Lessons from the Yard: Effective Goal Setting

kid mowing grass
kid mowing grass

When I was a kid it was always my responsibility to mow the grass every Saturday.  Mowing the yard in the middle of the summer in south Louisiana can be brutal, especially after two hours of basketball practice in a gym without air conditioning.  Sometimes I think the reason I drink so much water now is because my body is still trying to get hydrated from those Saturdays.

On those Saturdays I learned that there is a right and wrong way to do anything.  To be more precise I learned that there is an effective and ineffective way to do anything, especially cutting my dad's yard.  You see my dad has been in the golf business for over 40 years and to my dismay he wanted his front yard to look like the fairways at Pebble Beach.  That meant I had to "stripe" the front yard at a very precise angle and cut each swath of grass twice.  This method of cutting is what makes the outfields at baseball stadiums and golf course fairways looking like they have stripes.  It takes some practice and a lot of attention to detail.  If I ever tried to hurry up and cut corners he would wait until I was completely done and then make me do it all over again.  That is when I learned that saying you finished cutting the grass doesn't tell the whole story.  You have to qualify that with I "effectively cut the grass to your exact specifications."

The key here...There is an effective and ineffective way to do anything, even goal setting.

Steps to Effective Goal Setting:

1.  Start with your Vision.  Vision is what most people call goals or Resolutions.  It is the "big idea" without much specificity.  Examples of visions are statements like, "I want to be fit, i want to get leaner and I want to learn a new language."

2.  Turn you Vision into a S.M.A.R.T. goal.  Specific is terrific...

  • Specific - Example: I want to lose 10 lbs, I want to do 50 push-ups in a row, I want to be able to have a 10 minute conversation in Spanish.
  • Measurable - You have to have a quantifiable way to measure what success means.  There is no way to measure "getting more fit."
  • Attainable & Realistic -  Don't set yourself up for failure by making unrealistic goals.  I'm always pushing myself to greater height of achievement, but you have to be realistic.  Losing 50 lbs. in 30 days is possible, but not probable.  Wouldn't you rather set the goal at 20 lbs and be stoked when you lose more than that?
  • Timebound - This one is huge.  What is the time period that you want this happen by?  Next week, next month or a year from now.  Set a specific date.  Remember, specific is terrific.

3.  Behavioral Goals vs. Result Goals...Most Important Step...A result goal is a goal that focuses on the end result that you want to achieve (Duh).  An example of a S.M.A.R.T result goal is that you want to be able to do 50 push-ups in a row with perfect form touching your chest to the floor and locking out your elbows at the top of every rep by April 1.  While it is important to have some results goals in mind in truth it is only the beginning of effective goal setting because you still need to plan an effective process for achievement.  My S.M.A.R.T. push-up goal example has no call to action or progression of achievement.  That is why behavior goals are so important.  Behavior goals set your path to achievement.

Let's say that I can do 25 perfect push-ups in a row right now and my goal is to do 50 by April 1.  Those numbers are my starting and end points.  Behavior goals are each step between those two points.  My behavior goals are my daily and weekly goals that will lead me to my desired end result.  For this example my behavior goals might look like the following:

Week 1: 20 push-ups x 2 sets on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday

Week 2: 23 push-ups x 2 sets on MWFS

Week 3: 26 push-ups x 2 sets on MWFS

Week 4: 30 push-ups x 2 sets of MWFS

Week 5: Do one set of as many push-ups as possible on MWF to test progress.  Let's say that I did 35 Monday, 38 Wednesday and 35 again on Friday.  The average is 36.

Week 6: Average from Week 5 minus 3 push-ups x 2 sets on MWFS

And so on and so forth...

4.  Execute your behavior goals with diligence.  This isn't really apart of the goal setting process, but it is worth mentioning.  Don't be a list maker.  Be a doer.