Overcoming Obstacles With Goals

Whether you hit a wall on your “no drinking month” or your pledge to be more productive hasn’t yielded well, much of anything, it’s probably time to re-think, nay, master the science of goal-setting. With a few more well-planned techniques and a little less reliance on pure desire, you’re in with a much, much better chance of seeing it through to the end. Because while we may have the best intentions to drink less, save more, run further, or run at all, somewhere between 35 percent and 89 percent of us will fail, often within the first week.

89%. That’s a lot of failed “no drinking” pledges, although perhaps not altogether surprising. This is what social researchers call the intention-behaviour gap. Which basically means that, no matter how much you want to pick up that regular gym class, wanting something is only the first step. Unfortunately for us, wishing something into existence, isn’t going to make it so.

Here’s why:

You get busy

Probably the most cited reason (do we dare say excuse?) of all. What “being too busy” actually means is, we have more pressing priorities. You vow to meal prep the week’s lunches Sunday afternoon, but when Sunday afternoon comes around, there is a ton of other stuff you need to do. Translated: you never get started in the first place.

You get disrupted

Your boss e-mails you a project that needs urgent attention at 6 pm, the washing machine leaks, you forget your gym kit, it’s raining, the traffic is awful. You get the picture: whatever good intentions you had somehow get derailed.

You overextend yourself

If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s that willpower is an unreliable ally in the face of tiredness or overwhelm. Almost nothing is going to out-rank a sofa/TV combination after a really tough day at work.

You set out to do the wrong thing

If you think Yoga might the answer to kick-start your exercise routine, but you live an hour from your closest studio, it’s probably never going to happen.

No doubt this all sounds way too familiar. Again and again, merely wanting to do something will fall flat in the face of busy schedules, inevitable disruptions and feeling overexerted. But simply visualising these oh-so-predictable obstacles is the key to overcoming them.

Let’s revisit the above problems and consider how to overcome these obstacles.

You get busy:

Problem: You vowed to read more this month, but every time you want to reach for a book there’s a million other things to be done.

Solution: Swap “I will read more this month” for “If I don’t get time to read during the evening, I will spend my morning commute time with a book, rather than my phone.”

You get disrupted:

Problem - You vowed to read more this month, but now you’ve been flooded by emails that need your attention.

Solution - Swap “I will read more this month” for “I will put my phone to bed half an hour before I go and use that time to read.”

You overextend yourself:

Problem - You vowed to read more this month, but you often feel too tired to do anything when you get in from work.

Solution - Swap “I will read more this month” for “I will spend at least two hours over the weekend relaxing with a book.”

You set out to do the wrong thing:

Problem - You vowed to read more this month, but every time you pick up a book, you find yourself not enjoying it.

Solution - Swap “I will read more this month” for “I will bookmark interesting articles and read them on my commute home.”

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