Goal setting is important. We should invest in a future that features a better version of ourselves, and goals are the host for such a vision.
This is not to say that I believe the only way to accomplish such a happy future is to make lists upon lists of goals, categorized chronologically, with specific and in-depth instructions on how to go about achieving said goal: I respect that some–okay, most–people don’t operate that way. But the goals should be at least explicitly understood if one really wants to achieve them. Even a goal as simple as making the bed every morning or as ambitious as planning to run an endurance race.
Let me tell you one of the things that absolutely kills a goal: like, wiggles in and drives the screwdriver right into the heart of the goal. It’s a sneaky devil, it’ll spring up on you before you are aware of what is happening.
Say your goal is to make the bed every morning. Your vision is that you would like to de-clutter your physical environment, so that your headspace can be clearer. You believe that the simple act of making the bed every morning will not only decongest one section of the physical environment, but hopefully will also kick start motivation to de-clutter more throughout the day.
You’re diligent. Every morning, you roll out of bed, you take the effort to grab all the pillows and throw them on the ground, and you pull taunt the covers. You reach down, grab the pillows, and shove them back in place. While this doesn’t take a whole bucket of effort, it does take some and the effort it takes is further dramatized by the earliness of the morning.
You’ve been good at doing it each morning, and you’re pretty proud of your one-month-anniversary that just rolled around. But oh no! Guess what happens. A Monday. A particularly rough Monday. You got to sleep late last night and tossed and turned all, thereby rendering you a less-than well-rested individual with less-than beautiful bedhead and no aptitude for doing squat. The only effort you want to exert in morning is the effort it takes to go to the bathroom and knock back some coffee. So you decide that, despite your resolution to make the bed, just this once it’s going to be okay if you skip it.
There really isn’t anything inherently wrong with not making the bed that morning. It doesn’t signal you as a lazy, undisciplined individual who isn’t able to stick to anything. It doesn’t imply future and impending doom for the rest of the day. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with letting the bed go unmade for a day.
But making an exception subconsciously deteriorates the part of your brain that houses discipline. It says to your brain, “resilience has exceptions”. And how much easier will it be to let the bed go unmade the next time you had a less-than perfect morning? It happened already once, what’s the harm in letting it happen again? There weren’t immediate consequences the first time, it’ll be fine a second time. Three times isn’t really that much more than two, and four isn’t that drastic of a step from three.
See the pattern?
Forcing ourselves to stick with goals when we “aren’t in the mood” creates and strengthens resilience. Honestly, “not being in the mood” is the most important time to stick with a goal, because that’s where the real magic happens. I have learned to almost* look forward to the parts of my running where it really begins to hurt, or were I lose interest in the moment, because I have found rather immediate gain in resilience when I push through this.
*(please note the use of the word “almost”)
So if I can offer you any advice at all in goal planning, it is simply to press through the “pain” and the moments where you “aren’t in the mood”; exceptions rarely just happen once. Pause, acknowledge the conscious urgings to make an exception, evaluate future gains that will occur if you persevere through this moment and resist the urges to make exceptions.
Peace and Blessings,
“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No Exceptions.