You Need to Try This Mindful Approach to Goal-Setting
It puts growth, awareness, and progress at the core and transforms the outcome into a milestone to c
According to the University of Scranton, 92 percent of people who set New Year’s goals never actually achieve them.
It was no wonder to me then, that throughout the first year of my entrepreneurial experience, I kept miserably failing to achieve my goals. And that’s when I realized this: There’s something fundamentally wrong with the traditional approach to goal-setting.
We usually set goals as follows: “X is the target, go achieve the target.” For example, in June 2019, I set these two goals:
- I want to hit $10,000 in sales by September 2019.
- I want to hit 10,000 followers on my Instagram account by November 2019.
What happened next? My attention immediately shifted from the present to the future and I rushed into attaining these goals. The outcome of the goals became the sole measure of success or failure, and I latched my own sense of fulfillment onto it.
And then, of course, I failed.
The problem is this: This outcome-based approach provides no system for measuring progress and focuses solely on achieving an outcome that can only take place far into the future. Obviously, the outcome isn’t the most important aspect of our goals, progress is. It doesn’t matter whether or not you achieve your outcome; what matters is that you grow and expand in the process of working toward your goals.
That’s because the point of a goal is not to create a momentary-change, the point of a goal is to create and sustain a lifetime-change. The point is not “to make it” or “arrive” at an outcome, the point is to progress throughout.
We need a more mindful approach to goal-setting that puts growth, awareness, and progress at the core of it while transforming the outcome into a milestone to celebrate rather than a futuristic point in time to arrive at.
And this applies to both business goals and personal goals.
I share this approach below.
The Traditional Approach: Outcome-Based Goals
This goal-setting approach is problematic for three reasons:
- It attaches our self-worth to the outcome of our goal: If we accomplish our goal, we see ourselves as successful; if we don’t, we see ourselves as failures.
- It cultivates a harmful “if-then” happiness contingency-mindset that removes you from the present and fixates you onto a time in the future. “Once I run the marathon, I will feel accomplished. When I lose 50 pounds, I will feel confident.”
- It provides no system for measuring progress as you work toward your goal, thus falsely packaging the outcome as the sole measurement of progress.
The traditional outcome-based approach to goal-setting (source: omaritani.com)
A More Mindful Approach: Input-Output Goals
Mindfulness is nothing more than a mental state that’s achieved by focusing our attention on the present moment. And the input-output goal-setting approach does exactly that.
When we move from an outcome-based approach to an input-output one, we create a distinction between the input of our actions and the outcome of the results. We detach ourselves from the future results, and so we no longer look to the future for a sense of fulfillment.
We relieve the outcome of its emotional power on us.
We shift our attention to the present and start to focus on the effort we are putting in, with the conviction that if we keep showing up and slowly — but consistently — put in the work, we will achieve our goals over the long-run.
This approach is designed with the understanding that the future outcome is something we cannot control. Rather, it’s something we can influence only through our present actions.
For instance, you cannot control whether or not you will hit $10,000 sales this month, but you can influence it if you increase the number of daily prospecting calls you make (input). Similarly, you cannot control whether or not you reach 10,000 followers on Medium this month, but you can influence it by publishing 2x per day (input) and actively engaging with the community.
The Three Pillars
The input-output mindful approach focuses on three pillars:
- Growth by increments (your inputs). Growth happens through a series of small and consistent incremental steps, not monumental overnight strides. This first pillar puts the ball in your court and affirms that growth is guaranteed if you are dedicated to showing up every day and putting in the reps (your inputs).
- Awareness by Metacognition (your outputs). Metacognition is a fancy word for “awareness of thoughts” or “thinking about thinking.” This second pillar brings your attention to your outputs. If your input is the hours invested in writing, your output is the number of articles published per week. If your input is the number of sales calls in a week, your output is the number of deals closed. The objective is to stay aware of your output and reflect on whether you’re implementing the most effective strategies that’ll help you achieve your goals.
- Progress by Tracking (your logs). This third pillar is an extension of the first two. By tracking your inputs (placing an X on your habit tracker every time you write) and logging your outputs (number of articles published per week), you’re creating a visual representation of your progress and becoming more aware of your productivity.
The more mindful input-output approach to goal-setting. (source: omaritani.com)
Outcomes Become Milestones to Celebrate
What was once an outcome now becomes a milestone you will celebrate.
Here’s an example:
If your old goal read “I want to hit 10,000 followers on my Medium account,” your new goal should read “I will write two hours per day and will publish 5 articles per week.” The reason is you can’t control how many people follow you, but you can control how many articles you publish, which would then expose you to more readers on the platform and thus more potential followers.
- Inputs: Number of writing sessions this week.
- Outputs: Number of articles published this week.
- Logs: Track both inputs and outputs.
- Milestones to celebrate: Reaching 1,000 followers, then 2,500, 5,000, 8,000, and then 10,000 followers on Medium.
If your old goal read “my goal is to lose 50 pounds this year,” your new goal should read “I will exercise 4x per week, doing 45-minute sessions.” The reason is you can’t control how many pounds you lose (due to the complexity of the body’s anatomy), but you can control how many workouts you produce, which would then increase the chances of you hitting the 50-pound milestone.
- Inputs: Number of exercise sessions per week.
- Outputs: Number of reps (or total time) per week.
- Logs: Track both inputs and outputs.
- Milestones to celebrate: Shedding 10 pounds, then 20, 30, 40, and 50 pounds.
Focus on Progress to Create Lifetime Change
The point is not “to make it” or “arrive” at an outcome, the point is to progress throughout. We don’t grow and expand the moment we reach the result, we grow and expand in the process of working toward the result we want.
The point of a goal is not to create a momentary-change, the point of a goal is to create and sustain a lifetime-change.
This mindful approach to goal-setting puts growth, awareness, and progress at the core of it, and transforms the outcome into a milestone to celebrate rather than a futuristic point in time to arrive to. It puts you in a position of power and pushes you to focus on what you can control.
Use this approach to set more mindful goals. Then, build a better system to help you achieve them.
And with that, I challenge you to set a new mindful goal.
I challenge you to be one of the 8 percent, not the 92.
This article was originally published by Omar itani on medium.