Goals are pointless unless you start with the why

We’re quickly getting past the New Year frenzy and hopefully we might be over all of the New Year’s resolutions and Next year goals posts.

Not that I have anything against resolutions and goals — or maybe I do, sometimes –, it’s just that I don’t get all of the excitement around them. Also considering the fact that such an excitement only manifests itself once a year.

Goals are a good thing, until they aren’t

"When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps." - Confucius

I get why someone would want to set her/his own goals at the beginning of a new year. It can give you a motivation boost, put you in a positive mood and get you ready to tackle a new year.

Unfortunately, though, goals — and don’t even get me started on resolutions — quickly fall out of sight and lose their power (Click to Tweet).
You have an important client who needs to have a project completed, your boss wants you to clock in a couple of extra hours, you name it. The result is that you start making up excuses for neglecting your goals.

Once you start drifting away from your goals, you feel guilty, I’d dare to say you begin feeling like a complete failure for taking parts from your noble goals.
But really, are your goals all that noble?

A goal feels lonely without its why

"If you set your goals ridiculously high and it's a failure, you will fail above everyone else's success." - James Cameron

Of course, each one of us will have different goals, but there are a few which are more frequent than others.

You say you want to lose weight this year? Interesting…

Or maybe you’d like to earn 30k from your side projects? Good job Scrooge McDuck!

You could even start woodcarving, right?

You see, a goal by itself doesn’t say much about yourself, it doesn’t hold any value, it’s just a goal (Click to Tweet).

But what if you start explaining the why behind your goal?

I want to lose weight so I’ll be in better shape and find it easier to play with my kids.

I want to earn 30k from side income so I can spend the next Summer traveling around South-East Asia.

I want to learn woodcarving because — I don’t really know what a good why might be, but I’ll try anyway — I need something to relax when I get home from work.

I think you can easily tell the difference between the two sets of goals: the first ones are flat, almost meaningless, while the others are much more profound, they really tell something about the person setting them.

There’s one big difference between the two: initially they were just goals, nothing more nothing less, while later they became the tool to achieve a mean. It’s a very different thing.

Let’s take the first goal: losing weight.
A lot of people want to lose weight, guess how many do it? Not many!
Losing weight, on its own, doesn’t hold much value, it’s just something you think you should do.

But see it from the other perspective: “I want to be in good health and not get tired as f*$% when I play with my kids”. So what can be done about it? Losing weight! It’s the same result in the end, but here it becomes the tool to achieve what you want.

We started with the why and ended with a goal!

Obstacles are on the way

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” - Pablo Picasso

While trying to reach a goal, it’s very easy that things will get tough, that you’ll find obstacles on your way preventing you from achieving your big goals.

The problem is very often, you’ll get discouraged and will start coming up with excuses which will inevitably lead to giving up.

Unless you know the why behind your goal.

When you’re trying to reach a goal without a clear view of the reason behind why you’re trying to achieve it, you’ll find it much more difficult to find the grit to pound through obstacles and to find the motivation you need day-in day-out.
In order to do that, you need to know why you should keep on going, why is it that you want to get there.

Having a clear reason for setting a goal is of the utmost importance, otherwise it will seem like you’re trying to empty the ocean with a bucket.

When things get tough, and they will, it’s not enough to have a goal, you need to have something bigger going on, something which really talks to your soul, otherwise it’s a sure path to failure.

Reach your goals one habit at a time

"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan." - Tom Landry

If you think about it, each goal you set for yourself is basically a new habit you need to introduce in your daily life (Click to Tweet).

And as we all know, sticking to a new habit is a lot of hard work at first. Sure, after a couple of months it will be second nature, but it’s going to be two tough months as you force yourself to introduce a new routine in your life.

Again, you’re gonna give up well before the two months mark unless you know why you want to start a new habit, because in the beginning you’ll have to fight against your own will.

Let’s say your goal, as before, is to earn 30k from side income. And let’s say that you have to make 3 cold calls a day to generate leads for your side project. This is what it’s going to sound like unless you have your whys in place: “I need to make 3 cold calls today. Why? Well, because I think it would be a good thing to do.” BORING!

Compare it to this: “I need to make 3 cold calls today. Why? Because I want to earn 30k from side income. Why again? Because I want to spend next Summer traveling around South East Asia.” BAM!

Take out your yearly goals

"No matter how carefully you plan your goals they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto." - W. Clement Stone

So go get your yearly goals and resolutions, I know you’ve got them hidden somewhere.

List them out on a piece of paper but add your why before them.

I want to get THIS, so I need to do THAT.

This is the only way I know to set goals and make sure you stick to them. Good luck!

What’s your goal? and what’s your why? Let me know!

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  • Rosanna 2016.02.04 at 00:49

    My current goal is to lose weight. 10 pounds to be exact. Why? Because after having baby #3, I’d really like to fit into my clothes again :-)

    I often come up with ideas without really thinking through the why. No wonder they always fall flat. I forget just how important it is to get clear about your reasons. Great post.

    • Michele Finotto 2016.02.04 at 08:05

      Glad you liked the post…and good luck with your goal, I’m sure you’ll make it as you already seem pretty determined!

  • Shae 2016.02.04 at 09:15

    I loved this post Michele. And it makes complete sense to know your reasons why you are achieving your goal. I have to admit I do believe that if I had set goals earlier on in my life, my life would be different to what it is today and I have become much more goal driven later in life. I really hate hearing advice from people that state things like you just have to know what you want and don’t worry about how you will achieve it. That’s not true. I’ve been there done that and it’s never worked. You have to know the what, why and how IMHO.

  • Andrew 2016.02.04 at 21:51

    Love this. I am actually working on a post to really break down goal-setting. But I agree that a “why” is instrumental to the follow through. Great post.

    Andrew McDonald

  • Carl Plumer 2016.02.05 at 02:41

    This article is spot on. When I was in my best shape earlier in my life, my goal was NEVER to “get in shape, lose weight, build muscle, blah blah blah.” I was working on my tennis game, or my basketball game, or increasing my running distance, or my biking distance. The resulting superfit body and healthy heart, etc., were side benefits that I could never have reached if I had set as a goal: “I want to get superfit!” :) I was aiming for a different target altogether, a positive one (not one that came out of “I’m so fat” or “I’m out of shape.” Those aren’t motivators! So I would say to anyone looking to get in shape: find a fun objective, something you LOVE doing, and just go do that. The weight will lose itself, the muscles will build themselves.

  • Kimya Jayne 2016.02.05 at 12:33

    Excellent post. It’s no good having goals if you don’t know why you want to achieve your goal. I like to break my goals down into annual, monthly, weekly and daily, with small goals to achieve throughout the day. I have recently started using the Pomodoro Technique for this – and have become way more productive in doing so. Thanks for posting.

  • cath 2016.02.09 at 21:55

    Thanks Michael.Goal setting is something that I am not too good at! What you say makes sense though and does have me thinking about the way that I currently work!

    • Michele Finotto 2016.02.10 at 11:59

      The good thing is anyone can get better at setting goals. I wasn’t very good, either, but I learned my way around it. Good luck!

  • Mikael 2016.10.05 at 03:20

    You’re doing a great job writing. Great content that i have observed to be true.
    Setting goals the right way makes all the difference.

    Keep up the good work :)

    • Michele Finotto 2016.10.06 at 16:37

      Thanks Mikael, glad you like what I’m writing here!

      Take care!

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