There is a distinct difference between wishes and goals. Most people have wishes rather than goals. They want to be rich. They want to be healthy or they want to travel the world. It’s fun to wish and dream, but what turns a wish into a goal is direction and a plan to be able to produce the goal. One of my favorite books is Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg.
If you want to turn your dreams into goals and your goals into reality take what I have learned from Duhigg. There is no bigger dreamer than me, but at some point, I stopped being dream oriented and moved to being process oriented. The lessons from Duhigg’s book made the transition and the process easier. These are my thoughts on goal setting inspired by Duhigg.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Charles Duhigg talks extensively on stretch goals. Stretch goals are plans that are beyond our current reach and resources. In some cases, these are the toughest because when you live within a certain paradigm you don’t even know where to begin. The beauty of stretch goals is that they push you into thinking outside of your current situation. The challenge with them is that we get tired of waiting around for our reward.
On the other hand, the problem with SMART goals is that they keep you locked in your current circumstance and traditionally don’t add any real joy to your life. Success is measured by checking off items on a to-do list. They make stretch goals seem like a dream. Duhigg writes that the antidote to this problem is to marry stretch goals and SMART goals. Some goals need to be stretched and some goals need to be SMART.
I know that the phrase ‘SMART goals’ makes a lot of people cringe, but you have to admit, some of that is just an internal commentary on our own past slip-ups. A decade from now people will have a new phrase for the same damn things so for simplicity’s sake we’re going to bite the bullet and use them:
In case you’ve forgotten SMART stands for:
Call them what you like, just plan and complete some concrete work that you can actually measure against these standards. You need that reward. Start small and grow accustomed to that feeling. I also like Duhigg’s take on motivation. “Studies say the number one best way to start an exercise habit is to give yourself a reward that you genuinely enjoy.” Any new exercise or achievement can be the beginning of a habit, since pleasure is arguably our greatest motivator, throw it into the mix.
Delayed gratification works for some, but instant gratification is universal. In other words, work with your instincts-not against them. Make your stretch goals the inevitable conclusion of hundreds of small rewards.