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.
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:
- Take out your goals.
- 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.
- Sum up the grades and divide by the number of goals you have, and you will get a mean value of the challenge ahead.
- 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?
- 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?)