~ Or: How do I trick my brain into doing the things I want it to do without actually tricking my brain into doing the things I want it to do?
There it is in black and white. Goal setting vs Resolutions of the new year. At least, potentially in black and white. It could also be in white and black because Dark Theme is a thing and so much easier on the eyes. Or if you’re reading this on an Apple ][e, potentially green and black. And really, if you’re rocking an Apple ][e, wouldn’t you rather be playing Number Munchers anyway?
Already off the rails and it’s only the second paragraph. Here we go.
Happy new year! Or perhaps, I should be saying YAPPY new year because welcome to the effervescent land of too many words to talk about things that could use fewer of them. As of this publication, it is the second day of January in the Gregorian-calendar’s 2023rd year of our Lord and Savior. Worth noting: it’s the 5783rd year of the Hebrew calendar and that’s a much larger number. But let’s not get into THAT blog post for another time. And the folks around the world still on the Julian calendar still patiently waiting for Santa Claus.
I’ve written about New Years Resolutions before and my thoughts on them are not shy or uncommon by any stretch. They have a habit of not leading to habits, don’t they? We want to be resolute in our resolve for resolutions but oftentimes it doesn’t habituate.
So let’s shift things around a bit and talk about the idea of goal setting and how it differs from resolutions. It’s a mind hack that I’ve been wanting to explore for quite a while now and as with many things, I write about them and ya’ll get stuck reading them.
for which i am grateful.
So welcome to my stream-of-consciousness rabbit-hole ramblings about the subject! I’ll try to keep it under 7,000 words. Here we go!
What is the definition of a Resolution?
New Year cliches aside, let’s get to the heart of what resolutions are. According to Oxford Languages, a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”
Ok, so, back up for a second. It’s a decision to do or not do something. A FIRM one at that. So then why do we, as a society, accept and borderline encourage the notion that a resolution is likely going to fail? Is this one of those things where media took the term “decimate” and – because it sounded like a really Big Word – started using it to equate to annihilation rather than the elimination of ten percent of a thing? Or the invention of the word “irregardless” to take the place of “irrespective” because we’re forgetful? Is it just a matter of common usage and definition evolution that gets us there?
Whatever it is that it happens to be, resolutions are no longer firm in their resolve. Especially in the context of our new year cliche, they are “things I’d like to do.” One of the most common resolutions is “I want to exercise more.”
Except that’s typically where it ends. Gym memberships skyrocket in January and then drop off precipitously shortly thereafter. So predictably real that a gym can effectively set their annual budget based on that trend.
So what’s missing?
Among the many things absent in a typical resolution, there’s a big one: the plan. That’s usually what takes us from “go big or go home” to “go too big and then stay home.” The realism that comes with careful planning is missing, so therefore is the resolve to stay resolute.
Ok. Now that I’ve beaten that idea to a pulp – again – let’s plod on into the next part of this keto-compatible fatty computer made of meat train.
What is the definition of a Goal?
The context is important. We’re not talking about international football here where the goal is the goal. Which is confusing if you aren’t familiar with international football and haven’t heard an announcer say “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL” out loud and get paid to do it. No, we’re talking about something entirely different.
(that’s going to be fun to say in the audio version of this…)
Once again, according to Oxford Languages, a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”
That …. doesn’t seem all that functionally different, does it? At least from a definition perspective. At the very least they’re closely adjacent. So let’s lean on more of the common usage and really peek under the hood of goal setting.
What exactly IS goal setting?
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A very famous and poignant quote from “The Little Prince” and it holds true now. It is also moderately adjacent to what we think of as resolutions. But again, we’re shackled by common usage so let’s go along with it for the sake of being all like normal and stuff.
Goal setting is what we do when we have an identified target of something. But like the quote above, it requires a plan. Also like resolutions. The key is the plan.
Goal setting, in my mind, is something along the lines of a tangible marker. Whereas a resolution would be to “exercise more,” the goal would be several aspects of that resolution. “Find a workout routine.” “Schedule workout days.” “Get a gym membership or set up an area at home.” “Take before pictures and schedule progress benchmarks.” “Read articles that help set realistic expectations of progress.” “Possibly engage in the services of a gym coach.” All as ideas of potential specific goal setting steps to get to an end result.
