How To Set Goals Without Screwing It Up, Part 3
Welcome to the next installment of the how to set goals series.
At some point we will talk about what TO do when it comes to goal setting, but for the moment we are well and truly entrenched in what NOT to do.
As we said in the beginning, no one can give you a one-size-fits all process that will guarantee you’re setting the right goals for you. There are just too many variables that have to do with you and your unique situation to allow such a handy process to exist.
However! The things that end up screwing us over in the goal-setting process are pretty universal, so let’s keep looking at the questions that can keep you from making critical mistakes with your goals.
Now we’re going to talk about the thing that no one wants to acknowledge, but everyone has to pay for – and that’s the cost of your goals.
The reason no one wants to acknowledge it is because it complicates the goal setting process, and often means we have to adjust our goals in ways we don’t want to (or work harder to make things nicer for other people as we pursue our goals).
But such is life. Just because you don’t like the math, it doesn’t mean you get out of how the equation works out.
If you don’t give this its due, you’re probably going to experience consequences and fights you don’t want (and that you privately hope you can avoid).
But if you give this its due, you can figure out how to ACTUALLY avoid it.
I’m all for the happier ending.
Which brings us to our third question.
Question #3 – Have you thought about how to reduce the impact of your goals on the people you care about?
“Oh, don’t be like that.”
That’s a common refrain in relationships when someone gets called on a behavior that impacts the other party.
Now, because we all like getting what WE want, it’s not unusual to minimize the impact of that thing on the people around us.
So one person says “I’m not happy with how your goal is impacting me.”
And the other person often responds with “Oh, don’t be like that. Why can’t you understand?”
It usually results in a period of fighting, or silence, or resentment, and it’s tragic because the situation usually ends up getting so emotionally charged that nothing really gets resolved.
Sometimes it does, and then other people start supporting you more in your goals, and that’s great.
But a lot of time it doesn’t.
Let’s talk about how to get to the great.
Warning! What you are about to read has about a 104% chance of getting you defensive. If it does, that’s a good sign. Stick with the whole article and you will be rewarded with a process that will help you get other people to support your goals more.
First, check your goal for symptoms of The Void.
Psychology is a funny thing.
(Actually psychology is a bitch, but let’s just call it a funny thing for now.)
When something is important to us for practical reasons and does not fill an emotional void, we tend think rationally.
“Wow, that new $1,500 computer is pretty sexy and I could sure use it. But I’m not sure I want to max out my credit card to get it, so I’ll pass for now. I don’t want to be paying this thing off for the next 3 years.”
When we’re rational, we think about the costs and really look at if it’s worth paying those costs.
When something is important to us because it has the potential to fill an emotional void, however, rationality goes out the window.
“Wow, that new $1,500 computer is pretty sexy. I NEVER have anything nice and I feel like I’m always cheaping out on everything. And I’m so tired of waiting. Everyone else has nice stuff and it’s my turn. They should understand. Where’s my Visa card?”
When our goals are there to fill an emotional void, we stop thinking rationally and we don’t do the math. We say it will be worth it. We say it’s our turn. We say other people should understand. We say we’ll figure out how to make up the cost later.
Sometimes paying the cost IS worth it.
But it’s not really the best idea to decide you’ll figure out how to pay the cost later if you haven’t really thought about what the cost will be now.
When we really, really want something NOW, it’s generally because we’re in pain.
And we’ll do whatever it takes to get out of that pain as fast as possible, which isn’t a bad thing unless you’re not thinking about the impact of other people around you.
- If your goal is to get out of your day job that is crushing your soul on a daily basis, that pain is significant. You feel like you’ll do whatever it takes to work your way out of it.
- If your goal is to get your own business profitable so you can finally feel like a success after years of losing money, the pain you’re moving away from is significant. You feel like you’ll do whatever it takes to work your way out of it.
