When everything around us seems volatile and uncertain – what’s the point in setting goals?
To answer this question – we first need to understand why we bother setting goals at all.
Humans are teleological in nature – it is a natural tendency to move towards a goal. Setting and achieving goals are well-researched contributors to psychological health and mental wellbeing.
Which also describes why it can feel so devastating when our goals are suddenly rendered unattainable.
How successful you feel depends on your definition of success – and this is where re-evaluating goals supports mental wellbeing.
If the game changes, move the goal-posts.
When the situation changes – those who cope better are the ones to adapt quicker. They adapt their expectations, they adapt the behaviours, they adapt their goals; and they start looking for new opportunities that present themselves in different ways.
There is something in your brain called a Reticular Activating System or RAS. Your RAS is like a finely tuned detection device. If you tell it something you want or are interested in, it scans the environment for you and alerts you when that object is detected. Have you ever had the experience of deciding to buy a new car, and then you start seeing that car on the road everywhere? It’s not that there are suddenly more of those cars on the road, it’s just that your RAS is now noticing them. Your RAS helps you see what is right in front of you in the service of goal achievement.
So do your brain a favour – define new markers for success.
To enhance your chances at successfully setting and achieving your goals – borrow these tricks from positive psychology:
Make them positive.
A positively oriented goal that represents a gain is a more powerful motivator than a negatively oriented goal that represents a loss. For example – gaining health is more motivating than losing weight.
Make them aspirational.
Set a goal that will stretch you a little beyond your current capacity. Challenge yourself to build competence and mastery by leveraging strengths and reaching into your potential. Olympic level athletes don’t train for four years just to match the current world record. They train to beat the record. Beat your own record.
Make them measurable.
Unless your goal is measurable – you will not know when you’ve achieved it. A simple and familiar acronym is to make your goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-framed. Except replace achievable with aspirational – and now you’re getting closer.
Moving your goal-posts does not mean giving up on your dreams for a fulfilled life or vision for your business. It just means you’re taking a slightly different path – one with a few more twists and turns; that is more challenging and will make you more resilient.