Sometimes goals are used as an excuse to actually avoid changing.
At first blush that sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? We set up goals or resolutions in order to change and improve ourselves. But, after some discussion I’ve been having with a client, I realized that we set some goals up, as excuses to avoid making change. It might not be consciously or intentional, but even so, we’re doing it.
As an example, suppose we have family members who are on our backs about losing weight or quitting smoking. We might not want to (even though we know they’re right) or we might not be ready or we might not believe we can accomplish our goals. So, in order to avoid dealing with the hassle of our family, we throw our hands up over our head and say, “Fine! I’ll lose the weight!” Then, we set up such an unrealistic goal that it’s virtually impossible to accomplish it so after a short while we can quit. When people say, “What happened?” We can say, “I tried. What else can I do?” and hopefully get them off our back. (To read a humorous post about use of the word “trying,” follow this link.)
In an earlier post I wrote about a “composite client” who I felt was making goals that were so large, he was setting himself up for failure. He has repeated “tried” (there’s that word again) to lose weight but has never move very far along his path. To help him out, I asked him to be more specific in his goals and to make smaller steps. In an update to me, he said:
To be honest, I’m having a hard time setting journals with short term goals. I tend to think big picture, and I have a hard time with all the little steps between here and there. For example, I tend to just say “I’ll go to the gym every day this week.” Putting a limit on my time, for example saying “I’ll go to the gym for an hour every day,” seems restricting, because it’s too easy (in my mind anyway) to fail.
Therein lies one of the major problems you’re facing. In my opinion, part of the reason you’re so frustrated with your success is you’re setting goals that are way out of line. If you had the time to rearrange your life, you would have already achieved the goals. Very few people do so they get part way down that path, realize they’ve shown very little change and decide it’s not working.
By not setting small steps, you can fool yourself into believing you’re making progress when you might or might not be. In a way, it’s kind of an excuse for NOT doing the real work it takes. After all, if there are a series of small un-met goals, you have to be honest about what you’re not doing. If there are not any, the mind is capable of great amounts of denial. If your goal was to get to New York and you didn’t use a map and just headed east, you could say you’re on your way – but are you really? What will you do when a road is closed? Not to mention, you could be heading toward Atlanta and would not know it until you saw the “Welcome to Georgia” sign.
Any coach or motivator will tell you that successful people make a series of small goals and achieve them. It’s just what works.