- If your goal is to make pots of money so your family doesn’t have to go through the painful poverty you went through as a child, that pain is significant. You feel like you’ll do whatever it takes to work your way out of it.
All of those goals are worthy.
And from a goals perspective, being personally willing to do “whatever it takes” can be a good thing, because it means you’re going to go through your own sacrifices to get something you want.
And all of those sacrifices, because of The Void, seem much less painful than letting The Void persist.
Be aware of the sacrifices that you’re asking other people to make.
Because chances are that they’re not experiencing the same gripping emotional need you might be experiencing, which mean the sacrifices impact them more.
This is important.
The people in your life are more reasonable than you think.
We talk to clients all the time who say their partners or spouses or kids just don’t understand why they need to work so hard to meet their goals.
They say thing like “They don’t appreciate the sacrifices I’m making to make this important thing happen. They’re being unreasonable.”
But, generally they’re wrong.
People are reasonable in that they have reasons. They may be good reasons. They maybe terrible reasons. But they do have reasons.
And if you find that your goal impacts someone else, it’s probably a good idea to stop focusing on “they should understand” and think about the reasons why they might not understand.
Because in general, the people who care about you want to support your goals.
They just might not want to support the way you’re going about them.
Goal setting involves accounting for time, money, attention, routine, and state.
When you’re working towards a major goal, you’re going to factor in (at least) five resources, both from your perspective and the other person’s perspective.
Read this all the way through, because we’re going to cover each problems and then talk about potential solutions. So don’t get all defensive just yet.
First, there’s time.
Before you embark upon a goal, you’re giving a certain amount of time to the people around you. After you begin your goal, you’re shifting that time away from them and onto your goal.
Most people don’t consider that because of The Void. If they decide, for example, to spend an extra five hours a week list building so they can grow their business, or even just to go the gym three days a week so they can get in shape, that’s less time spent with other people.
Chances are, the people who care about you like spending time with you, and your goals now take time out of their “spending time with you” budget.
If you’re experiencing friction or pushback on your goals, take a look at the time impact on other people. Look at it from their point of view and see what price they have to pay.
Then imagine the other person set a goal that burned a similar amount of time that was important to you and imagine the pushback you’d feel.
You’d want them to talk to you to see if there was a way to reduce the time impact, either by reducing time or picking different times, or setting your deadline farther away so you’re not doing so much all at once.
Second, there’s money.
Just like with time, your goals will often have a money component to them. If you’ve got other people in your life, remember you’re taking that money out of a shared budget.
You may not want to acknowledge that because you know you’re going to get pushback. The other people in your life may not want you to drop $1,500 on a new computer so you can do video editing when there are other priorities to be addressed.
You can do the common approach, which is to decide you’re going to fight for your $1,500 and now you’re at odds with your partner.
Or, you can look at it from their side – imagine that outlay of money was really, really important to them because of their own need to fill The Void, and how you’d feel when your shared budget was threatened.
If you can look at it from their side, you have the opportunity to find a way to make it work for the other person. It may involve compromise on both sides, but it does require conversation.
(And if you’re not willing to have the conversation, there’s a good chance you want the goal and the deadline for the wrong reasons.)
Third, there’s attention.
Before your goal, you had a certain amount of attention and focus you were giving other people. After you go for your goals, you’re shifting some of that attention away.
That’s a cost.
Option one is to tune out when the other person says you’re not giving the same kind of attention and focus to things that you use to and say “You should understand. We’ll work it out later.”
Option two is to listen – really listen – and be willing to accept how the math works out with the situation you’re proposing. Keep yourself open to opportunities for creative ways to make sure you’re not taking too much attention out of the budget and just expecting the other person to accept it.
Again, reverse it and think of times when you’ve wished you had more of the other person’s attention but they were off pursuing X. You might not have had a problem with X. You just had a problem with the lost attention.
When you’re pursuing your goals, you have to remember the other person’s experience.
Fourth, there’s routine.
You have certain routines in your life. The people around you get a lot of comfort and value out of those routines.
