I'm going to assume, at least to some degree, that you've already had a fair amount of training in setting or achieving goals. You may already have some goals in mind. I'm sure you have. You may have worked for some of the things you've been hoping for and gotten them.
Like any good goal-setter, you're probably making some new ones for the next few months and years.
Today, we're going to turn the whole idea of setting goals on its head and look at it from a different point of view.
This is an approach that I find very helpful, and a number of other people have agreed with me that a behavior-based approach to setting goals is just a new way to look at an old problem.
The traditional way to set goals is to look at a timeline, if you will. If you look at today, write it down on a calendar, no matter what day it is. At some point in the future, you want to get something done.
Set that result as a goal for yourself to make sure it happens.
This could be a goal you want to reach in a week, a year, or a few years. Really, it depends on what you want to do.
Obviously, the size of the goal will play a big role in how long it will take to reach it.
If you make maybe $50,000 a year and want to make $1 million, that won't happen overnight unless you have a lot of luck. There is a lot of work and planning that goes into that.
Setting a goal to do that in, say, 5 to 10 years is a bit more realistic than setting a goal to do it in 3 months.
You get the idea here.
You can start being the kind of person you want to be right now, and if you keep doing that, you'll have reached your goal.
The focus of a normal or "traditional" goal-setting program would usually be on the things we want to do and have in the medium to long term.
So, if you're thinking about things you want to accomplish, like starting a business or buying a house, a traditional goal-setting program would have you write those things down and start making a plan of the steps and actions you need to take to make them happen in the next whatever. Maybe for you, you pick two years.
How do you make sure you'll have enough money in two years to buy a house? You look ahead two years, write down what you see, and then work backwards.
What do I need to do today, and the coming weeks, months and years, to make sure that vision becomes a reality?
But let's look at a few random, or let's say common, things that people might say they want to be in their lives:
Someone who says "thank you" more often
Someone who is happy and smiles more.
Someone who is motivated
Maybe they want have more empathy for other people.
You could set all of these as short-term goals right now. This is the kind of individual I want to be, starting today or at least in the next few weeks and months.
Again, I chose these times at random. I would also love more, be nicer, and help other people in the future.
In the long run, I'd like to know other people, be stress-free or at least have less stress, and laugh every day. Once more, being happy and showing that you are happy.
So, as you can see, being goals and attitude-type goals don't have to be done by a certain date, even though we've given them dates here. At any point in your life, you can be any of these things, and you can choose to keep that attitude going.
So we really just put a time limit on these for the sake of this example.
Again, I have chosen some examples at random. So, let's say I want to read a book every week or work out every day as a short-term goal. These are very short-term goals that I want to start doing right away and keep doing.
In the middle term, I might want to play a whole song on the guitar or write a book. Well, I probably won't be able to do all of that today or in the next two weeks. It will take a little while. But 4, 5, or 6 months might be a good time frame here. Yeah, I could probably learn to play a song on a guitar in that amount of time. I could probably write a book in three, six, or nine months.
In the long run, I might want to see the whole world. I can't just leave today and go somewhere. Well, I might be able to if I have the money and tools, but I might need to plan for it. So let's make that a longer-term "doing" goal, like "I want to travel the world in a couple of years." It gives me time to save up some money, plan my route, maybe find some people to come with me, and so on.
For example, you could learn a language like Spanish. Again, can I finish that in one day? Can I finish it in three months? Chances are slim.
But if I dedicate myself to doing this, to doing this goal over the next few years, I could probably achieve it with a high degree of proficiency.
Having goals. Now, this is probably the biggest, most common one. Most programs for setting goals focus on the results or outcomes.
I'd like to have extra money right away. Obviously, if you're a good goal setter you're going to pick a specific amount you'd like to achieve, but this is an example. I might need an extra $5,000 or $3,000 in the next three months for a project.
Or I'd like to lose some weight, a specific amount of weight, or weigh a certain amount of pounds by a certain date. Those are short-term goals, as an example of things we'd like to have or outcomes we'd like to achieve in our life.
Medium-term. Buy a car, get a promotion. Longer-term, maybe get married or buy a home.
All of these kinds of goals are common in traditional programs for setting goals.
We're focusing on shorter-term goals that deal with how we want to be and the things we want to do.
Here, though, we're not focusing on the results; instead, we're focusing on the activity.
I know that this could just be a matter of words or a new way to look at an old problem, but that's the point. That's the point here.
A lot of people will set goals. As an example, you could say, "I'd like to start my own business a year from now and have it make X amount of money in the first three months."
Well, that's a great goal to have, but what if you don't reach it? You could do any kind of job and still feel like a failure.
Behavior-based goal-setting programs focus on short-term things you can write down and check off, so you can feel like you're making progress.
