Anatomy of a Goal

There are basically two types of people in this crazy world: proactive people and reactive people. Believe it or not, that’s it. Everyone you know will fall into one of those two simple categories. While a dissertation with a ridiculous word count could be written to compare and contrast the two, from my perspective, the basic difference is that proactive people co-create the Life they want while reactive people sit around and hope things will happen.

My intent for this article is to share an “on-the-surface” outline of how I feel proactive people are able to co-create exactly what they want. [Please note that what follows is my take on an article written over 12 years ago by Coach Charles Staley entitled Goal Orientation]. With the dawn of yet another New Year comes the nauseating (at least for me) New Year’s Resolutions and attempted goal setting. Here is how you can actually achieve what you are looking to achieve in 2016!

When looking at setting and achieving goals, the questions that must be answered are:
1. What exactly do you want? Stated differently, what is your goal?
2. How badly do you really want it?
3. How serious are you? No…really, how serious?
4. Have you considered what you will have to give up to get it?

Let’s explore each of these questions individually:

What Do You Want / What is your goal?
For the purpose of this post, I will use Charles Staley’s definition of a goal (as a side note Charles is one of the best Physical Preparation Specialists and strength coaches in the world and has been for a very long time).

A goal is: a written expression of desire to accomplish a specific, personally meaningful objective within a specific, predetermined time-frame. It might interest you to know that there is good research that shows that fewer than 2% of all people have even a single written goal at any time.

A couple of points to make with reference to the definition above.

A goal must be stated in writing: If it is not written, it is not a goal. Writing something down is the very first step in manifesting a goal as a physical reality. The ancestor to every action is a thought. Write those thoughts (goals) down. It may be a wish, or a weak desire, maybe even a fantasy, but it is not a goal if you do not write the damn thing down. Period. This is where you reach for pencil and paper…

A goal must be specific and measurable: Emphasis here is the word specific. Your desires to “be a better business owner” or “look a little better in a bikini” are not goals. They are merely statements that are entirely too vague. We need to specify which parts you want to look better and in what way, or in what areas you plan to improve your entrepreneurial skills. For the latter goal, we need to discuss body composition and what kind of objective we have here. In order to be specific, your goal must be measurable in some way. In this bikini case, specific body fat percentage and circumference measurements are warranted.

Why Do You Want It?
Few people investigate this aspect of goal setting. This is a disservice to the process of goal attainment because as Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last) says, “It all starts with Why!”

A goal must be personally meaningful and be worthy of your unconditional love and resolve. The most important word in that previous sentence is “personally.” If the desire to achieve your goal is being driven by anything outside of yourself – trust me, you have set yourself up for failure right from the start. Your ‘why’ must have real value to YOU. The desire to lose a few inches off of your waistline because your wife says you are looking a little soggy around the midsection is not the best energy to place behind your goal of achieving a better looking body. Next, consider if this goal is really worth the considerable time and effort that it will take to manifest. If not, redefine your goal or go back to the drawing board and create an entirely new one altogether.

What will you have to give up in order to achieve your goal? This is an important question to consider. In order to achieve your goal, you will have to dedicate substantial energy and resources to the cause. There may be “things” that do not serve to move you towards your goal at the appropriate speed that may need to be given up. As a rather crude example, if you desire to improve body composition, you may have to give up eating a nightly bowl of ice cream. You may also have to give up partying until 2 a.m. in the morning in favor of restorative sleep. Time glued to the television may be better served dedicated to food preparation and gym time.
Given that the following is true:

More of the Same + More of the Same = More of the Same…

You know that in order to achieve something other than what you currently have, changes will have to be made and “things” that do not serve you in becoming the greatest version of your Self are best if given up and discarded.

A goal must be challenging, but definitely not impossible: If your goal is not challenging, you are not likely to set in motion the energy it will require to attain it.

How Long Will it Take?

Most of the “experts” will tell you that a goal must have a specific date of completion because time-frames and dead lines are what create pressure to get the job done. I disagree. How long will it take? Who cares? For me, it’s about falling in the love with the process of achieving the goal – the process of becoming the greatest version of your Self.

Anyone who is truly great at their craft – be they an elite athlete, coach, therapist, entrepreneur, musician, singer, author, etc. has been in love with the process of becoming great (no I am not saying that it is always sunshine and rainbows). Greatness may or may not have been the goal the entire time, but the love of the process was a pre-requisite to their greatness. If you do choose to place a deadline for your goal, the time frame for your goal(s) must be aggressive, but also realistic as well as flexible. Your time-frame can be modified on the fly in the event that you experience set backs or advances during your journey. A sound strategy that I have observed in proactive people is that they are always prepared for a “setback” and respond readily and positively to them. Above all, enjoying the journey to obtaining the goal is a critical aspect of the proactive individual.

To Share or Not to Share?
Let’s face it – a LOT of people just plain ol’ suck; and really do not want you to succeed – if that offends you, too bad.  In fact, deep down, many of them are routing for you to fail. These people take many forms and are quite often some of the people that you are closest to (spouse, parent, child, sibling, and co-workers, all the way down to the nonsensical, random acquaintances that you may experience).

Depending on your personal psychology, you may not want to automatically express your goal to everyone you know. Considering the various levels of consciousness around you, you are likely to receive a wide array of responses when you share your goals with others. For example, if you thrive on proving people wrong (picture me raising my hand with a really excited look on my face here), then it may serve you to express your goals to those who are most likely to doubt your abilities. By the same token, if you have thin skin and prefer only positive feedback, avoiding such people like the plague in favor of those who will be nurturing and supportive of what you are trying to accomplish is probably a better battlefield strategy.

It has been my experience for the past 16 years that if you are pursuing challenging goals, especially those that involve taking your health, body/fitness, and vitality to the next level, “herd mentality” will view you as a freak, an outsider, a weirdo, an outcast, or perhaps an idiot. It is also my opinion that these people are simply pissed that you are doing what they themselves want to do, but do not do for various reasons. If this drives you, use the negativity of others as fuel and enjoy the journey of completing what others say cannot be done.

Fear of Failure
F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Do not let fear stand in the way of you achieving a meaningful goal in your life. As Caroline Myss, PhD has stated, “Take the riskiest path you can find.” There is much more to say here but I will leave it at that for now.

Are You Moving towards the Goal at the Appropriate Speed?
Once you have created your achievement plan and have put your nose to the dirt, you need to have a reliable way of assessing whether or not your plan is working. You must test quantifiable outcomes on predetermined dates, and then implement changes if these tests do not reveal the kind of progress you seek (being prepared for setbacks). When implementing change, it is critical to change one variable at a time, while holding all other variables constant. This will allow you to fine-tune your approach to achieving your goals most efficiently and effectively. Remember, even if things do not go according to plan, one with a plan will usually outperform one with no plan.

And there you have it – The Anatomy of a Goal. Take these things into account and enjoy being proactive. Having said all of that, and I realize that was a lot of stuff, I would like to leave you with a quote to meditate on which basically makes most of what is written above completely irrelevant – how great is that:

I am personally a pretty big fan of Taoism.
“‘Tao’ means the way — they don’t talk about the goal. The goal will take care of itself; you need not worry about the goal. If you know the way, you know the goal, because the goal is not at the very end of the way, the goal is all over the way — each moment and each step it is there. To be on the way is to be in the goal.”


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