When you are going after a big goal, it’s common to change a routine. You may decide to stay up late to work on your blog posts, or get up early and go to the gym.
That’s not automatically a problem. But expecting the other people in your life to act like there’s no impact is.
When you change your routines, other people have to change theirs. Which isn’t problematic if you can take their changes into account and make it worth their while.
But when all you’re thinking about is The Void, that’s not the first step in your flowchart.
So keep routines in mind when you’re planning a goal and expecting pushback (or when you’re getting it with your current goals). People always have a reason for the resistance.
Fifth, there’s state.
This is a big one.
Pursuing important goals automatically carries a big emotional component to the process. And when we’re not conscious about it, we don’t see how it affects us.
We do one task, and we’re the same person at the end and potentially happy. You go and get your oil changed, maybe, and it doesn’t impact your mood, your energy levels, your patience, your capacity, or your emotional availability.
But other things do.
Think of those things you resist other people doing because you know they’re going to become a different version of themselves after they’ve done it.
Maybe it’s calling their mother, and they’re always in a bad mood after. Maybe it’s driving at rush hour, and they’re a bundle of nerves after. Maybe it’s playing hours of video games, and they kind of check out when they’re done (and, frankly, during).
You know how that makes you feel.
Now, reverse it. Ask yourself if you are the exact same person when you’re working on your goal. Ask yourself if you’re always thinking about the goal when you’re not working on it, and what that does to your state of mind.
Your brain will work pretty hard to tell you that you don’t change at all.
Just like it does with the people you’re frustrated with.
Assume it’s lying. Check. Really ask yourself if you’re not seeing the cost because you don’t want to, because The Void is overpowering your rational brain.
Yeah. Psychology is a bitch.
What this means for you.
When you set goals, they automatically come with costs – to you and the people around you.
If you’re used to experiencing pushback on your goals, it might not be pushback on the goal at all.
It’s probably the costs.
And the problem often isn’t with the cost itself, but how you’re handling it. (Or, in some cases, the fact you’re not handling it at all.)
The people around you may be perfectly happy for you to fill The Void.
But they may want you to do it a different way in order to get their support.
Here’s how to get more of what you want.
Look at the goals you’re setting and count up the costs for the other people around you.
Time. Money. Attention. Routine. State.
Really, really look at what the impact is on other people.
Imagine – just for a moment – that these people are reasonable.
Then see what you can do to manage the impact.
Generally, people react positively to three approaches:
This is when you find ways to soften the costs, either by adjusting your schedule or timing. It can also involve taking active steps to manage your state and preserve routines as much as possible.
This is when you change your goal and decide you’re going to be okay with it.
Instead of trying to achieve your goal in three months, you change it to six or nine so the costs go way down.
Or you decide that it’s okay to take a smaller version of your goal that still fills The Void enough for it not to feel so Void-y.
This is when you sweeten the pot, and it should be your last resort, not your first.
Basically, you buy your way out of it. You decide that you’re going to pay back the costs you’re incurring for other people by taking some stuff out of your own time and money budget.
In other words, if you’re going to spend five more hours a week doing list building, maybe you cut out your personal fun budget and spend that money doing nice things for the people who are now graciously supporting your goals.
(This is akin to saying to your kid, “If you come to this boring store so I can do some boring shopping and you let me do it in peace, I’ll get you some ice cream.” It works on kids, it works on you, and it works on other people as well.)
People are more reasonable than you think.
(Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes people have their own Voids going on, and they decide that making life miserable for other people is their modus operandi.)
But even if that’s the case, doing what we just talked about will probably have a positive effect anyway.
Psychology is a funny thing.
When you put your back into taking other people’s needs into consideration, they notice.
And then they’re generally a lot more interested in supporting your goals.
Think about it for a while, but take a break first to give your brain a chance to process.
Getting on the newsletter or clicking one of those share buttons below would be a great way to take that break.