For an extra-curricular short read in addition to this, I encourage you to take a gander at this article discussing the S.M.A.R.T. system of goal setting. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. You’ll like it. And it’s much shorter than my nonsense.
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. – Pablo Picasso
Once upon a time as a high school senior, it was suggested to me that I join the second jazz band as an electric bass player because their current one quit. I was a few years into learning to play and it seemed like it would be a fun idea.
So I showed up at the first rehearsal and was handed a chord sheet without any notes and told to play. I …… didn’t know how to read that. In fact, I didn’t know how to read music for bass guitar to be able to associate the notes to fingerings on the fretboard. I had two choices at that point: gracefully bow out not knowing how to do the fundamental things that I needed to do or figure it out.
I went with figure it out.
The following then took place: I gave myself a week to build up the pieces I needed to function in a school jazz band. I told the director that by the following Monday I’d be ready to go and, surprisingly, he told me to go for it.
My goal: be able to play bass guitar while reading chord sheets or note sheets for the songs.
My timeframe: one week.
The steps I set out to take:
- Acquire all the music sheets I needed to know.
- Find a reliable rehearsal space.
- Have a piano nearby since I knew how to read music for piano and could associate those notes to the notes played on the bass.
- Memorize note positions on the fretboard.
- Play through all the songs without needing to stop and think.
Got copies of all the sheets so I knew what to work from. Arranged with the jazz band and concert band directors to be allowed to use the band room after school for as long as I would like since nobody else would be there. They let custodial staff know I would be in there until potentially late at night.
There was a piano in there.
I practiced for six hours a day that entire week after school.
By the following Monday, I was set.
Funny side note: I still have all the music for some of those pieces memorized to this day. I can’t function with normal things but music memorization? WOOHOO!
What’s the lesson from that story?
I had something I wanted to do. Similar to a resolution, I suppose. “I want to play in the school jazz band.”
The necessary tools were absent to do that thing. I set a goal. “Learn to read bass sheets.”
I set several tangible steps.
I had a deadline.
For me, the deadline was the biggest motivator. No, being in panic mode all the time is not a great way to live, but in that context it worked miracles.
I achieved the end result solely by virtue of goal setting and sliding into the finish line by the skin of my teeth following the path from start to finish.
Insert Anna Kendrick “BOOM” here.
Goal setting is the key to all of this. Granted, the goal I set for myself was hilariously audacious. I had a misplaced and borderline unrealistic belief in my ability to meet that goal. But I also had something that today we call “hyperfocus” and a determination to make it happen against all odds.
Tying it all together
A resolution without goals is a pipe dream.
A goal without a plan is a wish.
We’ve replaced the firm determination of a resolution with “uhh, I kinda wanna do this thing but you know, it’s ok if I don’t.” Common usage wins. That’s why “irregardless” still doesn’t trigger the spell checker on this thing.
Don’t get me started.
So let’s lean on that and jump into the realm of goal setting for the things that we really want to accomplish.
I’ll throw myself under the bus here. I have some broader ideas of things I want to accomplish this year.
From a domestic perspective, cleaner house. What is the goal setting to accomplish this? The goal is to work room by room to get things in order. The tangible benchmarks will be instantly visible and the key to making it possible is to set deadlines.
From a business perspective, I have both businesses that have the same broad idea: sales. For durable medical equipment, that means creating awareness to certain demographics of the industry of a specific product line and getting them to take a shot on our exemplary service record. For voiceover, that means building relationships with people who use voices and putting my demo in their hands and getting them to take a shot on MY exemplary service record.
There are a wide array of goals for both of those things. While the overarching idea is the same for both, the specific goals are VERY different.
I’m still working on the timelines. Therein is my Achilles Heel. I stink at figuring out tangible deadlines and sometimes I let that stop me from trying.
Not this year.
So here’s to a successful goal setting in the new year and the achievement of deadline-meeting bliss. And you know what? If you miss a deadline, don’t let it stop you.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius
Learn from the experience, use that information to set more realistic timelines, and PITTER PATTER.
Ok! I’ve inundated you with æffable words of story and encouragement and suggestions and ideas. I would love to hear some of YOUR overarching themes and their tangible goal setting steps. I’m not suggesting an accountability group or anything, but fire me a note and let me know what’s up and let’s check in with each other from time to time.
WE GOT THIS!
If you can dream it, you can do it. – Walt Disney
Until next week.
-= george =-