Nearly all new endeavors in our lives begin with a goal. From learning a new language to reading 50 books a year, setting goals is the logical first step in cementing your new ambition. However, anyone with a spin bike as a coat rack will tell you that goals are great but they’re not enough.
Why is that?
When we set a goal we are planning a new path for our future selves- which is awesome and really inspiring, but our current selves don’t have a clue where to find that path or how to navigate around its twists and turns.
The frustration we feel from wanting to achieve a goal we’ve set but not knowing how to succeed is maddening. This divergence is what causes most people to forget their goals and retreat to their old ways.
When the stress of trying to figure out how exactly to commit yourself is stronger than the future perceived benefits of the goal, ambitions are often abandoned and spin bikes turn into coat racks.
How to End “Goal Stress”
Goals are important because they will guide you like a north star toward some bigger better future you have planned for yourself. This goal-setting process is valuable for you to engage in but unless goals are coupled with serious behavior change, you’re going to get lost on your journey toward that north star. So, how do you practice serious behavior change?
You intentionally modify your habits and routines.
A goal is the end result you want to achieve and habits are the daily actions you take toward (or away from) that goal.
Think of the goal as your destination and your habits as the turn by turn directions that will lead you along the journey to your desired destination.
The first thing you do to prepare for this journey to your desired destination is plan the drive. You have to procure a car, pack some snacks, and make sure there is enough gas in the tank to get you where you want to go.
Defining your destination is setting your goal.
Once you have your target location chosen it’s time to put the car in drive and start cruising. There is just one small problem- you don’t know whether to turn left or right at the end of your driveway. You have the destination picked out but you forgot to map out the route to get there.
In essence, you have the goal set but you don’t have the game plan prepared. What do you do now?
You type the destination into the GPS and wait for it to tell you which way to turn. GPS navigation systems are amazing tools because they give you every turn by turn direction required to reach your goal destination.
We all have an internal “GPS navigation systems” that help us map out the best route to take in order to get to the desired destination.
This internal GPS navigation system takes the form of habits and routines.
The turn by turn directions you receive from your GPS system are like the habits you engage in on a daily basis- they’re the actions you implement to achieve your goal. Each left and right turn will either bring you closer or further from your desired destination just as each action you take will bring you either closer to or further from your desired goal.
How To Set Your Internal GPS
The internal GPS setting segment is the hardest part of the process, but luckily once you have it set you just have to follow it and course correct if you accidentally take a wrong turn or miss an exit.
In order to correctly calibrate your internal GPS, you must take note of your current behaviors and think critically about how you will need to modify or change them to bring yourself closer to your goal.
For example, if your goal is to afford a luxury vacation you have to think about which actions you can implement or get rid of in your daily life that will help you arrive at that five-star resort.
Maybe you need to stop buying your daily coffee at Starbucks and start directing 10% of each paycheck to deposit automatically into a savings fund you’ve set up for yourself. These are the routines and habits that will bring you closer to your desired destination.
If you find yourself at the mall with new shoes in your hands, you need to figure out how to get back on the path toward your goal as well as come up with a plan to prevent yourself from taking another wrong turn.
At the end of the day, setting goals is useful but it is far more valuable for you to focus your attention on the daily actions that will guide your path toward the goal you set. Once these actions become routine, you won’t even have to think about performing them. All you have to do is follow your internal GPS and stay on the right path to achieve success.