By: Angelo Poli, Founder of MetPro and Whole Body Fitness
Goals are fine and dandy. I’ve been drilling them into my clients for decades. To be honest I’ve pretty much mastered the bait and switch goal setting scene. Get just a little faster, jump just a little higher, and drop those last five pounds! Yay, you did it! The confetti hasn’t even hit the floor and I’m already plotting your next goal.
Why? The answer is simple. In our goal-oriented society, humans are never quite content. We use goal setting as a means to achieve something that we believe will make us happy. One after one, we set a goal, accomplish it and move on to the next. Nothing motivates us more than measurable progress, and goals are great for that. The reason being is that we focus on the objective we’re trying to achieve. Want to lose 20 lbs? Here’s you then… and bam! Here’s you now! Want a promotion? Land bigger clients, work longer hours and boom! Get that raise!
In theory, goal setting is not bad. Setting an objective and working toward personal or professional growth is powerful. The problem with goal setting is the manner in which it is executed.
The Problem With Goal Setting
The problem: goals have a secret flaw. After we set a goal and achieve it, reward centers are triggered in the brain causing us to feel moments of happiness and success. But how long does it last?
By themselves, goals have no staying power. They shift our focus from the process to the outcome. In fact, we use them to create artificial motivation to do things that would otherwise make us cringe. Go run that marathon! Give up sugar! Complement your mother-in-law’s cooking! Ok, maybe I’m mixing up a goal with a dare but here’s the point – we use goals like kindling is used to start a fire. Unless we actually change how we act and think, they’re just a ploy to ignite something inside of us.
We all know that one person in our life, who wakes you up in 30-degree weather and says, “Let’s go for a run! And then we can start that bathroom remodel we’ve been talking about.” What do you think is driving their motivation? Well, you probably guessed it. There are no goals involved and no one’s lost a bet. Their motivation is driven by their real-life values. Their values act as the underlying principles for the choices they make, how they behave and how they want to live.
You can’t control everything life throws at you. Life will pitch you curve balls and try to throw you off course. Without a strong foundation rooted in values, those curve balls will wreck your goals, guaranteed.
Goals vs. Values
What you can control are the values you live by. Despite life’s ups and downs, they are a part of who you are. Your behaviors and outcomes are shaped and molded by the values you adopt. Values are a result of your behavior, whereas goals are stepping-stones to bigger and better life-values.
One of the most iconic examples of goals versus values is “getting in shape” for your wedding. Many people reach their goal and feel great for their wedding day, but what happens after the honeymoon is over? They fall back into previous habits (and shape) unless they changed their values too.
My friends are always asking me what I think of their diet and what they can do to be healthier. The truth is, I really don’t care what they ate for lunch. What I do care about is if they’ve adopted a value set surrounding good nutrition. If eating kale every day for thirty days is a goal that helps them become healthier, then I’m all for it. If they still hate kale a month from now, they might want to rethink their strategy.
How Can We Set Effective Goals?
Goals are an important part of measuring progress, but goals will come and go. Values dictate your long-term beliefs and actions. If there’s an area of your life you want to improve, don’t pick a goal – go bigger. Adopt a personal value you consider worthy and use goals as mile markers along your way to owning a broader value.