Optimize Your Life

Episode #19: Three Tips for Setting Goals Effectively

Show Notes:

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Optimize Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Sharon Grossman. How are you all doing today? Are you challenging yourselves or are you just cruising? The reason I ask is because today we are going to talk about goal setting and more specifically, how to effectively set goals for yourself.

Now some of the questions I get around goal setting are that ya’ll are worried about setting yourselves up for disappointment. You have worried thoughts like, “What if I don’t attain it?” I definitely want to address that. But I also want to talk about the framework you need to have to set realistic goals so you’re not making life harder for yourself. 

So let’s talk about the worried thoughts. Again, when you tell yourself, “what if” those are the kinds of thoughts that we typically have when we’re worried about worst case scenario, when we’re worried about failure, and these are the exact types of thoughts that lead to anxiety. So you got to be really careful about what you tell yourself and how that’s going to make you feel. Often times people think that they don’t have control over their anxiety and when it comes to goal-setting, I think this is an important concept to really understand because the more you can align your thoughts with the result that you want to create, the more confident you’re going to feel as opposed to anxious and that’s worth something. So if you want to let’s say lose weight and you tell yourself, “well, what if I don’t lose weight?” then you might not really give it your all. You might not really try or put your best foot forward because you’re worried about the possibility of not succeeding. But what if instead you said to yourself, “What would I need to think or what would I need to believe in order for me to feel confident that I can lose the weight?” and then if you focus your mind on the things that would help align with your vision and your goal, then you’re more likely to stay motivated because you’ll feel like it’s possible for you. 

Now, let’s move on to actual goal setting. 

Keep in mind that there are 3 types of goals:

  1. There are what we call process goals. These are about what you are going to do. Think about a routine where you tell yourself, “I’m going to meditate for 10 minutes every morning.” That’s a process goal.
  2. Then we have a performance goal. This is where you create a goal around an outcome you’d like to achieve like increasing your speed to run a 6-minute mile. This is a goal you have some control over, but not total control.
  3. Lastly, we have outcome goals and this is where I want to spend the majority time with you today. An example of this is how much money you’ll make from your business. This is more challenging because you don’t have full control over the outcome, but this is where we need to hone our skills the most. 

So when you’re considering your outcome goals, what do you need to take into account to ensure you are setting yourself up for success?

The first thing to consider is your “why.” Why are you going after this goal? There has to be some purpose in it and you have to ensure you are doing it for the right reasons. Too often people set goals because they think that’s what they should do or someone else would like them to do it. No, this is not a good strategy. You have to be really clear on this and how it’s going to benefit you or others in the future. 

The next thing to think about is how long it will take you to attain the goal. There are goals you can accomplish in a day or a week and others that can take years and it’s important to have both in your life. Short-term goals allow you to feel accomplished and keep you motivated to keep showing up. Long-term goals lead you to living the life you want. They take more time, this is true, but if you have a strong sense of purpose, these goals will create results you can be proud of. An example of a short-term goal might be decluttering your closet while a long-term goal might be losing 50 pounds. It takes time to lose that much weight but that’s not a reason not to attempt it.

The last thing I want to share with you around effective goal setting is perhaps the most important. It comes from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow. In essence what he says is that you need to match up the level of challenge with your skill level. When you have a high degree of challenge and low skill level, you become anxious. When you have low skill and low challenge, you become apathetic or even bored.

But what happens when your skill level is high? Then no matter how challenging the task, you fare pretty well. If the challenge level is low you get to just relax into the task. If, on the other hand, the challenge level is high that’s where you get into a state of flow.

So when you’re creating goals for yourself, it’s super important to match your skill level to the level of the challenge. Keep in mind that stretching yourself to perform beyond your skill level is preferable to the opposite where you take on tasks that are too easy. It’s an opportunity for growth. 

Once you set your goals, what matters most is how you engage in your tasks. 

Now, let’s talk about what I call the Goldilocks Rule of Engagement. Whether you are maniacally focused on productivity or just want to get more enjoyment from your work, flow enters you into an efficient state of mind. Being in the flow requires that you set clear goals that are suitable for your skill level.

The other day, I played cage bingo with my two kids. The experience for each of us was quite different. For my then nine-year-old, calling out the numbers, keeping track of the numbers she called by placing chips on her bingo card, all made for an engaging and enjoyable experience. For my then six-year-old, the simple act of matching the number called with the numbers on his bingo card was plenty challenging. For me, it was quite different still. I found it so elementary just waiting to hear the next number being called (so that I could place a chip on my card), that I felt bored playing this game.

The takeaway is that the same game or task can and likely will be experienced in profoundly different ways.

To get into flow, you need to differentiate between different levels of challenge and find the tasks that are challenging yet completable. In other words, you have to be well-matched to the task. To do this, you have to consider both task difficulty and your skill level. When task difficulty outweighs your skill level, as we said, anxiety ensues. When the opposite is true, and the task lacks challenge given your skill level, you will likely feel bored.

As Bruce Lee said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” 

So consider what goals you have and whether they are worth keeping. If they are, why do you want to focus your resources on them? And how do they pair up with your skill level? That way you can anticipate how you’re going to feel. 

I know that if you take these principles into account you will be capable of amazing things. 

If you enjoyed this episode, please head on over to iTunes and subscribe to the show, like us, and leave a review. And if you’d like to get some more mindset tips, head on over to my website, drsharongrossman.com and grab my Mindset Mastery Starter Kit. It’s FREE so what are you waiting for?

Schedule a Call Now