The Simple Goal Setting Method we need to Apply

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I want to share with you how I think about goals and what that process looks like.

The past week has been full of new events. It was my birthday just over a week ago and also we welcomed our second baby, on top of all that is going on in the world right now. I thought there was no better time to revisit my goals and walk you through some of the things I do.

Before we talk about how we should think about goals, we first should talk about the definition of goals. I recently read a very interesting way of thinking about this concept. We commonly think of goals as something we want to achieve, or what the end goals look like, in other words, the success.

Mark Manson puts it in a very interesting way. He says we should think about it as “What Kind of pain do I want?”. This seems odd, and it is at first. But the more I think about it the more it becomes clear that it is a great way to think about goals.

I have set goals since I have memory. Back when I was little was related to tennis, nowadays it is more related to work and engineering. It was easy to look ahead and imagine the outcome and what I wanted to achieve as well as the main steps to get there. But the hardest part by far was the pain between where you are right now and where you want to be in a month or a year.

I am sure everyone has goals, everyone wants to be successful in one way or another. But the biggest challenge to get there is the ability to endure that pain. You may have heard a lot of people saying we should enjoy the journey and not worry too much about the destination. I believe they are right. The goal is not important if we do not “enjoy” the journey. Asking the question “What kind of pain do I want?” gives you perspective to understand if the journey is worth it. For example, creating a podcast and videos for YouTube is not easy. It is “painful”. But I enjoy the process, I enjoy staying up a little later thinking about new episodes or making them. I could be doing other things, but I enjoy the pain that comes with making content as well as the reward of helping others.

Goals and How to Achieve Them

One of the key understandings you need to realize when making goals is the difference between systems and goals. The goals are the final outcome, the results of your work. The systems are the tools, actions, and people that are going to help you get there. These are some great examples from James Clear.

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.

If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million-dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Goals are useful for setting the direction. Systems are great for actually making progress. — James Clear

Now with that out of the way, how do you actually set the goals you are able to achieve? One of the most important realizations is that you cannot do it all. Thinking big is great, but at some point, you will be overdoing it for so long that it will burnout. Believe me, I have experienced it. Setting an upper boundary is not the end of the world. We are accustomed to setting lower boundaries on our goals, why not setting upper boundaries. I would suggest you revise this upper boundary as you become more experienced with setting goals. It is hard to dial it in the first few times but over time you will have a feel for what is too much or too little to accomplish

One great way to stay on top of your goals is by having them written down at your desk, on your phone, in the bathroom, etc… By having them present all the time you will be more likely to actively pursue them. Personally, I use Notion to keep track of my goals, and since I spent all day in Notion, I can constantly see them and stay on top of them. Here is a template if you want to grab it!

Your goals should make you feel motivated to achieve them. If they are soft and without fundamentals, they are going to fall off your radar. Assign tasks to them, assign projects, give them a timeline, be intentional about your environment, and be realistic with what you are setting yourself up to.

Setting goals is like creating a habit. You cannot get up one day and say I am going to run a marathon today if you have never run more than a mile.

Give yourself space to improve, to create those little habits that will lead you to be more mindful.

What are the systems to achieve goals?

As I said earlier, achieving goals is like creating habits. The more you practice and keep your goals present, the greater the chance to achieve them. Think back to when you were trying to create a habit. What were some of the steps you developed to stay on track? A great way to develop a new skill is to slowly and continuously incorporate it into your current routine (or habits). If you want to read more, have books you enjoy at your night table, on the kitchen table, and by the sofa so you have constant visual cues. By reducing the friction between you and your habits you are getting yourself in the rhythm of doing that habit.

The same applies to goals. The more you set visual cues around your environment, the more likely you are to achieve those goals. In this case, you will be creating a plan, and keeping that plan visible at your desk and everywhere else you may need it. Create tasks that are specific and relevant to the goal. The tasks are the most important system you have to achieve your goal. Without the road map, you will be lost and will not find the steps needed to get there.

Keep your methods simple and enjoyable. The more complex and hard to navigate systems will play against you. You will not feel inclined to use them and therefore fail to go through with your initial plan. That is why I use Notion for example. It is a powerful yet simple tool that is enjoyable to use.

The last thing I would like to say is to not be discouraged when you fall off track. It is part of the journey. Just go back to your motivation and why you are working towards this goal.

SMART Goals

We have all heard about SMART goals. I have not been on a talk about goals where this has not been mentioned. The reality is, it is a powerful concept that works. If you read back to what I talked about, you will see that I touch on all of these points:

Specific (simple, sensible, significant).

Measurable (meaningful, motivating).

Achievable (agreed, attainable).

Relevant (reasonable, realistic, and resourced, results-based).

Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

At the end of the day, all goals are the same and require a systematic way of approaching them. The more you practice these techniques, the more familiar you are going to become with setting goals. And guess what? The skills you develop here will make you improve in other areas such as time management, project management, habit development, and others. I know we have all set goals, but more often than not, we have failed to achieve them. I hope this helped you create a plan and stick to it.

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In this podcast, your host Luis Duque, will talk about his own experiences and those around him to help young professionals, students, and international students succeed in their career. Luis is a practicing Bridge Engineer in Colorado. His career is just beginning, but he has be

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Luis Duque

Luis Duque

I am full-time bridge engineer looking to make the world a better place. I volunteer with Engineers Without Borders with projects in South and Central America.

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