It is that time of season where everyone is celebrating a new year. For some of us, this is the time of season where we do these challenges like “New Year, New Me.” Last year, I helped you to make successful diet resolutions. And the year before that I took a look at how a growth mindset could benefit you and your new year. This year, to help you really hone in on all of your goals this year, I want to focus on a key element often forgotten about when it comes to goal-setting, an often-neglected question: What is your Why?
Before talking about how to make the most out of our goal setting for this year, it’s important to re-examine what exactly SMART goals are and why they are talked about so much online and in businesses. And, just for the record, these are not goals that have anything to do with academics or making us smarter. They are goals that are:
The idea of setting SMART goals is that it gives the goal-setter an action plan. You, as the goal-setter, understand what it is to fail and what it is to succeed. Instead of focusing on a solely subjective goal like “I want to get in better shape” you objectify that goal and quantify it, saying something like “I want to have enough endurance to run 5 km without stopping.” Instead of saying “I want to lose weight”, you make it specific saying, “I want to lose 10 kg within six months.” As mentioned above, you are taking what is subjective and making it objective, and that is the beauty of SMART Goals.
Making SMART Goals SMARTER
While SMART goals may definitely be a great starting point for people during this time of year, another really powerful way to boost their effectiveness is by breaking down these goals into manageable chunks. If someone’s goal is to write a novel, for example, that might look pretty daunting. However, if they broke up that task into smaller, more manageable goals, then it doesn’t look so scary.
Consider that the average word count for a novel is between 70,000 to 120,000 words, depending on the genre, and you have your ultimate goal. Now let’s say that this goal was broken into 500 word segments each and every day. By the end of the year, the individual would have written around 183,000 words. Depending on the type of book he or she is writing, this very well could have been two whole novels completed within a year, not just one. And all by breaking this seemingly impossible goal, to write a novel, into something more realistic, which was to write just consistently every day.
However, even with this trick in our back pockets, it is only half the picture. So, what is the other half?
What is your WHY?
Simon Sinek famously introduced this concept of his Golden Circle, which you can watch below. But for those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole TED Talk, essentially what he says is that many businesses know what they do, but the truly influential businesses and successful businesses know why they do what they do.
In the Golden Circle (picture below) there are three areas: the what, the how, and the why.
Sinek goes on to explain how these three components are rooted in biology, corresponding perfectly with our brain.
Our Neocortex corresponds with our rational decision making. It is what controls our logic and speech. It is also responsible for all of our rational and analytical thoughts. The area underneath that is our limbic system, which is controlled by our emotions. Our feeling. This is the part of the brain where the how and the why operates. It is responsible for all of our human behaviors, all decision-making, and it has no capacity for language.
Think of the SMART Goals as the what and the how. Continuing this goal of weight loss we had earlier, it might look something like this.
However, if you paid attention to anything about SMART Goals, you would know that even this has room for improvement, with or without the why. Below is an image of what this might look like with a why included as well as SMART Goals being truly implemented.
This new one is much better. It not only has more details in it, like the amount of weight the individual wants to lose, but also how specifically he or she plans on obtaining this. What’s more, it includes the person’s why (or motivation) behind doing it. In this case, it seems that this motivation is to be a good parental role model. So, I ask you, what is your why?
Why is Why Important?
As mentioned above, while having a plan of attack is great, it absolutely means nothing if it is not implemented. If the mindset or drive is still lacking, then a plan (without any implementation) is still just a plan.
If your goal is “I want to lose 10 kg.” And your why is “I just feel like I should.” Or if the goal is “I want to write a novel” and the why is “I just think it would be cool.” These are not strong whys.
Why is necessary because when things get hard—which they will—your why is there to support you. When setbacks happen—which will occur—you can pull up your why and look at it. When you’re frustrated—because you will be—you can look at your why and remind yourself WHY you are doing this. On the days where it is crappy outside, or the times when you are tempted to binge and have a large bender for a friend’s birthday party or some sort of celebration, your why will be there to remind you of the commitment you made to yourself.
Think of your why as the battery to your cell phone. Your cell phone is the what and the how. You turn on the cell phone and you can see what exercises you’re planning on doing today. You can see how much progress you’ve made and how much more you still need to make. But if you don’t continually charge your phone every night, it will run out of power. When that happens, your willpower runs out and setbacks happen. The why is necessary to keep that phone running to ensure that you always know what it is you’re fighting for and how you are going to go about doing it.
What can Whys Be?
This is the great thing about a why—it can literally be anything. But it must be strong enough to motivate you. And I’ll repeat that: It MUST BE STRONG ENOUGH TO MOTIVATE YOU!
As mentioned above, just feeling that you should do something is probably not going to be a strong enough why. You tell someone that they can’t drink anymore because they have pancreatic cancer and if they drink again, they’ll most likely die; now that is a pretty big why for the individual never to touch alcohol again. Or tell an overweight woman who wants to have children that she has a much better chance of conceiving should she get her weight to a more manageable level, and it will give her a pretty significant why as to get in shape. You explain to an expectant mother the hazards of smoking and drinking to her future newborn and chances are she will quit cold turkey.
Think about this when planning out your goals for this year. Do not focus solely on SMART goals, but think about the intention behind them. If you do that, then you are much more likely to stick with your goals with the going gets tough.
What is one of your goals for this year? What is your why behind it? Let me know in the comments below!