Without Also Making Them Automatic
I’ve become a bit of a resolution curmudgeon: and not only because I’ve set goals that went nowhere – although I’ve set plenty of those.
A few years ago, I wanted a new goal paradigm, a new way of looking at getting what I wanted out of life.
And as happens so often in life, the answer came from a place I wasn’t even looking. Everything I needed to know about goal setting came one day while watching a child take his first steps.
A tentative little step . . .
And again: until two steps became four, and then six steps across the room into his overjoyed daddy’s arms.
This kid didn’t have to set a goal to walk. It was automatic. There’s this inner guidance system inside most little kids propelling them to take those first steps, no matter what it takes.
“Hmmm . . .” I mused to myself.
“I wish I had that kind of unstoppable motivation to help me get what I want,” I said, from the plush comfort of the couch, beverage in hand.
And then I started thinking.
What if each of us had an “inner goal guidance system” already programmed to lead us step-by-step in the direction of everything we wanted?
And what if all we had to do was switch it on?
I started looking for that system, and the switch to turn it on.
After a few false starts, I found it. And although I’m pretty sure I didn’t invent this term, let’s call this switching mechanism “Embedded Inevitability.”
Let’s switch on that goal-getting engine . .
Goals and the Successive Now
A guidance system very similar to the one that helped most of us learn how to walk still exists inside us all. But, for the average person it lies dormant, thanks to years of unexamined, sometimes mindless choices that often lead to results we never wanted.
We have one of my favorite Rodney White prints hanging over the TV. It reads:
“The future is just a collection of successive nows.”
Isn’t that what quality of life comes down to? Cultivating an awareness of each “now” and intentionally taking a series of small, mindful, and purposeful steps that move us toward experiences, people, and opportunities – and closer to our highest potential.
The challenge is this: we’ve all had lots of intentions, goals, and grand plans that never went anywhere.
Maybe we wrote them down, broke them down into small steps, even applied dates and deadlines to each of those small steps.
But, we never actually took the steps.
Our automatic inner goal guidance system remained dormant.
But that’s O.K.
Even if our inner guidance system is temporarily on the fritz, there’s still a way to take those baby steps toward a new goal.
Once you ‘plop’ down onto the couch, all hope is not lost if you’ve applied this one strategy first: “Embedded Inevitability.”
So what is this secret E.I. Formula? It has two parts: calendar and context.
What you’re focusing on right now (like reading this post – thanks!) is either helping you create the results you desire in the future, or not.
Yes, I do set goals. Goals are one of the voices my imagination uses to flesh out my wildest dreams and fondest desires.
And most of us are “S.M.A.R.T.” enough to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and tangible.
Many of us even break those goals down into action steps.
The switch for me happened when I started using calendar and context to “embed” my intentions into every, single day. This makes getting what I want inevitable, almost automatic.
Here’s a popular example: Losing weight.
Hitting the Now Switch: The Power of Disruption
Let’s say we want to lose some weight. Perfect New Year’s resolution fodder.
A goal by itself has a certain level of safety built in. We can say, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by March 30th,” and even though we’ve followed proper goal-setting protocol, by itself, that goal lacks the propellant power of an automatic system connected to today’s actions.
And that’s the problem with goals: they live somewhere in the future. Which is precisely where we aren’t.
If a goal does not disrupt today in some way, we don’t have a goal. We have a wish doomed to be unfulfilled.
Do you want to start a new business?
In what ways are you willing to disrupt your daily life to get that business off the ground?
Do you want to save more money?
Is it disruptive enough for you to save the cash you now spend on that frothy and crave-inducing morning latte? If that disruption doesn’t cause a little discomfort at first, it might not be disruptive enough to get the job done.
How about we go for that morning pastry, as well . . .
And what about our March 30th goal to lose those 20 pounds? We’re planning on exercising three times a week, and we’re cutting out all those bad carbohydrates.
Let’s tackle exercise, first: We all know from experience that if we don’t schedule exercise into our calendar – actually choose to move other things, to get up earlier – if we don’t make those disruptive choices — then life just “expands” to never quite allow enough time for the gym.
And March 30th arrives, and we weigh an additional six pounds.
What if Your Calendar Just Isn’t Disruptive Enough?
Let’s say that programmed timer reminding you to stretch goes off on your computer, and day after day, you don’t respond: you don’t get up to exercise.
There are just too many pressing obligations in your in-box. You’ll keep that appointment tomorrow.
Ask yourself: What would be disruptive enough to get me up from that computer and to the exercise mat?
When the calendar isn’t enough, it’s time for disruptive context.
Sometimes we’ve just got to embed a little deeper.
Here’s an example: Common alarm clocks can’t wake me up in the morning. And if one does manage to disturb my slumber, I’ll never remember hitting that “snooze” alarm six times until it finally dies.
Nope, I’ve got to do some serious morning disruption to get myself out of bed. That alarm not only has to be loud, it must be located in another room. I have to physically get up, open doors, travel across the room and turn it off.
So if scheduling exercise isn’t enough, let’s do some creative embedding.
Let’s say you drive to work. How about taking the bus, and getting off four blocks away from the office?
That’s some serious embedding: doesn’t matter if we’re tired or not in the mood, we’re going to get that exercise.
Because we’ve embedded it into our day.
What about the “cutting carbs” part of our goal? The same principle applies. We embed this expectation into our plans.
- Donuts in the break room every morning? Time that walk from the bus to leave you just enough time to make it to your desk, avoiding the dreaded break room.
- Invited to pizza and beer after work with friends? Embed your desires for that slim waistline into your actions: Maybe pack a sack lunch and fill up before venturing on over to Pizza Hut.
Embedding is easy, once you get the hang of it.
Schedule what you want into your day.
And then get creative: Embed actions into every day that support your goals, and plan around those actions that get in the way, or even sabotage your goals.
Over to you . . .
What do you think about this theory — anything to add, improvements to make it better?
What are your year-end goal setting secrets?
Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful Baby Photo Courtesy of by Tela Chhe