Don’t Just Set A Goal. Set the REAL Goal.

Goals we normally set

1) I need to exercise at 6am in the morning

2) I need to wake up at 530am in the morning

3) I need to learn French

4) I need to learn the Piano

5) I need to lose weight

It’s easy to set such a goal. Too easy. And that’s the problem. It misses the point. And that’s why they don’t last long.

Let’s take goals 1) and 2). The real problem here is not the act of waking up. Yet, funnily enough we always complain of difficulty waking up in the morning. Would we have the same difficulty if you went to sleep at 5pm and slept 12 hours?

No, the real difficulty is going to sleep early so we get our quota of sleep. So, the real goal is –

Sleep by 9pm every night

Let’s take goals 3) and 4). Even if we are going for classes on weekends, we probably are not finding enough time to practice. We need a defined time slot and a clear action trigger to get it done – let’s say 7:30-8:00pm in the evening. So, the real goals are –

– Get out of the office by 7:00pm
– Don’t leave any browsing for the night
(assuming you’d like to sleep by 9:00)
– Practice as soon as I get home from work

When it comes to 5), losing weight is slightly tougher (and that’s probably why it hardly ever gets stuck to). To lose weight, we probably need a combination of factors to work out – exercise early, eat well, walk a lot, take the stairs etc. I guess you get the idea and I’ll leave it to you to set the real goal.

I just read an article on HBR Blogs that said ‘To Do Lists Don’t Work’. I see an article of that nature every once in a while on HBR and I shudder thinking of the readership that’s influenced by these blogs. It’s easy to make outlandish statements. There’s a huge difference between doing to do lists and doing them right. I’m not claiming I do them right. But, at least I do them right enough for them to work for me.

Similarly, there’s a huge difference between goal setting and goal setting done right. If we have troubles achieving goals we examine, let’s take a second look at whether we are solving the real problems and hence, setting the REAL goals.