easy goal setting for the skeptical mind

Easy Goal Setting for the Skeptical Mind

It’s a New Year! How’s that goal setting going?

You guys! We did it. A new year is upon us and thus too is an opportunity to be “resolute.” Obviously, we’re talking about resolutions and goal setting. And, although we’re not even one month into 2018, I’m already sick of the resolutions… as are many. Hell, I’m already seeing fewer numbers at the gym. As long as I can remember, I’ve hated resolutions. Maybe “hate” is a strong word… Maybe “been skeptical of” is better phraseology to describe my relationship with resolutions and the larger concept of “goal-setting.” I’ve certainly been a major skeptic of announcing my goals and there seems to be some research to back that up. If you too are a skeptic of resolutions and goal-setting then consider me an understanding ally in your skepticism.

What’s wrong with goal setting?

Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with goal achieving but it’s the act of goal setting, planning, writing, journaling, and… (gulp)… visualizing that’s so draining. Whew! That last sentence was so exhausting to think about that it became nearly impossible to articulate just how much I dislike it. I mean visualizing? Say what you will about the hated words of “moist” or “gurgle” but I often think the worst word in our modern lexicon has to be “visualization”.

I think this all stems from the expectations that come from goal setting among us lay people in the larger population. If there is something that you feel you must do for yourself, then you don’t wait, plan, or visualize – you just do it.

  • Your diet doesn’t need to start on Monday.
  • You don’t have to finish that last pack of cigarettes before you quit smoking.
  • You honestly don’t need a new outfit to start working out.
  • You definitely don’t need a new computer to start writing that book.

If you are feeling so compelled to do THAT THING that would be “life-changing”, then when why is there so much rigmarole and waiting? Just start doing it. At least, that’s what I used to believe… and still do with caveats.

My Journey

My biggest life change came about 7.5 years ago. My wife and I were expecting our first child and there was this guy at my work that had a heart attack at the age of 33. This dude was in incredible shape (much better shape than myself) but due to life stresses and a congenital defect, he had a heart attack. Although I don’t have any congenital abnormalities myself, I couldn’t help but have some anxieties about the fact that I was tipping the scales at 280 pounds, not yet 30, not yet experiencing all the pressure life has to offer, and that if I didn’t change I might not be around for my kids. So… I just started.

Basic stuff, really – I took a dry erase marker and wrote down my weight on our bathroom mirror. “7/1/2010 – 277.8”.

Then I did some stuff. I can’t tell you exactly what I did because I didn’t write it down. It was pretty simple stuff: I ate fewer breakfast sandwiches; I ordered 4 items from Taco Bueno instead of 5; ate 5 slices of pizza instead of 8; and, did about 15 knee pushups in the morning and in the evening. When we brought our son home from the hospital 15 days later, I weighed 260.

After that, I did something the skeptic in me shakes his head at: I wrote down the date of one-week in the future, and wrote down a weight beside it… a goal weight. Without realizing it, I had written down a goal.

It was only about a pound or two but I did it again, and again, and again. I didn’t really have an “end” goal in my mind… just short term goals. I met or surpassed many of those goals but on many of them I fell well short. Hell, sometimes I went in the opposite direction and gained weight during that period of time. The point is that despite not having an “end-goal” in mind, I had the idea of progress on my mind and defined success one week at a time. Eventually, I got down to 185 pounds. I drifted back up to 220 and then back down to a relatively steady equilibrium of about 200 (plus or minus five pounds depending on the season).

The Takeaway:

I suppose the realization that hopefully my fellow skeptics can take from this is that there doesn’t necessarily have to be an end-goal in mind. Sometimes “progress” is the goal and that’s OK. We are creatures that can grow, learn, and get haircuts. Our cells die and are reborn every day. Second-to-second, we are different people. There is no finite physical state; therefore there does not have to be a finite goal we are working towards. The reality is that there is infinitude in our resolutions. The part we must wrestle with however is that with infinite long-term possibilities and variables, we must work a little harder to identify the more finite short-term accomplishments. To accomplish the next step, you might have to swallow your skepticism and write down your next step.

In the spirit of openness and honesty, I have to publicly announce that I still have goals that are written down. I practice goal-setting… I’m a goal setter. Like many, I now have goals for my health, goals for my finances, and goals for my career. I’ve even written about the importance of goal-setting for government workers! If I’m being honest, it’s still a struggle to look at those goals, repeat those goals, and (heaven forbid) visualize those goals every day because… it still just seems so silly. Sometimes I fall short of the goals and sometimes I achieve them or surpass them but the importance is that I’m always working towards them. If you too are a skeptic or are interested in the journey of what goes through a skeptic’s mind as he pursues goals, keep checking stopdoingnothing.com and maybe we can work through it together.

Riley Ross is a writer, speaker, and host of the Y’all OK Podcast. At www.rileyevanross.com, he writes about excellence in Government, Oklahoma, and is beginning a series on the timeless concept of Moderation.