The real secret to achieving your goals

Published May 13, 2020, 2 min read, tagged as: careermentorship

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about goals. I believe that by setting clear, attainable goals and being able to measure successes or adjust course appropriately allows us to track progress and in that feeling of progression is something that motivates us.

It's human nature to want more. We want to achieve more, have more, know more. Setting a time-bound, measurable goal is a great way to create check in points and be retrospective. Its a great way to see whether we're actually achieving more. But its easy to set the wrong goal, and this seemingly harmless mistake can actually prove to be very costly.

Take a situation we've probably all been in at some point. "My new years resolution is to start going to the gym." How many times have you said and failed at this goal? When you make the goal your intention is in the right place. You know you have to be healthier and going to the gym is how you can do it. But the execution is lacking something - motivation. If you're not already motivated to go to the gym what makes you think that's going to change? Luckily, there's a simple way for you to start changing your behaviors to not only achieve your goal, but be so motivated that success becomes a side effect and not the focus.

Why do I even want to go to the gym? I want to be healthy. Going to the gym is just the output, but being healthier is the outcome that I actually desire. The gym is just a single output that contributes to that outcome. I also have to eat healthier and work on mental health etc. So, what if I change my goal to measure what actually matters?

Try focusing on the "why" and not the "what". There's a reason why we do what we do. You may want a promotion, but why? Is it because you want more money? Maybe you want more responsibility? Waiting for a promotion is a very passive goal, there's only so much you actually control. But what about wanting more responsibility? Is that something you can do proactively? Probably. Let's have a look at some example goals, writing them as outputs vs outcomes and then compare the impact.

I'm going to go to the gym 3 times a week.
Output
I'm going to go to the gym 3 times a week.
Outcome
I'm going to be healthier and lose 10lbs.
Impact
Going to the gym is pretty binary, you either did it or you didn't. But what if you hurt yourself? Or the gym closes? It's too easy to break the habit and too hard to stay motivated. But by focusing on being healthy there's so much more you can do - find healthy meals, reading more etc. If you miss a gym session, you're still able to do other things and keep the momentum going which becomes your motivator.
Im going to start getting up earlier in the morning.
Output
Im going to start getting up earlier in the morning.
Outcome
Im going to get up an hour early to read and write.
Impact
We've all been guilty of saying "there's not enough hours in the day". But we all have the same amount of time. It's easy to combat that feeling by saying we'll get up earlier but for what? If you don't have a plan all you're doing is getting up to feel tired. I actually plan what I'm going to do the night before, that way getting up is easy because I'm excited to get my day started.
I'm going to learn to code in 6 months.
Output
I'm going to learn to code in 6 months.
Outcome
I'm going to get a job as a developer.
Impact
Coding is a huge challenge and if you don't have a purpose it's hard to keep going. What are you trying to achieve? Maybe you want to create a new product, or want a new job? Focusing on that end goal makes the day to day grind much easier to get through.
I want a promotion to management.
Output
I want a promotion to management.
Outcome
I'm going to start mentoring others.
Impact
Be careful what you wish for. That promotion comes with new responsibilities that you may not love. How much do you control in getting a promotion anyway? Maybe you want a promotion because you want to feel empowered to make decisions or there's certain responsibilities you want. What can you do already?

The most important step is to plan ahead. Think about the outcomes you want to deliver so you can focus on achieve the outputs and manifest the impact in your mind so you have motivation to work toward.

Here's an example of how to separate inputs, outputs and outcomes. Taking the example of wanting to be healthier, first we identify the inputs - getting a gym membership, changing our shopping habits and getting access to knowledge that helps us grow. Next, we identify the outputs - these are the actions we're going to take and act as our measures of success. If i'm going to the gym and i'm feeling more confident I can attribute the change to having a healthier body and mind. Next, we're identifying the underlying reason and that's the outcome we want to have. Finally we're acknowledging that it's an ongoing cycle. Some things will work and some things won't, but we have to make the necessary adjustments to the inputs and outputs to keep pushing in the right direction. I call that the feedback loop.

Create something similar for your own goals, focus on the outcome and see if it motivates you to success.

I tweet about this type of thing a lot. If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy following me.

October 29, 2019, 4 min read
careermentorship

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World Class Teams Create World Class Products

A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change.

I'm writing a book! I share:

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Released September 30, 2020

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