Why is goal-setting so easy to do but goal-achieving so tricky? Is there a better way to construct your goals so that you guarantee their success from the very start? Why do some people consistently hit their targets, year-in and year-out, while others can’t ever seem to move the needle towards what they truly want?
In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions by taking a more in-depth look at goal ideology. I will show you precisely what has worked for me, where I’ve failed, and how these experiences shaped my 2020 goals.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to take your goal-setting to the next level by understanding the vital parts necessary for goal achievement. Most of the examples I use are based upon my writing-focused goals. But the ideas and techniques explained in this post can apply to anything you want to achieve, whether it’s making more money, losing weight, or taking a leap into the unknown. I’ve included sources from several writers to support these ideas, including James Clear, S.J. Scott, and Simon Sinek.
Most of my writing-centered goals over the past four years have revolved around my self-publishing schedule and academic deadlines.
In the world of higher ed, the phrase “publish or perish” haunts every ambitious young scholar as they climb the ladder of intellectual success.
A similar dogma rules the indie publishing world as well. Amazon KDP (the publishing side of Amazon’s book business) favors new content. The most successful authors publish on 30- to 60-day cycles. That means if you aren’t able to produce 40,000 – 80,000 word works within that timeframe, you’ll need to build other, more sustainable, income sources to support your author business.
I took this route. I turned my books into courses and workbooks. I diversified into YouTube, podcasting, and general social media management. But in doing so, I lost my balance.
I diversified my attention so much to support my writing that I ended up doing little to no writing most days. When I left my job to pursue writing full-time, one of my priorities was to correct this habit. I thought that by having more time overall, I would have more time to dedicate to writing. What happened is that I was still unable to devote more than two hours a day to writing (almost exactly as much as I did with a full-time job).
Instead, I spent time learning software, building products, creating funnels, and developing my sales skills. These were all important and, to a degree, enjoyable activities. But they weren’t writing.
I once read that you can be good at three things or great at two. But to be legendary at something, to reach the absolute limits of what you can achieve in a specific field, you can only pick one.
I want my one to be writing.
So, I switched paths. I wrapped up my other projects, shut down the funnels, and simplified EVERYTHING in my business down to only the most essential parts. Currently, I have:
I love the topic of goal-setting and plan to write a few in-depth articles on the subject later this year. I remember setting goals even as a ten-year-old playing on my N64. Part of why video games are so addicting is because they give you a way to measure progress, whereas most of the important things in life do not.
That’s the key: learning how to turn what’s important to you into measurable goals. If you can measure it, then you can progress in it. And progress breeds motivation.
My goal ideology boils down to four main tenets:
First, let’s cover the difference between outcome goals and process goals. Outcome goals are finish-line focused. They are what we typically default to when it comes to goal-setting.
I want to make $100,000 this year.
I want to lose 25 lbs.
The focus is on the end result. HOW you achieve the goal is a whole other matter, and since the goal statement doesn’t address it upfront, the person is left with a multitude of options and zero boundaries.
You can make $100,000 by getting a promotion or by selling drugs. One of those will land you in jail. You can lose 25lbs through healthy eating and regular exercise, or you could develop an eating disorder.
These examples are serious because the act of changing your life is serious. If you don’t set clear methods and boundaries for what you want to achieve, then almost any how will seem reasonable, and that’s a dangerous road to walk down.
The ends don’t justify the means. The means are the ends.
My goal with Icons & Ideas is to help people by giving them access to better ideas to implement and better examples to follow. The way I accomplish that is to become a better writer. And the way I become a great writer is by prioritizing my writing above everything else.
Therefore, my process goal for writing for the Q1 2020 is:
Second, how is it possible to be 100% in control of the goals you want to achieve? The answer is to create a process where you are fully in control.
I have very little say in how my writing spreads online. I can take steps to share it with people who I think will benefit. I can improve my SEO knowledge and apply those techniques to my blog. I can regularly ask people to share my work with people in their networks.
But at the end of the day, I have no say whether 100 people find my writing online or 100,000 people. An outcome is a direction to aim for, but not a process to work. Writing every week is something I can control. Hitting my word count is within my wheelhouse.
S.J. Scott writes about the highs and lows of outcome-based goal-setting. It can be exhausting to miss a goal over and over again. The solution, then, is to set a goal you can control because as long as that process aligns with the direction you want to go – progress is guaranteed.
Third, systems are the infrastructure you build to enable continual progress. A process is writing every day from 8 am to 10 am. A system is:
The pros all use systems. They don’t leave their goals to chance. They don’t “squeeze in” time to practice. They carve it into their day like writing on a stone tablet. For success to be certain, your system has to become non-negotiable.
Finally, a goal without a clear why supporting it will eventually disintegrate into a chore. In Simon Sinek’s earlier work, he references the Golden Circle and the all-important why statement. Your reason for being, creating, and working shapes everything else about your efforts (i.e., the how and the what) whether you’re an individual or a Fortune 500 company.
In his latest book, “The Infinite Game,” Simon builds upon the ideas first created by James Carse and transforms the why statement into a Just Cause. A Just Cause is “a specific vision of a future state that does not yet exist; a future state so appealing that people are willing to make sacrifices in order to help advance towards that vision.”
I love the fullness of this definition. A great goal should pull you towards it. And when you share it with others, they should be pulled in as well. A simple way to accomplish this with writing is to ask people: what problem are you facing, and who is someone you admire? Then, my job is to find stories from that figure’s life that illustrate principles or solutions applicable to my reader’s problem.
A great question to ask is: will anyone else care if I don’t reach my goal? If the answer is no, you have some work to do.
To summarize, every goal I set must have these pieces in place:
If you would like to know more about the actual systems, processes, habits, and definitions I have in place around each one of these goals, then I encourage you to subscribe.
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My wife calls it shiny-object syndrome. I call it an ever-increasing amount of interests.
I want Icons & Ideas to be different. I know that what this blog is and the topics it covers will inevitably change over time. But I want to make room for that change to happen, and I want to stick around to see what it (and I) look like once it does.
Ten may be an arbitrary figure, but the number of examples of creative genius which have come out of the Ten-Year Rule is impressive. So why not give it a try and see if we can join the ranks of Stravinsky and Einstein with this little blog.
In ten years, 2030 CE, who knows what will be possible. All I want is to be writing consistently and measurably better at that time. I hope you’ll stick around to see.
Our lives are shaped by the commitments we keep. If you want to reach a new place in life, turn your goals into commitments. Use the tools laid out in this article to start thinking about what you want in a different, more robust way.
It’s not enough to simply clarify what you want. You also have to make a plan to get there. Focusing on the process, building systems, and defining my why have all helped me tremendously on my journey. I expect they’ll help you too.
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