by Catherine Pratt
At first glance, setting goals sounds like such an easy thing to do. Pick something you want to achieve and then just do it. How hard can that be, right? But, actually staying on track with your goals is sometimes the trickiest part of all.
There always seems to be obstacles that pop up to get in your way of achieving that goal you’ve set for yourself. Sometimes the obstacles are as simple as not knowing what to do next but other times they can be more tricky and deal with self sabotaging yourself. It’s dealing with obstacles like these that can quickly throw you completely off track with your goals. So, what do you do to not only become aware of the potential pitfalls but what’s the best way to deal with them along the way so you can easily achieve whatever goal you put your mind to?
I thought it’d be beneficial to talk to a goal expert and get his opinion on the best way to stay on track when setting goals. And, who better to talk to than someone who created a software product called exactly that, “Goals On Track”. So, I’d like to introduce you to Harry Che. He’s the developer and creator of the online goal setting software www.goalsontrack.com.
Thanks for being here today, Harry.
Maybe we could start with giving a little background with the system that you developed. You’d mentioned previously to me that you created it because the other online goal setting systems you tried didn’t meet your needs. So, what was it that you discovered was really important in being able to not only stay on track with your goals but also with setting goals in the first place? Did you find you lost motivation with your goals or was it more just not knowing what to do next?
Thanks. First of all, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with your audience what I have learned about goal setting. I can’t say I’m a goal expert. I’ve just found a few things that worked for me in my goal setting effort, and then consolidated them and made them into a software program. I use it every day and it’s really helped me stick to my goals.
One of the things I discovered about goal setting is that achieving a goal is usually as hard as keeping at it. In other words, as long as you can stick to a goal and keep pressing forward, it’s mostly just a matter of time to eventually accomplish it.
Personally, I found myself in situations where I was discouraged and frustrated while working on my goals, and what I find useful is not to think about the end result and how you are ever going to achieve the goal, but rather focus on what you need to do right now to stay on track, which is important, because you won’t be feeling so unmotivated and depressed about your goals.
Do you find that constantly reviewing your goals and going through the tasks is a good way to deal with the self doubts that always seem to creep in at some point?
Yes, absolutely. I find that if you don't think about your goals, you won't make them happen. We all have all kinds of things to distract us. Without constantly reviewing our goals, and reminding us of them, we can easily go through life without really putting needed effort into accomplishing them.
One of the things I find that can be tricky with staying on track with goals is that moment when you start to lose your motivation. When you first start working towards a goal, it’s exciting but very quickly, even after a few weeks, it can start to become boring or maybe it becomes more like work. Whatever it is, it’s no longer “new” and part of you just wants to go back to your old routine and habits. I think that’s one of the times that we start to lose our enthusiasm for our goal. Any ideas on how to keep ourselves excited and motivated about our goals?
What you mentioned here is very common, and I’ve experienced that all the time. Personally, I think there are two ways to deal with this. First, decide if it is still something you want. Sometimes only after we start working on a goal for while do we then realize it isn’t really what we wanted. If this is the case, of course you can simply give up the goal, and move on to something better.
Secondly, try keeping yourself interested and enjoying the process of achieving a goal, as opposed to forcing yourself to always be excited or motivated about the end result. I believe not many people can truly stay very excited and motivated about a goal for a long time. That’s just human nature. But if you can find ways to enjoy doing things that still move you toward a goal, you don’t need to always get excited and motivated. As long as you stick to the process, the end goal will just take care of itself.
Something I also find really important is figuring out if you have any mental conflicts going on with your goal. For example, maybe your goal is to lose 10 pounds but your mom always brings baked goods over for you and you feel guilty telling her that you don’t want to eat her treats anymore. So, you’re going to have a tough time meeting your goal. But, I find that if you’re aware of what the conflicts are and then at least acknowledge them, it makes it so much easier to stay on track. Does that work with your goal setting software system too? Maybe it’s just a matter of having one of your tasks to either deal with feeling guilty or talk to mom about your new goals and what you need for support. Things like that. Or maybe one of your tasks could be even to take a look and see if you do have some mental conflicts going on that are getting in your way. What do you think?
