Which Comes First – Motivation or the Goal?
The relationship between motivation and goal setting is much like the chicken and the egg. While we know they need each other, does motivation lead to goal setting or does having goals lead to motivation? Even more confusing, you can be motivated and set goals, and STILL not accomplish what you want. Everyone falls short now and again. In fact, if someone claims they never fail, then I would argue that they’re either full of crap or a spineless chicken (but that’s a topic for another day). However, if you’re frustrated, it may be time to reevaluate your approach. Here are three common pitfalls:
Your objective may be unrealistic.
Millennials often get a bad rap for this one. They have vague and lofty aspirations but somehow believe they’re going to “manifest” the resources or skills needed to achieve their goals. Yes, goals need to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Otherwise it’s just a wish. Or an idea. Call it whatever you want- if your statement is lacking one of those elements, it’s not really a goal. But you already know that, so let’s move on.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are the super motivated dreamers who are fired up to change the world. These are the people who watch a video, get inspired, set a big fat hairy ambitious goal complete with SMART objectives, but still fall short. Let’s be real. You can’t control EVERYTHING. Maybe the market conditions are not favorable. Sometimes someone else overestimates, under-delivers, takes advantage of your enthusiasm, or flat out lies. As much as you may hate to admit, the fact of the matter is that you can’t guarantee certain things: climate/weather, current events, the actions of other people… While you may be able to influence or mitigate some of these things to a degree, it’s important to differentiate between things that you can control and the things that you can’t.
You’re focusing on the wrong things.
If I see one more article about “following your passion,” I may just lose my mind. Passion is great, but it’s not strategic or deliberate in and of itself. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Why do some people seem to do more than others? Because they choose to do more? Well, yes… but they also choose to focus on the actions that get them closer to their goals. Do you struggle to say no or worry about letting people down? You probably take on too many projects or let other people prioritize your day. If you have multiple goals/people competing for your time and attention, choosing what NOT to do is just as important as deciding on what you ARE going to do. Is there something that keeps taking the back burner to everything else? Maybe it’s not as important as you think it is.
By the way, if you’re stuck in “overwhelm” or if you’re prone to “analysis paralysis,” you’ll find setting deliberate priorities very therapeutic.
You’re making excuses.
Some of the biggest innovations have come from people who were not the best funded, most educated, or even the brightest in their field. The Wright Brothers come to mind.
Wait, what? Didn’t the rest of this post talk about legitimate reasons that cause intelligent, motivated people to fail? Well, yes… but that doesn’t mean you should let those things stop you. In the words of Tony Robbins, “Stay committed to your decisions, but be flexible in your approach.”
Flexibility doesn’t mean that you vow to stop eating junk food and then change your mind at the office because a cute guy or girl brought in donuts and you don’t want to hurt their feelings. But if your goal is to become a pharmacist and you don’t get into pharmacy school right away, taking a position as a chemistry teacher while you continue applying the following year shows flexibility in your approach.
Excuses sound really convincing to those who are making them up, but it’s pretty easy to see through them if you’re the one listening to them.
Studies show that sharing your goals with others increases your likelihood of following through. You obtain support, positive reinforcement, and build relationships by talking about your goals and encouraging others to do the same. It’s also easy to put off taking action when nobody else knows you’re working toward something. It’s a lot tougher to hide when people are asking you about your progress.
By documenting the pursuit of goals in a public manner, we can establish accountability (or find people to call us out on our BS) and also get some support. It’s tough to make changes, but even tougher if you don’t have a support system. If you are in need of a supportive community, please join the discussion in our Facebook group.