Goal Setting 101: how to join the 8% (a midyear checkup)

Looking across the park earlier in the week at the lone soccer goal.

“What separates us from the goals we set is nothing more than a series of decisions made consistently over time.” (Tweet)

A recent study found that only 46% of those who set New Year’s goals are still pursuing them just 6 months later.

Are you still pursuing yours? Do you remember what they are?

If you’re still on track, you should be approaching the half-way mark by now (half way to the desired year-end weight, half way to mastering the language or project or skill, half way to having overcome the obstacle or developed the trait).

Unless, of course, you’ve cut the race short and reverted to the status quo, doing what you’ve always done, getting the same results you’ve always got.

Goal-Setting Blues

Last year, the Journal of Clinical Psychology reported that out of the 62% of Americans who either usually (45%) or infrequently (17%) set New Year’s Resolutions, a mere 8% of them successfully hit the mark.

I’ve heard it said that we are therefore climbing a very steep probability slope that very few reach. Those voices claim that since only 8% of us reach the summit, we have a whopping 92% likelihood of failure.

Those voices are wrong.

Where Are You (the 92 or 8)?

The problem with this interpretation is that we are not all equally likely to be among those who have the qualities that lend themselves to the 8 or 92.

If you are like 92% of the goal-setting population, you have something closer to 100% probability of failure because you do those things that people who give up on their goals do.

On the other hand, if you are like the 8%, you have something much closer to a 100% probability of success because you do what the 8% tend to do.

Remember, 100% of the 8% achieved their goals.

The Only Relevant Question

So the only question that matters, then, is this: Who do you choose to be like? It doesn’t even matter who you have been like. The only question worth asking is, “What now?”

The Power of Choice

Two Paths

The most significant difference between the 92 and 8 are the series of decisions the 8% make that the 92% don’t.

Make different choices and Get different results. It’s ultimately that simple. Excuses and justifications leave you where you are, doing the same things you’ve always done. (Tweet)

It may feel good to blame others for your lot in life (“I didn’t do this to me, they did!”), but it also glues you in place, stuck to the circumstances you wish you weren’t in. Instead, take responsibility for the direction of your life, where you want it to go, who you want to be.

Success Comes One Decision at a Time

  • You either choose to get distracted or you don’t.
  • You decide to stay home or go to the gym.
  • You choose chips or an apple.
  • You choose to watch TV or read.
  • You choose online trash or TED talks.
  • You choose Facebook or face-time with your family.

You choose to fall back or run forward, to quit or push through, to doubt or believe, to obey your fears or pursue your dreams, to give up or give it all you’ve got.

You choose to delay your goals yet another day or get started on them this very moment, refusing to put off the realization of your dreams even another nanosecond.

How you answer such questions will determine whether you call the 92% home or whether you join the vaunted ranks of the 8% who change lives and accomplish great things and live with more purpose and meaning and therefore more happiness than most experience.

Are Goals Necessary to Happiness?

In a word, no. Growth, however, is. Stagnation of any kind (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) saps happiness of its potential.

As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that where you are in your personal development is, except for extreme circumstances, less important than the fact that you are making progress. Movement, it turns out, is more important than position to our happiness.

Goals are nothing more than tools to help focus that progress and direct that movement. (Tweet) Can you find Milwaukee without a map? Eventually, I suppose. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

The effectiveness of the tool is not only determined by whether it’s used or not, but by the way the tool is used too. A stapler with the staples put in upside down does little good.

Likewise, poorly set goals or those set by people with attitudes that turn their goals into a battering rams that crush a destroy anything in their way or as whips to use against themselves when they fall short, is not, to my mind, a convincing argument against the tool. That some use paint to “tag” walls is not a legitimate argument against the use of paint.

But used well, goals can add happiness to our lives as we reach new heights of growth and accomplishment.

How to Set Sticky Goals (coming soon to a theater near you!)

Still, there are ways of improving the odds. So just in case you have been fighting an uphill battle with goals and resolutions, come back next Monday for 4 secrets to moving into the elite club of the 8%. It will change the way you set (and reach) your goals.

Your Turn …

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Photos by PV KS and beckstei