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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Setting yourself goals for 2024? Try this one thing

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies

‘Believe me when I say, doing what you know is not how you create great things.

You create great things when you have the courage to do what you don’t know.’ (Steven Bartlett. ‘Diary of a CEO)

Hooray, Christmas is coming.

Time to start thinking about our new year’s resolutions and goals for 2024.

But let’s face it, the way we’ve been approaching this noble and popular act of setting personal goals has hardly been producing results.

We might be better saying ‘this noble and pretty pointless act.’

  • For example, research published in Forbes magazine finds that:

  • Only 9 percent of goals individuals set themselves at the start of a new year are met.

  • 23 per cent are forgotten within the first week, and

  • 43 per cent are dead and buried by the end of January. (Oh well, we’re all busy)

Perhaps this explains why one or two of us are still a (little) overweight, still drinking a (little) too much and still nowhere near running that marathon we promised ourselves?

With all best intentions, setting yourself goals for the new year is often a bit of a waste of time.

And that’s despite the amount that has been written on this subject.

  • Setting goals that are SMART first appeared in 1981 with the publication of a research paper by three academics (goals need to be - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely).

Other than leadership or change, goal setting must be the most written about topic in the business / self-help category.

For example, Ayelet Fishbach, a professor at the University of Chicago, even went as far as writing an entire book about the subject. (‘Get it Done. Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation.’)

Professor Fishbach advises (amongst other things) that to be effective, we should:

  • Set goals that are ‘approach goals’ and not ‘avoidance goals’ (‘to win’ as opposed ‘not to lose.’)

  • Put a number against each goal – targets pull you towards the goal and make it easy to monitor progress.

  • Plan incentives for when you hit interim targets – rewards for achievement motivate you to keep going, and

  • Not to be afraid to of sharing your goals with others – reporting progress to others drives our motivation.

But there’s a different idea of how to set and go for goals that is gaining popularity.

It might seem a bit quirky but it’s attracted a lot of attention in recent literature.

When you set yourself goals, set goals that are massive. Goals that seem almost impossible to achieve.

  • Then ask yourself – ‘for this goal to be possible, what would need to be true?’

  • And then take action towards the goal.

Here’s why this approach is gaining in popularity:

  1. Most of us set ourselves ‘incremental’ goals. (‘Increase our attendance at the gym to 4 sessions per week, get a 50 per cent higher bonus this year, for example).

  2. But think about the 80/20 rule. Take the average company – 80 per cent of what goes on each day doesn’t move it closer to its goals (the pointless meetings, the endless planning and bureaucracy, the 20 slide Power Points, the out-of-date HR practices). It It’s the other 20 per cent that really matters.

  3. And it’s the same for individuals (except our 80 per cent probably consists of being on social media and staring at our telephones.)

  4. When you set yourself incremental goals, the 80 per cent remains in place, unaltered. You tweak the 20 per cent (more effort or will power) to achieve the goal.

  5. But when you set yourself massive goals, the 80 per cent has to change – and the 20 per cent has to expand if you have any chance of reaching the goal. You really have to start the process of change.

‘What got you here won’t get you there.’ (Title of a book by Marshall Goldsmith)

And there are other benefits of setting massive goals.

  1. If you are serious in this exercise, you will need to think ‘outside the box’ to come up with new ideas. Instead of making slight adjustments to your ‘present self’ in order to meet your goal, you are driven to behave and act like the new ‘improved’ person you will be in the future.

  2. If nothing else, setting massive goals and taking action to achieve them, even if you fail, will likely put you in a better position than setting incremental goals and achieving them.

Every next level of your life will require a different you.’ (Leonardo Di Caprio)

Case Study

‘It would be impossible, unless...Then ask yourself how you can create the ‘unless conditions to make the impossible possible.’ (Alan Barnard)

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