If you’ve ever thought about setting yourself some goals in life (e.g. learning how to approach and pick up women, getting promoted at work, finding your life purpose, etc), but then found the prospect of the whole ’goal setting’ thing just too yawn worthy to ever get beyond the thinking about it stage, Michael Bane’s story might just make you think differently.
Michael Bane, a regular 40-something guy and a self-confessed couch potato, one day found himself wondering what it would be like to go to the very edge of the world and look over. He then decided to set himself the goal of finding out.
Sitting in a pizza joint, enjoying a pitcher of beer with some friends after an exhilarating windsurfing experience in ferociously high winds, Michael Bane decided to compile a list of adventurous sports activities that might provide the same feeling. The list was written on a cocktail napkin, after borrowing a pen from the waitress, and with the beer-fueled input of his friends it became the following:
The List (from ‘Over the Edge’ by Michael Bane)
- Windsurf Big Air.
- The Kamikaze Downhill Race.
- Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.
- White-water off a Waterfall.
- Rock Climb.
- Cave Dive.
- Ice Climb.
- Skate Marathon.
- Dive Really Deep.
- Bad Water Death Valley Run.
- Iditarod Bike Race.
Even for a super-fit adrenalin junkie, it’s a list of challenging adventures but at the time of writing it, Bane had no experience of any of them, other than occasionally windsurfing. In fact, he hadn’t run a mile since his schooldays, he didn’t own a bike, and he had never learned to swim. But, in the cold light of day the following morning, he looked at ’The List’ and made the decision to do it, “Why not? How hard can it be?”
Of course, starting from where he was with zero experience, it was going to be hard so Bane realized he needed a plan. He needed a road-map to help guide him from where he was to where he wanted to be and that’s essentially what goal setting is all about. You may already be familiar with the SMART goal concept which states that to be effective, a goal must be:
You have to know exactly what it is you’re aiming for. Setting yourself the goal of getting fit is not specific enough. How fit?
Your goal must be quantifiable to be effective. For example, the goal of being successful is not specific enough to be measurable. What do you mean exactly by ‘successful’ and how will you know you’ve achieved it? Each goal you set must have an outcome that can be measured accurately.
As a non-swimmer, setting the goal of completing a triathlon within the next three days is unachievable but setting the same goal within the next three months is achievable as it represents a realistic time-frame in which to learn to swim.
Recording your goals makes it possible to track your progress and it is the act of ‘being aware’ of that progress that keeps you motivated when your ultimate goal seems a long way off.
A time-phased goal is a specific, measurable goal that is set within a specific and achievable time-frame. Setting smaller, stepping-stone goals to work your way towards achieving a long-term goal is an effective way to maintain your motivation to succeed.
Bane’s ultimate goal of achieving every item on ’The List’ was obviously a long-term goal and each item on the list, although a stepping-stone towards achieving his ultimate goal, was in itself a long-term goal, so each and every one would require another set of stepping-stone goals if he was to remain motivated to achieve them. It’s at this point that you might just give up on the whole goal setting process! Breaking your big goal down into small, manageable goals is going to take dedicated thought, but without a detailed action plan you’re unlikely to take any action at all and without action, your dreams will not become your realities. It’s time to make your goals smartER.
Scientific research into goal setting and motivation has found that success rates in terms of following through and actually taking action to achieve dreams are much higher if the goals you set are achievable and suitably exciting. Make sure that the end result of each goal you set represents something that excites you or something you can look forward to, even if it means rewarding yourself with something exciting for your achievement.
The more relevant your goals are to your current lifestyle, the more likely you are to achieve them. In Bane’s case, being a couch potato and all, it’s fair to say that his goals could not have been less relevant, but they certainly had the excitement factor! Under normal circumstances, the less radical your goals are, the greater your chances are of following through.
Setting yourself the goal of getting up at 6am to go for a five mile run before you go to work every day when you normally don’t get up before 8am at the very earliest and you haven’t run any distance at all for years is just too radical a lifestyle change to be maintained. Your ultimate goal is achievable but your chances of success will be much greater if you break it down into smaller, less radical stepping-stone goals. For instance, try getting up at 7:30 to do a 15 minute run. Then, take it from there.
Once you know where you’re going, all you have to do is get there. When Michael Bane decided that ‘The List’ was where he was going, he knew he was embarking on a long journey, but he also knew that he could get there – one step at a time. And he did! So, if you’re yawning at the prospect of setting yourself some goals in life, how about writing out your own list instead?
Here are some areas you might want to focus on: