Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goal Setting Schmoll Setting

At the end 2007 we set and worked towards some personal goals to finish off the year strong. Since that time I haven’t emailed or talked much about goals for a few reasons. I do hope to incorporate goal setting into our program in the future. It can serve to be a powerful and unique part of our Martial Arts program. While this post may appear to be anti-goal it is not. I am in favor of goals these are simply some of the obstacles that must be avoided when the topic of goals comes up.

The popular media seems to bank heavily off goal setting. Every month it seems a new goal setting guru pops up on the shelves of the nearest book store trying to cash in on societies desperation for success. In most cases these literatures offer very little in real content. The authors are often nothing more than the snake oil sales men of the past offering advise with little credibility or expertise of their own.

Even Disneyland with the “Year of a Million Dreams” campaign (which has been ongoing for almost two years now!) is trying to cash in on it. Somehow by going to Disneyland all your dreams will come true.

Pictured Above; Has my daughters dreams come true or is she scared out of her mind?

It is easy to become so consumed with your goals you are no longer happy or enjoy your life as it is NOW. Instead you are constantly thinking and focused on what you want to accomplish or bring into your life. It becomes a cycle in which you are constantly thinking about accomplishing the next thing rather than enjoying today.

The popular SMART formula for goal setting is laid out as follows; A goal should be Reasonable, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic and Time Lined. If one doesn’t accomplish their goal in the time line they specified even if it’s a reasonable time line it is easy to become frustrated and begin thinking about the past, what happened and why. Again you are now no longer in the present but have projected yourself back in time thinking about something you can no longer change.

Traditionally it is taught to announce your goals to everyone you know or to make a public statement about what it is you want to accomplish. The logic behind this thinking is that doing so will cause you to really follow though with it. What happens often is the person announcing their goal to the world gets all the praise, recognition and credit from their friends for setting such a great or inspiring goal without every accomplishing anything. The person then rarely follows through as they already got all their accolades for something they never actually did. I think it was a fortune cookie I read once that said something along the lines of; “He who talks less accomplishes more.”

They say an hour of well planned work is several times more effective than an hour unplanned. In goal setting it is easy to take this too the extreme spending all ones time filling out work sheets, breaking everything down and writing lists rather than just doing it.

I knew a guy who had written out on a piece of paper his schedule. He had sleep 7 hours which he planned to cut down to 5. He had work 9 hours and 8 hours of free time. All of which was scheduled out. Personally I’ve found most of the time such a rigorous schedule often never plays out exactly as planned in addition scheduling to this degree would drive many crazy.

Writing a goal down and creating a plan can be helpful and in some cases necessary. But stay within reason. If you want to improve your flexibility to a certain degree your time may be better spend stretching. The idea that you have to write everything out in order to accomplish anything simply isn’t true.

Many of the popular books, tapes and courses aimed at goal setting devote entire sections to teach you how to eliminate distractions. Books such as “The Four Hour Work Week”by Tim Ferris go into detail about how to get by without answering your phone for days at a time, (I actually did do this and it really pissed a lot of people off) checking or responding to emails and so forth. Too often in these books and course they seem to suggest a person should almost become some kind of machine, a goal working robot that never stops. I picture Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “If it’s a distraction I must terminate it!”

The fundamental problem with the distraction elimination theory is it becomes easy for a person to be so self absorbed they are no longer thinking about helping others or contributing in anyway to the world. Family, friends and loved ones are soon viewed as distractions. The next thing you know you have a person working in almost complete solitude while they pursue their own self interests.

In the introduction of a Jiu-Jitsu book I read once the author writes about how he has cut virtually everything out of his life that could possibly get in the way of his goals. He states that he hasn’t had a girl friend for several years and has cut out anything else that could distract him from accomplishing his goals in martial arts and music.

What good is it to accomplish everything in the world if you don’t have anyone to share it with? How much more fulfilling would it be to achieve your dreams with family, friends or loved ones there with you sharing in your experience?

Finally remember there is no point in setting or trying to accomplish a goal if you don’t enjoy the process. If anything that should be the best part about the entire experience.

1 comment:

brianb1982 said...


Actually was just presented with the SMART formula in school the other day.
Go figure right?

S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T - Time Bound

Brian B :)