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18 Sep

Set reasonable goals in relation to the whole

Datum: 2023-09-18 09:00
A beautiful archipelago with turquoise water.

At some­what fre­quent inter­val we set goals for the next while ahead. What do we wish to accom­plish? How much high­er than before do we want to reach? How many do we want to score? Some say that a good goal needs to be, amongst oth­er things, real­is­tic, mean­ing that we believe our­selves capa­ble or attain­ing it, but that it still needs to be a bit challenging. 

Set­ting the bar too low by defin­ing a goal we know that we will eas­i­ly reach hard­ly moti­vates us, and the ques­tion is why both­er set­ting a goal like that at all? A rea­son­ably chal­leng­ing goal that we believe is pos­si­ble for us to reach but which still demands effort and com­mit­ment will def­i­nite­ly moti­vate us more.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Many small pieces make up a greater whole

Some of us are too ambi­tious for our own good. We real­ly want to raise the bar, and set high goals for more or less every­thing we can set goals for. If we do not have all that many goals, that extra effort need­ed to reach our high goal will be pos­si­ble to exert, but if we have many goals to work towards, the seem­ing­ly small extra effort need­ed for each one, will amass to a giant effort com­pared to the per­son­al resources we might have at our dis­pos­al in the time-span we set for ourselves.

The risk is that we over­do it, last for a week or two, and then break down as life and our actu­al ener­gy lev­el catch­es up to us. We fall behind on one of the goals, expe­ri­ence it as a fail­ure, and take it per­son­al. Instead of get­ting moti­vat­ed and inspired to keep work­ing towards attain­ing our ambi­tions, we feel crest­fall­en and over­whelmed. But for no good rea­son. After all, we only over­es­ti­mat­ed our abil­i­ties and capacity.

Rec­og­nize the total effort

In order to deter­mine if a goal is real­is­tic or not we need to set it in its con­text, since our goals con­sti­tute more of an arch­i­pel­ago than alone islands far out at sea. How great is the chal­lenge to reach each indi­vid­ual goal, and what does it total up to in terms of effort? Is the total effort required rea­son­able or even pos­si­ble at the moment, con­sid­er­ing every­thing else that is going on in our lives at the moment? Per­haps it is, or per­haps we are about to do our­selves a dis­ser­vice by set­ting our ambi­tions too high.

Do this

If you want an appro­pri­ate and rea­son­able chal­lenge dur­ing the next while ahead, but still accom­plish more, reach high­er, become bet­ter, etc, than before, then do this:

  1. Take out your goals.
  2. For each and every one, deter­mine how much of a chal­lenge it real­ly is. Grade the chal­lenge for every goal on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 means that you will reach the goal with prac­ti­cal­ly no effort and 5 that the chal­lenge is a big one that will require your full effort and commitment.

  3. Sum up the grades and divide by the num­ber of goals you have, and you will get a mean val­ue of the chal­lenge ahead.
  4. If the mean val­ue is above 4 and clos­er to 5, have a think on if this real­ly is a rea­son­able lev­el for the next while ahead. How are you now, and what else is on your plate up ahead? Are you up for the extra strain? Should you per­haps low­er your ambi­tions in some respect, so that you get to enjoy the jour­ney as well as even­tu­al­ly reach­ing the goal? Or, does it inspire you to have such high goals and would you just feel dis­ap­point­ed if you set a low­er stan­dard for yourself?
  5. If the mean grade is around a 2 or below, think about if the goals you have set real­ly will make a dif­fer­ence in your life and work. If you are more or less con­vinced that you will reach them, will they feel fun and inspir­ing to work towards? Or are you faced with a peri­od of oth­er strains and chal­lenges that will require space, time and ener­gy, and hence set­ting high­er goals would only be a burden?

The goals will last you longer

If you reflect on and get an idea of what the col­lec­tive, total chal­lenge or ener­gy need­ed will be (either by doing the steps above or by some oth­er means) for all your goals in the next while ahead, the goals will mat­ter more to you. Instead of get­ting in too deep and falling short half-way, you will have made a con­scious deci­sion on what lev­el to set your bar at. 

You will take the goals much more seri­ous­ly because of it, and they will become a valu­able sup­port in your dai­ly pri­or­i­ti­za­tion amongst oth­er tasks and projects.

What is your method?

How do you set goals that are rea­son­able, but not too low, when you set course for the next months ahead? Per­haps you have a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent method from what I just described. If you do I would love to hear about it, so tell me!

(Also, did you know that con­crete goals make you hap­pi­er?)

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