In July, I set a midstream goal to pick up 10,000 steps a day (as recorded by this nifty gadget). Over the course of the last six months, it’s completely changed the way I approach goal setting.
That goal worked. Without meaning to, my 10,000 step goal turned me into a runner–and I thought I didn’t like running. (In the past, I’ve even trained for big races with a spreadsheet, sticking to the training plan, marking off the number of miles per day. I completed those plans; I ran those races. But it felt like a slog the whole time.)
This time, I started running because I wanted to get steps. The process was fun: it felt like a game. There have been a few times since July when I’ve timed myself for a mile, or for a 5k–just out of curiosity–and it immediately began to feel like drudgery again. Marking off miles on a spreadsheet is not fun for me, but getting 10,000 steps is.
I had mixed success with my 2013 goals. Why did my midstream 10,000 steps goal work, when so many of my other well-intentioned, intelligent, SMART goals failed? I have a hunch it’s because my 10,000 steps goal focused on the process and completely ignored results.
Forget about results
I forgot about results, but that doesn’t mean the results didn’t come. Without even meaning to, I’ve dramatically built up my stamina and endurance. I’m stronger. I’m covering more ground in less time. But those weren’t my goals.
I’ve reviewed all my 2013 goals (including the goals I didn’t tell you about, like easily quantifiable blog stats) and it’s clear the goals that worked didn’t focus on results. Special breakfasts, track the books I read, guest post once a month, complete a Whole 30: they all focus on the process, not the outcome.
(An exception appears to be “learn to use my camera,” except I decided to attack this goal by signing up for an online photography class. If I had to do it all over again, I’d make my goal “complete Shoot Fly Shoot course,” not “learn to shoot in manual mode.”)
In 2014, I’m forgetting about results. My new goals focus on the process (which I can control), not the outcome (which I can’t).
A new tool in my toolbox
I became a little bit obsessed with finding a way to make my (unmet) pullup goal process-oriented and finding a system to help me track it. I’ve used this system before, with some success, but I wanted to find a tool that was a stronger motivator. After all, I didn’t start caring about 10,000 steps until I had a tool to measure and track it.
(I started off looking for a pullup app, and I downloaded–and quickly deleted–three or four, liking none of them.)
I finally landed on the Commit app, which fits right in with my process-oriented mindset. It’s basically the app version of my home-cooked system that mashed up Gretchen Rubin’s resolutions chart with Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.
This $3 app only does one thing, but it does it well. Every day, it asks me if I’ve completed the tasks I’ve committed to, and tells me how long my successful streak is.
I would love to get a pull-up eventually, but that’s not the goal I’m focusing on. My goal is to do twenty pull-ups (using resistance bands to make them easier) every day.
I’m also using the Commit app to track taking my allergy meds, writing 500 words, turning the lights out at 10pm (ouch!), and a few other things.
I’m two weeks in. We’ll see how it goes.
Have you had success with SMART goals? Do you focus on results or forget about them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on goal-setting successes and failures in comments.
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