By Jon Lee
George is someone I’ve known for years. He’s a great guy. Smart, ambitious, down-to-earth. The passion George has for pursuing his goals is inspiring, even contagious; it’s made me pause, and reflect on my own goals more than once.
It’s been one of George’s long-time goals to lose weight. He’s been trying for years, but he always seems to give up at the start of the grind.
Time and time again, come every New years, he’ll re-announce that this is the year, the year that his goal of losing weight will become one of his accomplishments and that we should look forward to celebrating with him.
He’d then proceed to tell us about the latest diet he’s on. George has tried all the diets, Atkins, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Raw Food — if the diet existed, you could be sure he’s tried it at some point. Hypnotherapy and splurging on new exercise equipment was a reoccurring theme, and personal trainers often, in-between memberships spanning across three different gyms.
George has amazing passion and ambition but despite all that, he still falls short of his goals. The irony of it is that not only has he not lost weight, he’s actually gained weight.
In a way, we’re all just like George.
Ask yourself: How many times have we promised to make a change but didn’t follow through? How many of the New Year resolutions we’ve set are already foregone and forgotten?
We might have goals other than losing weight, but the most of us still fall short from our goals. We’re nowhere where we want to be.
So why is it that we have such a hard time accomplishing the goals that we set? Goals were meant to be difficult, not impossible.
There are two reasons generally as to why we fail to accomplish goals.
The first reason, traditionally more obvious, is from a lack of commitment towards our goal. The more ambitious your goal is, the longer it’ll take to complete — days, months, or perhaps even years. If we don’t commit to our goals, we’ll more likely to give up from any of the many obstacles or setbacks we’ll encounter.
Walt Disney once said, “The difference between winning and losing, is most often, not quitting.” Persistence is key. Goals without our commitment are just mere dreams; the only way to accomplish them is to follow through and persist.
The second reason, often unrecognized, is the way we approach our goals. We often challenge our goals head-on with sheer willpower, driven only by our ambitious and initial thoughts of success. We visualize the success of that goal and becoming impatient, we aim for to achieve the goal in the shortest, more difficult, way possible.
We become so blinded by the prospect of accomplishing that goal that we forget the difficulty in actually doing it.
This is the reason why most goals are left unaccomplished. Instead of taking the time to observe our goals and come up with a plan, we use brute force.
Whenever George tries to lose weight, he’ll set up a routine for himself. He’ll track his macros, calculate his protein and caloric intake, research a diet to follow, plan his meals, shop for ingredients, prep his meals, shop online for supplements, watch exercise videos, decide on a workout routine, hire a personal trainer, schedule his workout, buy new workout gear and equipment, all the whilst juggling work and spending time with family.
Is it really a surprise why he fails to achieve his goals? The number of changes he’s making and has to adapt to is enough to overwhelm most people.
The way we approach our goals sets us up for failure.
What George could’ve done was to take his goal of losing weight and separate it into smaller, and more easily achievable milestones.
Instead of worrying about starting a new diet, tracking macros, etc., the only thing he needs to do is focus on actually getting to the gym. It seems like a small milestone in the grand scheme of things, but realize this: you’re still making a change. It’s still progress.
As long as you continue making progress and completing these milestones, you’ll be closer to accomplishing your goal. Eventually, you’ll realize that just by having completed all those smaller goals, the original goal will no longer seem as intimidating as it once had.
The difference between one giant goal and many smaller ones is the perception on the progress made. With one goal, any progress you make will feel minuscule, a drop in the bucket, when compared to how much further you’ll still need to go. With smaller goals, progress is obvious. Any progress you make will be leap and bounds because the distance you’ll need to travel becomes much shorter. These small successions of progress become motivation for you to keep striving forward.
There’s nothing wrong with separating your goals into smaller milestones. The vision is still there; you’re achieving the same goal, just in smaller pieces.
What’s better? Achieving your goals late, or never having achieved them at all?
Create reasonable milestones to strive towards. Don’t blindly copy what others set as milestones because what works for them might not work for you. Everyone has different priorities in life, whether it’s spending time with friends and family, advancing on their careers, or other goals or hobbies that they’re striving towards. Set milestones that work for you.
Be honest to yourself and don’t rush the process. Stay the course.