I think what you mentioned here is really the Not-todos when it comes to reaching a goal. Of course, we need all the support we can get to help us reach our goals. If there are things dragging you down, or conflicts in your thought patterns that move you backward, you should deal with them.
With GoalsOnTrack, one way you can deal with this type of situations, is to add tasks to remove/reduce/revert things that may be obstacles for your goals. For example, you can set up task to call Mom to stop bringing over baked foods. (or perhaps just explain to Mom you’re on a diet etc.) The point is to turn those Not-todos into To Dos. A personal example is that I once had a smoking habit, but I didn’t drink any coffee at that time. One way I’ve successfully quit smoking is that I replaced the habit of smoking with drinking coffee, which is perhaps a “lesser evil”.
Another thing I’ve found with goals is that sometimes it’s a matter of working with your patterns and habits in order to achieve that new goal instead of resisting them or just trying to completely quit doing them. I’ll give you an example. When I used to work in an office in a really dark cubicle, I’d feel so tired by the mid afternoon. I’d just want to lie down and go to sleep. So, I got into the really bad habit of drinking soda in the afternoon. After awhile, I realized it was making things worse for me and I needed to start being healthy again. So, my goal became to stop drinking the soda. But, I’d made it such a habit that at 3 in the afternoon, “bing”, it was like an alarm went off in my head, “soda time”. It was such a strong pattern of behaviour or habit for me. So, even though I wanted to stop drinking the pop, it’d become a thought process of “afternoon equals soda”. That pattern was actually stronger than my desire to be healthy. You see this happening all the time with people and comfort food. They feel bad and when they feel bad, they reach for the ice cream or their favourite cookies. That’s just what they associate with feeling bad. For me, I had to switch out the pop for something else and that made it a little easier. So, afternoon still meant “treat” in a sense, I just chose a healthier treat. But, that’s definitely another way of getting off track with your goals. You don’t realize what a strong pattern you’ve got going on in your brain.
With your system, you get an email reminding you of the tasks you need to do for your goal don’t you? I guess you could set it up with a reminder that when 3 pm hits, “create a new conditioned response, have a tasty mug of tea” or something like that. That way for people like me, I’d realize that my wanting the pop was just a conditioned response and that I did have other options. I don’t think I’d have to make it so much a matter of willpower if I did it that way. It’d be more of an awareness concept and creating a new habit rather than eliminating an old one. Have you ever run into having to deal with mental patterns like that though? Any other suggestions?
I can relate to that. What I find is that it’s always difficult to NOT do something as a goal, because you subconsciously are still focused on the “do something” part, instead of the “NOT” part. I think that’s why many goal setting literature advises people always state something in a positive way for your goal.
I agree with you that we should associate something else to break a conditioned response. In your case, I would just set a goal to drink tea every mid afternoon.:-)
Another aspect of goals that I’ve discussed previously on my site is when your results don’t match your expectations and how that can cause you to start self sabotaging yourself because you’re focusing on what you thought “should” happen instead of your original goal. I could see that by having that constant reminder of what your ultimate goal is, like what your software program provides, would help prevent this. For example, you’d be able to adjust your tasks if you found they weren’t working to move you closer to reaching your goal. Do you do this kind of analysis too?
Yes. This happens to me too. But I try not to worry too much about it. There are many reasons you may not get what you want. I’ve come to learn that it is okay if my results don’t match my goals. I think what’s important is that goals give us direction in life and things we choose to do, not necessarily the exact result we expect to get. Another way to deal with this is that, try to state your goal in a way so that it seems more in your control. For example, you may have a goal like “become CEO of the company I work for”, that kind of goal may have so many factors outside your control. Instead, you could re-state it as “become a senior executive at a company similar to my current company”. That will leave more options in your hands.
Well, thank you Harry. Some great advice here. Did you have any other thoughts you’d like to add?
One thing I’d like to add is that, when work on your goals, take it easy, keep it simple, and take baby steps. It’s great to finally reach our goal, but perhaps more important is to enjoy the journey and have a good time.
Is there a way that people contact you if they have any additional questions or want to check out your online goal setting software?
Feel free to send me email at harry.che @ goalsontrack.com (remove the spaces) and try out our goal setting web site at www.goalsontrack.com.
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