Failure by goal achievement

by Jason on November 29, 2011 · 0 comments

Dwarf hamster winter white by cdrussorusso

I think I’ve tapped into another one of those obvious things that need to be spoken aloud before they become obvious.

In business, and in life, we know what to do, on at least a basic level, to get the results we’re looking for.  I’m going to use diet for my example on this one because it’s something most readers can relate to.  And with diet, if you want to lose weight, it comes down to eating less than you need.

BUT, there’s a clever trick.  It doesn’t matter what, because it’s different for everyone.  Maybe you drink a big glass of water or eat an apple before each meal.  Or maybe you have a magic number of calories that you burn at the gym every day to hit your quota.  Or maybe every meal needs 75% of your plate to be salad.

Whatever.  If losing weight is the outcome, then the clever trick is the mechanism you use to get to the outcome.  And it’s not miraculous, but it’s soooo much easier.  You’ve got your magic bullet.  And one fantastic day, you achieve your goal.

And you stop using your trick.  Gradually, over time, it stops becoming a ritual.  You got what you needed, you decide to use that mental space to tackle another goal, or you just get bored with it.

And results start to decay.  Things start to backslide.  Maybe you notice it early on, which might be even more dangerous: “oh, I know how to fix that, no problem, I’ll start tomorrow.”  And that becomes “oh, I’m almost back where I started, but it’s still not as bad as it was, and I know the clever trick, so I’ll get to it in a bit, no problem.”  And then you’re at that spot where you’re in worse shape than you were, and the urgency just isn’t there, because obviously it’s not important to you or you wouldn’t be in this mess (these are the tricks our minds play so we can stay sane.)

Through goal achievement, we’ve inadvertently set ourselves on the path to greater failure.

Three possible ways to avoid this:

Set unachievable goals. OK, maybe not, or you’ll never feel like you’re getting traction, but continually moving targets can work.  Keep your eye on the next goal achievement mountain, or if there’s no more progress to be had, like in weight loss when you get down to an ideal weight, shift the goal to maintaining a streak of using your clever trick.

Make it someone else’s problem.  Lots of things can be systemized and delegated. Not everything, but lots.  Once you’ve gotten your mind wrapped around a process, see if there’s a way that you can get someone else to do it for you, an be accountable for it.  Now you can’t get to failure, unless you forget to make sure things get done (and that can be delegated too.)

Get ongoing coaching.  External accountability can not only take you to the next level; it can help keep you there.  Think about it at all phases in the goal achievement process, and remember that it might need different resources in the beginning, middle, and ongoing stages.

I’m convinced it’s not just me; many of us seem to have trouble holding on to gains in various areas of our lives that would be so easy to maintain if we’d just keep doing what worked.  Awareness and planning for this are key to ensure your efforts aren’t a total waste of time.

Photo by cdrussorusso

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