If you become the kind of person who focuses on behavior-based goals and meets those goals every day, you will eventually have no choice but to reach those traditional goals that are based on results.
But a behavioral-based program allows you to generate that feeling of success on a short-term basis.
So instead of really focusing on "I want this much money in two years," we're going to focus on "I'm going to be thankful today." I'm going to work out today. That's what I want to do. That's going to be my focus.
I'm going to reach my goal every single day. I can focus on it, check it off and feel successful, day after day after day.
If you do that often enough, your long-term goals will start to come true.
Taking a Look at the Two Models
Let me break down and compare the two models of traditional goal setting and behavior-based goal setting so you can get a better idea of how they work. Then we'll look at some real-world examples that you can look at, maybe even copy, or at least use as a starting point for your own goal-setting.
The traditional way to set goals is over a long period of time, like when I talked about starting your own business. In a year, I want to be running a business that brings in $5,000 a month.
Traditional goal setting would say, "Okay, your goal is to have a business that makes $5,000 a month in 12 months."
The problem is that there will be 365 days between now and then when you look at your calendar and your notes and ask, "Have I reached my goal yet?" and the answer is no.
You're constantly focusing on the fact that you're not there. Until you reach your goal, you don't feel like you've done well.
With a behavior-based goal-setting program, you have the opportunity to achieve goals daily.
We know that we have a long-term plan and that it will take a long time, but a lot can happen between now and then.
If I set small, behavior-based goals to work on every day, I can feel like I'm making progress.
If you have a year to get this done, there will be goals you can reach every day that will move you slowly but surely toward your long-term goal. But now you can feel the success because you do something every day and can check off the fact that "Hey, I hit five, six, or seven of my behavior-based goals today, and I know that brings me closer to this bigger picture."
Next, going back to the business example, what happens if a problem comes up with traditional goal-setting programs? There are many things that play a role.
You want to start your own business or have it make $5,000 a month in a year, but technology might have changed by then. If you have a website or some other tech-based business, the technology on which you built it could break, change, become non-standard, or get hacked.
I don't know what the variable could be, but there could be dozens or even hundreds of them.
Now what was originally a 12-month goal, suddenly becomes bumped to 15 months or 16 months, or even longer, because you simply couldn't anticipate or plan for these kinds of problems.
Again, your whole goal-setting plan has changed, but you still feel like you're failing.
Whereas with behavior-based goals, you have full control over the variables. These goals are about how you are going to act and what you are going to do every day.
There are no possible changes.
You either perform these activities and you behave these ways, or you don't. You have full control over it, and nothing can prevent you from being successful with behavior-based goals.
Not so much for goals based on results. There are many things that could stop you from doing those, and you can't always predict them.
Think back to the last time you tried to do something very big. Did it happen on the exact date you said it was going to happen? Chances are, it took a lot longer. It happens to all of us.
Finally, some goals can be achieved with brute force.
Think about how when you set goals the old way, you might tell yourself that you want to write a book in three months. You post it on Facebook, find people who will hold you accountable, hold your feet to the fire, and you get it done.
You're working under an extreme amount of pressure, but you force yourself to get it done, and at the end of it you go, "Look what I did. This is amazing. In three months, I wrote a book."
The problem is that it's not clear how long that kind of behavior can last.
Is it something you constantly want to do, constantly want to put yourself under that pressure? Probably not. It's probably not a habit that you can keep up for a long time.
It comes and goes, but you aren't going to act that way all the time.
Behavior-based goals take a little bit more of a long-term approach, and it focuses on long-term, positive habits.
Let's look at a behavior-based goal like this one: "I'm going to put a lot of energy into everything I do from now on. I'm going to be a person with a lot of energy." You made that your goal for today, tomorrow, and the rest of this week.
You can look at that for seven days and say, "I'm going to do this." At the end of each day, you either did it or didn't. You can check that off.
Well, if you stick to that goal and you check it off every single day for a week, then two weeks, then two months and so on, you're actually forming a positive, long-term habit that will inevitably help you reach any long-term goal that you want to set.
It lets you put your attention on changing your habits and getting to the bottom of why you want to set these long-term, big-picture goals.
This is the main difference between setting goals the old way and setting goals based on behavior.
Now we can take a look at some specific examples that hopefully help you relate to this.
Here's one that most people will get and understand and relate to:
Adding (pick a random number) $10,000 to sales.
That may be per month, per year, depending on your business. That's a traditional goal and how we time box it really depends on how quickly we want to achieve it.
With a behavior-based goal-setting approach, rather than focusing so much on did we achieve this $10,000 or not, we can focus on the daily approach of how we want to be and what we are going to do to inevitably get to that dollar figure.
