In part 3 of this blog series, we’re looking at the most common source of derailment of goal setting: Overburdening.
How many times have you set a goal in mind, pursued it vigilantly for as long as possible and then been sidelined by all the factors involved in reaching your goal? How many exercise programs have people fallen out of when they realized just how very difficult it is to exercise heavily 5-6 times a week? How many diets get abandoned because they demand an immediate abstinence from all foods except a select few?
Overburdening is when you take on too much too fast. It’s when you set a goal to lose 50 pounds without knowing how challenging losing half that amount can be. Its when you decide to try for the Navy Seal Fitness test with no previous fitness experience. It’s entering a championship poker tournament a week after learning the game. Basically it’s biting off more than you can chew.
There’s no shame in doing this. We all do it one way or the other.
The thing is, it’s easy to avoid. In part 2 of this goal setting blog series, I talked about how to avoid the Macro-planning trap and remembering to stay focused on the details. Now, it seems on the surface that would be enough to avoid overburdening, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it’s not.
There are several key elements of avoiding overburdening:
Step 1: A Realistic Understanding
You might think this step sounds a little harshly worded. But the truth is that most people aren't intuitively aware of the limits of their ability to meet a goal. Many people overestimate their athletic ability, for example. However, I have worked with and trained many more people who underestimate their abilities than overestimate them. It’s weird but true.
I’ve had fitness clients struggle with ten pushups in one week but realize that forty pushups in a row is far easier than it sounds when they have a go at it two weeks later. I’ve had clients who don't think they could handle even thinking about spiders end up handling tarantulas after a session.
The reason many people get overburdened is because they have no idea what they are capable of when they begin a goal-setting process. So, step 1 is to establish your baseline competence and resources relative to your goal.
Want to lose weight? How ready to exercise are you? Hint: it’s very often more ready than you think. Talk to your doctor first, of course.
Want to quit smoking? How ready are you to change your habits that trigger smoking?
Starting from a realistic understanding of whether you are overestimating or underestimating your abilities is crucial when you decide to plan out your steps in achieving your goal, whatever it is.
STEP 2: Is This a Goal Or Just A Dream?
Again, this one sounds a little harsher than it is. The truth is, many people set goals with the thought of “Wouldn't it be nice to….” and they think about how nice it would be to do that thing. Then they keep saying how that's their goal. And keep saying. And keep saying. And they never follow through on a single step to achieve it.
I call this the dream trap. It’s when we set up a nice and pretty thought about something but never really pursue it. It’s the imaginative equivalent of window shopping but the with the higher cost of never pursuing your dreams.
We all know at least one person like this. It’s frustrating, right? They talk big but never follow through. Worse yet, sometimes you get tricked into helping them only to see them never follow through and all your effort is wasted.
In my experience, the key to avoiding the dream trap is to be aware of the passion that a dream ignites in you. If you have a dream that ignites a passion in you, a dream that keeps you up at night and annoys the people around you because you stayed focused on it...thats the kind of goal that requires analysis and pursuit.
So, when you set a goal and you determine your personal ability to see it through you have to determine how likely it is to be achievable and what you need to do to achieve it. If you’re wanting to lose weight, how much do you want to lose and how long are you willing to allot yourself to lose it? If you want to start a business, is there a need for that business that will support your costs, expenses and allow for profit? If you want to run a 5 minute mile, does your schedule allow for the type of training that requires?
This step is the follow up to the Macro-planning stage. It involves looking earnestly at the steps necessary to achieve your goal and laying out a plan of action that is doable from where you are at the moment.
Using this step in your goal setting helps you stay motivated, oriented on your goal and focused on the end product you’re bringing into your life.
Step 3: Resources
This step is one that is often cited for failure in goal pursuit. “I didn't have what it takes” is the mentality that tends to manifest when people fail to account and utilize their resources accurately. And I've seen it so many times. Someone wants the Lambo but refuses to get the education to get the job to afford the Lambo...and so they give up on their dream.
When you have your goal and you have the passion and drive to achieve it and you know you’re capable and willing to pursue, it’s time to take stock of what you have to achieve it. Just about every goal will require a financial investment, so lets start there.
Will your goal impact your financial life in a negative way, or is it a long term investment that will pay dividends? Do you have the immediate funds to see your goal through, or will you need to look into loans or sell some things you no longer need? What financial benefits will your goal open up for you?
Do you know what the biggest resource people squander is? It’s time. Time is the one most precious thing we have because we never get it back. Once you spend and hour watching a TV show instead of developing a skill or moving towards your goal, it’s gone. There's no way to make up for that loss.
Of course, time is spent by so many things isn't it? Our jobs, our families and friends and other responsibilities all take up part of our time and make it so easy to walk away from a goal, don't they? Whenever I work with a client who has these responsibilities that take up their time I always encourage finding a way to incorporate these time spenders with their goal pursuits. If they’re after weight loss, they can have their family member exercise with them and join them on a new diet. If they need to learn a skill set, they can take a class with their significant other to spend time together and build the skills they need.
Time is limited, but it's very flexible when you try.
Take an inventory of what resources you have to use in pursuit of your goal and how best to apply them. Include the things you normally wouldn't think of: Theres money and time, of course. But what about the support of your family and friends? What about any material goods you can repurpose? Most importantly, what about knowledge you have? How far can you use that? You can always increase that resource, so do it!
There’s more than just these three steps of course. But these stops represent a solid beginning to the setting forth on a concrete goal and improving your life. With just these steps, you can start a solid practice of pursuing your goals and dreams unerringly.
So, put these steps in action. Reach out and let me know how they helped you.