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Set Goals in the Middle | Scott H Young

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting

  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

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Set Goals in the Middle | Scott H Young

Set Goals in the Middle | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2018/01/31/set-goals-in-the-middle/

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Key Ideas

Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)
  • A time-frame or deadline. (e.g. in 6 months)
  • Constraints or methods. (e.g. practicing every day)
  • Overall impression of effort/time required. (e.g. a few hours per week of moderate effort)

A goal is then a group of different features that get bundled together. Some are necessary, others are optional, and some are better to postpone.

Goals To Start In The Middle

When a goal has high uncertainty as to what level is achievable to reach within a particular time-frame, it is better to set specific targets in the middle of the process.

Plan your goals with the variables you do have: overall direction, time-frame, level of effort and strategies.

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting

  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

Know When To Set A Goal

The standard approach to goal-setting works well in relatively known areas, where past performance can be used as benchmarks. However, goal-setting from the start may be counterproductive in entirely new areas.

If you wonder what's achievable for you, you may wait to set a specific target. Keep the effort and timeline goal instead.

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Ways to improve your life
Ways to improve your life

There are a few different ways you can go about setting a goal or creating a new habit.

  • Target the minimum output. You focus on always doing at least a little bit so t...
When to Focus on the Minimum

Minimum targeting works well for establishing long-term habits.

A goal of, for instance, doing fifty push-ups every day might not be ideal for fitness, but doing something is better than doing nothing.

Another reason to focus on the minimum is that it assumes the difficulty is in starting. To start a process can often be the hardest. Then you want to set a lower threshold to make starting as easy as possible.

When to Target the Average

Focusing on the average makes sense when you're hoping to sustain something, even if it is not always a perfectly easy and consistent output.

It works when you are already putting in a bit of effort, but want to improve that effort over the long-term.

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Why Set Personal Goals
  • You are in charge. Personal goals force you to take responsibility for the actual efforts and progress.
  • You see the small steps leading to a big picture: big goals c...
“Which? Why? What? How?” Technique

... for choosing personal goals. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Ask yourself which aspect of your life you would like to change most.
  2. Think about why you want to change this.
  3. How will that change make you feel? Determine what exactly will make you feel this way.
  4. Ask yourself how you can make this happen and then make it your personal goal.
The Life Balance Chart Technique
  • Draw a chart. Write down each of the various areas of your life (family, health, self-development, career, relationships) in a new column or line.
  • Assess your current happiness level in each of these categories by giving it a score from 1 to 10.
  • Think what will make you be fully satisfied with these areas. Write down your ideas – you will be able to transform them into personal plans.

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Long-term flexible commitment

What many people fail at with long-term commitments is that they make their initial vision too rigid.

Flexible commitment can help overcome this by bringing together two pr...

Walk the Winding Path
  1. Stick to short commitments. Get good at this skill before going further.
  2. Understand your goal at different levels. The highest goal should be fairly abstract.
  3. Set a much more specific agenda of how I could fulfill this.
  4. Have periodic reviews where you can change your direction and incorporate new ideas. 
  5. Don't let your reviews interfere with the short-term process of committing.
The winding path: Goals and projects
Imagine your ambitions on two levels:
  1. A goal level, which is big-picture and abstract. It has just enough detail to inspire, but not so much that you're stuck pursuing things that don’t matter when conditions change. 
  2. Underneath that, have projects: these tend to be short-to-medium term efforts you think will help realize the larger goal.

The flexibility of the system comes once one leg of a short-term commitment has ended. This provides an opportunity for pivoting and redirecting.

SMART goal-setting framework

Set goals that are:

  • Specific: It will be easier to see what you need to accomplish.
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?
  • Attaina...
Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles of Goal-Setting
  1. Clarity: clear goals help with understanding the task at hand.
  2. Challenge: the goal should be challenging enough to prove motivating, but not impossible to achieve. 
  3. Commitment: involve your team in the goal-setting process.
  4. Feedback: measure your progress and seek advice.
  5. Task complexity: be careful in adding too much complexity to your goals as it can impact morale, productivity, and motivation.
Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) framework for goal setting
  • Objectives – This is what you hope to accomplish. Objectives usually take the form of broad goals that are not measurable (that’s what the Key Results section is for).
  • Key Results – Based on objectives, the key results are almost always defined with a specific number.

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Goal setting gives focus

Life is designed in such a way that we look long-term and live short-term. We dream for the future and live in the present. 

Setting goals provides long-term vision in our lives.

Practical goal setting
  • Evaluate and reflect. Regularly write down where you are right now, and if you are happy with your current level of satisfaction.
  • Define your dreams and goals. What do you want? Schedule some quiet “dream time” and think about what really thrills you. Then prioritise those dreams.
  • Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive)
  • Have accountability. Find someone to hold you accountable to your goals.
Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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SMART Resolutions
SMART Resolutions

Pick a goal that is meaningful and doable, making sure it's coming from inside you, not imposed by others.

Make specific, realistic plans for your New Year Goal using the time-tested SMART Te...

Creating a Plan

Chances are you won't just wake up one day and suddenly change your life. To go where you want to go, you have to chart out a plan.

Quitting Bad Habits
If you want to quit a bad habit, start by identifying its 3 main parts: the cue, the routine, and the reward. After you check the cue and your routine that follows it, you can swap the routine with something good (or less bad) to do.

For example: If you feel the cue of smoking, replace the smoking with some other activity like having a cup of coffee.

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Commitment to Personal Goals

Generally, people don't train in themselves the habits, self-knowledge and control structures to ensure they act on their plans and goals.

You can be better at committing to things...

Improve Your Ability to Stick to Things
  1. Start with projects that should be easy to commit to. Don’t start with projects of 3-6 months if you don’t have a strong track-record of one-month successes behind you. 
  2. Start becoming more sensitive about what you commit to. Be cautious about overcommitting.
  3. If you need future flexibility, bake it into your initial commitment, don’t try to wiggle it in later.
  4. Raise the bar on what counts as a valid excuse. View commitment as a long-term skill-building project.