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A Better Way to Set Goals and Achieve What You Want in Life

Most of the blog posts on the 60 Second Marketer are about how to use the science of marketing to grow your business. That’s our primary focus, so our regular visitors are accustomed to post about ways to improve your sales funnel or the end of social media as you know it.

But not long ago, I came across a new concept about setting goals and objectives that I’m exploring. I wanted to share the concept with you in case you wanted to give it a try.

I’m one of the more goal-oriented people I know. That said, here’s something you might not have known about me.

I’ve failed more times in my career than I’ve succeeded.

I wrote about this in a blog post entitled Why Failure Can Be Your Most Valuable Friend. In it, I point out that just because you see me on CNN or read my books doesn’t mean it’s been easy every step of the way.

In fact, in some cases it’s been downright difficult. But for some reason, I just keep chugging along until I accomplish what I set out to do.

That’s why I was so intrigued when I came across a new approach to goal setting. (I say it’s new, but it’s probably been around forever — it’s just new to me.)

But before I dive into the new approach, let’s take a quick look at the kinds of goals most people lay out for themselves.

Goal Setting

The good news is that more than 50% of those surveyed set goals for themselves like the ones above. In other words, they were intentional in how they wanted their life to turn out.

The not-so-good news is that only 8% of the people who set goals for themselves actually accomplish them. In other words, 92% of the time they fail.

That 92% failure rate is a sign that we need to re-think our approach to goal setting.

As far as I can tell, there are to major problems with setting goals. The first is that many people believe that once you’ve set the goal, you’re done. But that’s just the first step. The second, and more important, step is to take action towards those goals.

We live in a culture that’s been lead to believe that simply “putting it out there” or “visualizing success” is enough. And, even though I’m a big proponent of visualization exercises, it’s only part of the battle.

In order to make the visualization exercises come true, you have to take action towards your vision.

The second problem with goal setting is that, as mentioned above, 92% of the people who set goals fail to achieve them. When I was a kid, my goal was to get into an Ivy League school. That never materialized (although I did do a term of study with an American program at Oxford). As a result, I spent my first few years of college feeling as though I had failed.

The truth, of course, was that I hadn’t failed — the Universe just had a different set of plans for me. (And those plans have turned out fine.)

Since goal setting is a prescription for failure for 92% of us, what’s the alternative?

Here’s the new concept I’m embracing right now. Instead of focusing on my goals, I’m focusing on the system I have around those goals. In other words, instead of having a laser-beam focus on the end result, I have a laser-beam focus on the processes I’ve put in place to help me accomplish the goals.

Setting Goals

If you’re like most people, there have probably been times in your life when you wanted to lose a few pounds. The typical approach to that is to focus your attention on the end result — some people even go so far as to create vision boards of what they’ll look like 5 pounds thinner.

Again, I’m not against visualization (because it works all the time for me), but imagine the change if, instead of focusing on the 5 pounds, you spent your time focusing on the system you’re going to use in order to lose the 5 pounds.

In other words, instead of saying to yourself “I will lose 5 pounds,” you said these things to yourself:

  1. I will eat protein for breakfast instead of carbs
  2. I will climb the stairs instead of take the elevator
  3. I will eat a salad with chicken for lunch instead of eating beef and carbs
  4. I will have water at dinner instead of a glass of wine
  5. I will eat an orange for dessert instead of having a cookie

The key, however, isn’t to just say these things. The key is to shift your focus from losing 5 pounds to living a more healthy lifestyle.

In other words, instead of focusing on the 5 pounds, you focus on the system that results in healthy eating.

By focusing on the system, two things happen — first, you’re paying attention to the most important aspect of the goals/systems approach. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you won’t feel disappointed if the outcome is different from your expectation.

In other words, what if you used the system above, didn’t lose the weight, but lowered your body fat and your cholesterol instead? Would you feel as disappointed because you didn’t lose the 5 pounds? Of course not.

Action Steps for You:

  • Embrace the Concept: This is a new concept for me and it’s taken me a little while to wrap my mind around it. But now that I have, I’m eager to give it a whirl. I’d encourage you to embrace the concept, too.
  • Tell a Friend: I’ve found that when I talk about new ideas to my friends and family, the concepts get etched into my brain. When they get etched into my brain, I remember them and put them into action. Be sure to tell a friend about this new system. (Click here to tell your friends via Twitter.)
  • Give it a Whirl: There’s no point in understanding a concept unless you put it into action.
  • Track Your Results: What do you want to accomplish? To lose weight? To have more work/life balance? To have better relationships? By focusing on the systems around those objectives, you might find that you’re more likely to achieve them.

What are your thoughts about all this? Am I on to something? What have I missed? Let me know your approach to accomplishing your goals — I’d love to hear them. And keep us posted on your results.

About the Author: Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications firm that helps businesses use the science of marketing to grow their sales and revenues. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

60 Second Marketer

  • Hi Jamie, I think your are definitely up to something quite effective. I usually try to focus on the steps that I need to take in order to get to the end goal. When you read about visualization usually they want you to imagine where you want to be. I think you need to visualize the steps and take action to finally arrive to that dreamed destination. Great post!

  • Water instead of wine for dinner?? No can do! Great post Jamie – love this concept!

    • Hey Honey! How you doing? Glad to see you found the post helpful. You probably wanted two glasses of wine after last night’s debate in your home town!

      🙂

  • Excellent post and ideas Jamie. You could be on to something. Mind you, I’m with Andrea, I’m not about to give up wine anytime soon.

    Meanwhile, even though I get to vote in US elections, I’m so pleased to be on this side of the pond where I get to miss all of the Presidential candidate debates – including the incessant gotcha questions. Maybe you should campaign for our system here in Ireland, where our politicians can only campaign for the n weeks between when an election is called and we get to vote? Wouldn’t that be nice?

    • Hi Eamonn — Glad you liked the post. And, yes, I agree — the political landscape over here is a circus right now. Someday, sane minds will prevail. Until then, we have to put up with some crazy stuff!

  • Completely agree. A certain book/video (that will not be named) and others like it has been telling people “want” is all that is needed to earn something.
    I am a victim of “I will figure out how later” syndrome myself. What I love about the system idea is if we don’t accomplish the goal, we can accept that the system failed, not us. Instead of giving up on the goal, it is possible to try again with a new plan.

    • I agree with everything you said, Jason. Great points. And I’m glad this post has resonated with so many people.

  • A great inspirational post, youth should read it.

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