How I'm going to be on a daily basis:
Active and upbeat
At the end of the day, I can ask myself, "Was I mostly positive and full of energy?" If that's the case, I've reached both of those goals.
Here are actions I'm going to take or activities I'm going to perform each day:
Talk to 10 clients.
Make 3 posts on social media (obviously related to what I sell)
Attend a live or virtual event
These are goals that have to do with what we do and can be done every day. Again, at the end of my day before I close down my computer or go to bed for the night, I can check off these boxes.
Did I talk to ten people? Did I put up these messages? Did I attend this event that I said I was going to attend?
If I can go 5 for 5, I'll feel very successful, and I'll have created a long-term behavior or habit that will lead to an increase in sales, regardless of whether I hit that $10,000 in the time box, result-oriented goal that I wanted or not. At this point, it doesn't really matter.
I can say that I met all five of my behavior-based goals for the day, which makes me feel pretty good about myself as the day ends.
Let's look at another example, more on the fitness side of things.
"I want to do 225 pounds on the bench press." For someone who is just starting out and maybe can't even lift the bar yet, that could be a big goal.
It would be nice to be able to say, "In a year or six months, I want to be able to bench press 225 pounds." But I can't say for sure that that's how my body will work.
But I can definitely work toward that by doing the following behavior-based goals.
Be thankful for my health and the fact I can bench press at all.
Being confident, to have a belief in myself.
Those are two behavior-based goals I can set and achieve every single day, to feel successful.
Stick to my prescribed meal plan.
Do my daily fitness plan.
Stretch and do yoga.
Again, here are five goals based on my actions that I can reach and check off every day to feel like I'm doing well.
Whether I reach that 225 outcome-based goal in the time frame I set is still up in the air, but these behavior-based goals are making sure that I will reach and probably surpass that goal in the long run, while feeling successful and not like I've missed out on something.
The next one is learning to speak Spanish well.
I'd like to say, "In a year, I'm going to be fluent in Spanish." But that depends on a lot of other things, like what my other goals are. Maybe I'm busy with family, work, and other things.
Whether I'm fluent in Spanish in a year or not remains to be seen, but there are goals I can set from a behavior-based goals perspective, and achieve every day.
Learn with enthusiasm.
Be grateful for my healthy mind.
Two of the day's goals have already been met.
Complete daily lessons.
Read Spanish articles, to get my mind used to looking at this type of text.
Practicing speaking out loud.
Again, here are five behavior-based goals that I can set and achieve every day to feel like I'm making progress and, as a result, learn Spanish quickly.
It takes away the pressure of having to reach this goal by a certain time, which we might not be able to control.
We can definitely take charge of these goals based on our actions and make sure we reach them every day.
The next example is eliminating student debt. This is very important to a lot of people right now. It would be nice to eliminate my student debt in a time box window of six months. That could happen or it might not.
But what I can control are my behavior-based goals.
Be happy for my education. It led to me getting a job.
Get pumped up. I have a job and I got this education. Even if you don't have a job, the fact that you went to school and learned something can be enough to keep you going. That's really cool.
By reaching these two behavior-based goals, I'm already on my way.
From the point of view of doing:
Review current finances.
Do my best at my job to bring in more money.
Look for additional income opportunities.
Those are five behavior-based goals that I can set and achieve every day, to feel successful, with the long-term goal being I'm eliminating my student debt.
Winning a marathon. Wouldn't that be great if we could all just write that down on paper and go out and achieve a giant goal like this? Maybe it's some other sporting event you compete in.
It would be great to go out and win the thing, but I don't want to necessarily feel unsuccessful if I don't.
Flip this around and say, "Look, I want to win a marathon, but what can I do today to at least work toward that happening in the future?"
From a being perspective:
Be thankful that I'm healthy and able to run at all.
Be proud of myself, that I have ambition to even set this goal to begin with, to be the type of person that likes to compete.
Every day, I can set and reach two goals that are based on how I act.
From the point of view of doing:
Do your training every day, whether it's running or strength training.
Stick to meal plans.
Maybe outside of the gym, you could follow the best runners, watch how they act, and learn what they do to be successful.
Again, these are five behavior-based goals that I can set and reach every single day to get closer to my big goal, which is to hopefully win a marathon one day.
These behavior-based goals help me feel like I'm making progress every day and help me form the habits I need to get to the point where I can hopefully one day win that marathon, which is my big goal.
I hope that some of these examples made sense to you and gave you a new way to look at what you might already be planning to do in your life or what you want to do.
Rather than looking at the strict, traditional, outcome-based approach to goal setting, you can look at setting some of these behavior-based goals that you can focus on every single day.
You can create that feeling of success, and probably give yourself a little bit more motivation to persist forward with whatever goals you're currently trying to achieve.
I really thank you for reading this!