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To reach your goals, set schedules not deadlines

So we’re now a few months past January first, when many people started (and by now have abandoned) some new goals.

A lot of these goals had a time limit on them, like “I’ll lose X number of pounds by the first day of summer”.

I think there’s a problem built into some of these goals that leads people to give up on them.

The deadline.

The deadline does a few things in your mind that actually works against you.

  1. It makes it seem like the goal is more of an event, or a moment in time that you become something new, instead of a process and a change in behavior that leads you to end up seeing the result.
  2. The deadline is quite often set at random. It comes from when you’d like to have the result, not when the work would actually yield the result.
  3. When the deadline comes and goes without the result achieved, there’s a feeling that it’s done and you failed – end of story.

Let’s address each of these and talk about what might be a better way to set goals.

When you see a goal as a point in time that you are counting down to, you sometimes get the sense that as the days pass by, you are getting closer to your goal. But that’s not true. The time passing and the result are not related.

There are days that you work toward the goal and days that you get too busy and tell yourself that tomorrow you’ll make it up.

But time passes. And you feel like you are getting closer to the result. But the deadline arrives and you fall short. And then you quit.

The fact that the deadline is often set at random, maybe only based on when you’d like to achieve the result works against you from the start.

Because the date was hand picked and not calculated, there’s no way to assume that you’ll reach the goal by that date. And when you don’t, you quit.

The third problem I want to highlight here is that when your date comes and goes and you haven’t reached your goal (even if you got some results) you often just feel like giving up.

Now one thing I think can help with all three of these issues is creating goals that are habits rather than deadlines.

For example, instead of saying “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by beach season” you could try “I’m going to exercise for 20 minutes every day”.

With a goal like the second one, you are actually getting closer to the first goal each day as a bonus. But every day, you are reaching your goal. Well, if you actually do it.

But do you see how much easier it is to reach your goal? It’s super easy!

The result is still lose the weight. You are still moving toward that. But in a way that let’s you win on a regular basis and stay encouraged.

Another benefit of this habit based goal setting is that you can stack habits. You can create two, three, four, etc habits that lead to the same goal. And with every one, you’re feeling the success – and getting closer to the goal that you used to just give up on.

So right now, try this. Set a goal that’s habit based. I’m going to make my bed each morning, or eat one healthy food at each meal, or take one hour of screen free time each night, or something else.

Make one habit goal and see where it leads you.

You will be amazed at how different it feels. And how much you improve.