Life Lesson: Setting Realistic Goals


Goal setting is one of those things that I feel like everyone needs to know how to do but is never taught in a classroom or even a mandatory parent lesson.

Case and point, WeightWatchers is a multi-million dollar company.

The only real goals we talk about out loud are New Year’s Resolutions – these unfathomable, grandiose plans that 99% of people drop 3 weeks into the New Year, evidenced by the slowly declining numbers in the gym, an uptick in tobacco sales and a distinct down-trend in self-congratulating Facebook posts.

Really, New Years resolutions are pretty stupid.  If you give yourself an entire year to reach a goal, you’re just going to wait until the last minute to do it. We have the attention span of a goldfish. What makes you think that with a 7 second attention span, we can stay focused on a goal that’s fit for a Hollywood actor who has nothing to do but be Zen and work out?

I hate that feeling of losing a challenge. If I set a goal – I want to kick it’s ass. I don’t like feeling behind, like I’m not able to accomplish a goal I set for myself. So I started taking a new approach to how I set goals.

First of all, I always start big year-long goals on a birthday, not the new year. In reality, my birthday is a new year for me. So this is the time of year when I sit down to set bigger goals. The “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want to see 5 new countries”. Please note, I am not against big goals. I am against setting these big goals and then not taking the step I’m about to share.

My next step, the “magic sauce” if you will, is that I set four mini goals I will work on over 3 month timelines that will get me to each goal. For example, if I wanted to lose 20 pounds this year – I would focus on losing 5 pounds every 3 months. Losing about a pound a month feels like a far more reasonable, attainable goal. It’s a hell of a lot better than getting frustrated at myself for not losing 10 pounds in 3 months. When I quit smoking, I took the same approach. I set a weekly goal of how many cigarettes I could have per day, dropping it by one at least every week. Now I’m a quitter.

The reason this works so well is because you get to feel like a winner all the time. You know that little steps or even steps in the wrong direction are small and won’t completely take you off the track instead of feeling like a complete failure because you have a mountain in front of you instead of something as simple as one more step forward.

This same methodology goes for business goals. If you don’t know the incremental steps you’re going to take to get there, you’ll never actually get “there”, wherever the hell that is. It also has the same effect on employee moral. When people feel like they’re accomplishing great things – ideally being rewarded for them too – they stay longer. It’s that simple.

goal setting funny