Putting goals in writing is similar to eating a healthy diet or following a budget. We know from reams of research that the results are vitally important to well-being. We know that, done correctly, these actions work to produce results. We know our lives would be better if we did them.
And despite all that knowledge, we don’t do them. Isn’t it interesting how our brains often work against us?
Writing out goals helps our brains work for us instead. Once goals are down on paper, there is little need to do anything else with them. It’s uncanny how the unconscious portion of the brain can retain them and move us toward accomplishing them.
One of the main reasons we don’t set goals is that the task of writing out or updating goals isn’t urgent. Our lives are filled with urgent tasks, like getting to places on time, providing meals, coping with household emergencies, and keeping up with our jobs. These, which some time management experts call “C” tasks, keep us so busy that we rarely set aside time to do the more important, non-urgent tasks. These are the “A” tasks like drawing a will, shopping for insurance, setting up a retirement account, and writing goals.
Another reason some of us resist setting goals is having had an experience of “been there, done that, and it didn’t work.” Many of us have set goals that simply did not come to pass. One possible reason for this lack of success is that we were trying to achieve unmeasurable goals. For example: “I will become a great parent.” “I will become financially independent.” “I will be a great boss.” “I will get into shape.”
These are not measurable. How do you know if you are a great parent? What is the measurement or the standard? The definition of a great parent is up to the subjective opinions of you and everyone else. There is no way to know if you are there. A goal like this, that doesn’t have a specific date for accomplishment and cannot be measured, is doomed to failure. No wonder so many of us have trouble keeping New Year’s resolutions; they often are unmeasurable goals.
Wanting to be a great parent is an intention, not a goal. Goals are actions that support intentions. For example, what are some of the signs of great parenting? One might be having good communication with your children. This is still another intention. What does good communication look like? Maybe it means doing something with them weekly, acquiring exquisite listening skills, or connecting with them daily via text or email. All of those are actionable goals that can have a specific date for accomplishment and a measurable action.
Some examples might be: “I will plan an activity to do with my child every Saturday afternoon, beginning February 1.” “I will have completed a Love and Logic workshop by May 1.” “By July 1, I will have formed a habit of texting my child once a day.”
These goals are specific and measurable. They can easily be tracked by putting them into a calendar or a reminder program like Alarmed.com on your smart phone, tablet, or desktop.
Creating measurable goals and writing them down is an effective tool. I know it works. For example, I once made a list of goals that included buying an SUV three years into the future, in January. I filed that goals sheet and forgot it until I came across it five years later. In my garage was a two-year-old SUV. Even without consciously remembering the goal, I had purchased it right on schedule.
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