“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” – Marilyn Strathern
Hey Goal Setters, The Data Is Not On Your Side
It’s a wonder that people set goals at all. Data indicates that less than 25% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Kinda sad, eh? Even worse, most jump ship within 30 days of their commitment, with only 8% accomplishing what they started (Statista, 2017).
So, if this is the case, what should you do about it? Stop setting goals all together? Hang on, we have some ideas!
Rethink How You Set Goals
Let’s face it, goal setting has become a bad habit, an unending loop of enthusiasm, shallow commitment, followed by guilt driven apathy. This endless spiral is reinforced by war stories shared over coffee on Saturday afternoons with your best mates; the apprehensive giggles mask your deep sense of personal disappointment.
Familiar picture? It’s time to admit that you basically suck at setting goals!
If you want to take control of the outcomes you seek, you have to rethink the goal setting process. In order to do this, we suggest a two step process designed to lunch you in the right direction with sustainability in mind.
Step 1: Break the Ice with Micro Habits
A micro habit is an incremental step leading you in the direction of your final goal. Embracing micro habits leads to greater adherence towards the outcomes you desire.
For example, let’s say your final goal is to run a 5k. You are not concerned about time, only being able to run the entire distance without stopping. Knowing that you have been a runner in the past, you commit to train four days a week.
For day one of your first week, you build a plan to start at 2k per workout. You quickly discover that the effort was too difficult and end up feeling discouraged. Using micro habits, you listen to this feedback and decide to back off to 1k each day for the first two weeks. You do this until 1k feel exceptionally easy.
Micro habits are also useful when applied to motivation. In the example above, you notice that by the end of the week, getting out the door feels immensely impossible. You start to question the broader 5k goal and consider stopping.
Using micro habits for motivation means you incorporate behaviours that support running. In this case, you adop the following:
- You place your running shoes and gear next to the bed the night before.
- You fill your water bottle and place it with your running gear.
- You set your phone to play motivational music as your morning alarm.
Using this method, you can see that a micro habit is an approximation to your final goal. It is important to acknowledge that each health focused habit you seek to incorporate into your life, is actually a series of micro habits getting you there.
Step 2: Evaluate Progress Using Multiple Metrics
Most of us evaluate outcomes using only one metric. For instance, when planning your goal to run 5k non-stop, one logical measure of success is whether or not you can complete the 5k. But, is this enough?
The problem with using a singular metric is that we fail to see the other indicators of progress along the way. We suggest that you spend time developing multiple metrics to measure your success. For instance, you might consider the following:
- Your ability to complete 5k non-stop
- Your mood before and after a running workout
- The quality of your sleep as you increase distance each week
Clinical Example: Weight Loss
In order to round off your understanding of using micro habits and multiple metrics, we will now focus on weight loss in a detailed example. Weight loss is the most common personal goal that people make, next to improving finances:
Lose five pounds in three months (12 weeks) by replacing one meal with a plant-based option, plus walk 10k steps, each day.
- Remove tempting snacks from easy view in both my refrigerator and cupboards.
- Add plant-based foods I love to my fridge and cupboards.
- In the morning, visualize the plant-based meal I am going to have today.
- At work, go to people vs. calling them.
- Keep walking shoes at work that are easily accessible and go with what I am wearing.
- Weigh myself on Tuesdays and Fridays each week, for 12 weeks. Keep a chart of my progress.
- At week 6, evaluate if my clothes feel looser on me.
- Rate my energy levels each day. Put this into a log and look for patterns.
- Rate my mood each day using an app on my iPhone. Look for patterns.
While weight loss is an admirable goal, it is important to view the broader implications and impacts. Weight loss in and of itself is not sufficient. Having a few extra pounds on our body affects our energy, mood, and waistline. Once you start to view outcomes in this broader fashion, micro habits and multiple measures comes naturally.