When I was a kid, there were a few things that were considered "instant" -- like pudding, oatmeal, and rice. They were instant because they were the "fast" version, taking 2-3 minutes to make, unlike their 30+ minute versions. By contrast, today we expect more to be instant. Information is readily available -- either from Alex, Siri or the like, or on our handheld computers that are also used for phone calls. Whatever you need, you have an app for that. You can order online and have purchases delivered the same day. You can speak with a nurse or physician without getting out of bed. And fast food delivery is available for those late night cravings. You want it? You got it.
According to some commercials, you can get thin and fit in an instant, too. Scan your TV, cable or satellite channels and it won't take long to come across one of those fitness commercials promising fast -- nearly instant -- results. "Lose up to 6 inches and 13 pounds in the first 2 weeks," says the voice. Celebrities and non-celebrities alike grace the screen, telling their weight loss and fitness stories using the miracle system. All the while, a disclaimer hangs at the bottom of the screen. Embedded in small but bold print are three important words: RESULTS NOT TYPICAL.
Why is it that the advertised results aren't typical? The answer lies in the goal setting process. Goal setting as a practice is not new. But it is a practice. Failure to attend to any of the steps will impact results.
The goal-setting process has 5 basic steps:
- Set a goal. Make it SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically High, and Time Bound. Write it down.
- Align with the goal. Define rewards and consequences. Consider known obstacles. Name attitudes and habits that are out of alignment with the goal. Re-think them. Set up new processes that are aligned with the goal, stop those that aren't.
- Take action. Do the steps. Act with relentless consistency toward your goal. Visualize yourself achieving it -- how it looks, and how you feel.
- Measure. Track completion of action steps. Measure part way through to assess progress and make adjustments as needed. Do a final measure at the end. Celebrate results and take stock of what you learned -- from the goal, but also the goal setting process.
Most people don't adhere to the process to the letter, nor do they embrace goal setting as a practice. Humans are goal-setters by nature, but we are also designed to resist change -- and the structure that change requires. (See past blog posts: The Human Side of Change Leadership and Why Structure is Essential for Change -- and Why we Hate It). And our preference for "instant results" doesn't help matters.
I've learned three major lessons from my own goal setting practice. I share these with you in hopes that your goal-setting practice can go from ordinary to "results not typical."
1. The goal matters.
I find most leaders I work with have heard of SMART goals, but that doesn't mean they take time to think through each of the aspects with rigor. It's easy to rush. The sooner you set the goal, the sooner you can get to taking action. But it's worth it to take your time to plan your goals well. You'll save time in the long run.
I've mentioned in prior blog posts that I've been participating in a 10-week transformation program at my local kick-boxing gym. The 10-week program officially ended last Saturday, with an awards ceremony and a celebration. Five people were honored. All five winners set specific goals for themselves at the start of the program. Whether loss of inches, pounds or body fat, each had defined, written goals for what they wanted to achieve in their 10 weeks.
In contrast, the first drafts of my goals were more squishy. I've set diet & exercise goals before and failed because I tried to do too much. I wanted to lose a few inches, maybe a few pounds, but I didn't want to put a number on it. What I wanted was to feel better, be stronger. In the end, I set a goal to build a new habit: to be a person who worked out 6 days a week at 6 am. This goal felt both attainable and realistically high.
Both approaches show the power of goal setting -- and how personal goal setting is. I set my goal based on what I needed -- what worked for me based on experience, how I felt about myself and the gym, and other factors. Other people in the program did the same. I know one woman whose stated goal was to "feel better," whatever that meant for her. I hear she achieved her goal.
How you set your goal matters because it drives step 2 -- and lesson #2:
2. For best results, align with your goal -- no kidding, the whole kit and caboodle.
The 10-week transformation winners aligned all aspects of their lives with their fitness goals. They did the hard work of aligning everything and addressing known obstacles. They asked for help with chores at home, made food preparation a priority, and tracked their food & water intake each day. One chose to be the designated driver for her sister's bachelorette party, keeping a commitment to herself to stay alcohol free throughout the 10 weeks. Another gave up caffeine and white sugar.
I aligned with my goal, too. I changed my evening routine and standardized my bed time. My morning routine changed, too. I set my own alarm each morning, opting not to rely on my husband's alarm, even though we were going to the gym together most mornings. In my mind, I became a person who worked out six days a week at six a.m.
That said, I didn't make big changes in my eating habits. I didn't prep my meals for the week or plan all my meals & snacks for a day. I didn't count macros or calories, I didn't weigh my food, or even track my water intake. Those activities were not needed for achievement of my goal.
3. Measurement matters.
The 10-week program calls for a 5-week measurement of progress on sit-ups and push-ups. I didn't do the mid-program tests; I didn't see them as necessary for the goal I had set. I did take part in final measurement day. We measured inches and pounds lost, body fat %, flexibility, sit-ups and push-ups. I had positive results in most of my numbers, but not all. As I heard and saw some other participant's results, I felt a pang of jealousy -- and also some shame. It bothered me that I didn't get more significant results.
But those measurements were not in alignment with MY goal. My goal was to get there and do the workouts, to become a person who worked out at 6 am, 6 days. While I had "hoped" for bigger changes in some numbers, I had not 'aligned' to achieve those changes. That was a hard sell to my ego -- which was against all this change in the first place. Measurement day was difficult because we measured aspects beyond my actual goal.
Measurement day also made me wonder whether I should have completed the 5-week testing. If I had done that testing, I may have adjusted my goal for the last 5 weeks, making the 10-week testing more meaningful. Hard to say now. But curious from a goal-setting process standpoint.
Bottom line, choosing the right measurements and the right amount of measurement is an important part of the process. Judging your performance against criteria that are irrelevant to your goal does more harm than good. And measuring part-way through can offer new and valuable information.
What now? It's time to repeat.
Q1 of 2019 is all but over. A new cohort of 10-weekers kick off on 4/6, and I'm setting my fitness goals a little differently for this next 10 weeks. I'm also using what I've learned to re-visit my other personal and business goals. The new quarter is an opportunity to work with my coach to take my goal-setting practice to the next level. Call it continuous improvement.
How's your goal-setting practice? What would take your goals next-level? What do you need to do for "results not typical?" Even better, what would make your "results not typical" for you? How do you need to change your thinking to change your results?
Decide, align, take action, succeed.