sales made or vacations taken, a goal describes a future state. A good “SMART” goal, we’re told, describes in specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-speicific terms where we want to be at some future point.
Goals, then, are about what we want to have achieved, and that’s an important thing. Envisioning a future state that can inspire and motivate us is essential to success.
There’s just one problem: goal-setting doesn’t have a great track record. We’ve all experienced the euphoria of setting an inspiring goal, only to feel the painful failure of making little or no progress toward it. For many people, goal-setting is a bipolar experience–a pendulum that swings from optimism to disappointment with frustrating regularity.
The reason for this painful swing is that we’ve been taught that the mere act of setting goals–identifying that future state–sets great forces in motion. Entire books have been written about this. There’s a whole belief system that says that setting goals will change your life. As a result, we’ve come to believe that the simple act of setting a goal is what makes it happen.
It isn’t.
The belief that setting a goal will get you where you want to be, it turns out, is a myth. It’s a story we tell ourselves. We call this the Future Myth–the belief that creating a vivid enough picture of the future (i.e. a great goal) is enough to make it happen.

The Missing Piece: Behaviour Setting

Missing Behaviour PieceThe problem, however, is not with goal setting itself. It’s with goal-setting in isolation. Most goal-setting exercises stop just when things are getting good. What’s missing is to define what needs to be done in order to get there. What’s lacking is the behaviours that will bring you to the goal.
What are the precise, repeatable behaviours you need to DO in order to reach your goal? Goals are often about what we want to have. We want to have more sales, but what do we need to do? How many calls do we have to make per day? How many appointments to we have to set per week?
How many words do you have to write to finish the novel?
How many minutes a day do you need to walk to lose the weight?
How many times do you need to shop per week to ensure you have healthy food to eat better?

Escaping the Future Myth

When we fall for the Future Myth, we end up with something that’s closer to a wish than a true goal. Once we understand that, though, it’s easy to see that a goal has two parts: the end state, and the precise, repeatable behaviours required to get there. The target and the action. The future, and the now.
While a great goal can inspire us, it only becomes a reality when it inspires us to great action.
 To learn more about the seven myths that stand between you and your success, you can read a free excerpt of Deliver the Unexpected here.