Aim for the outcome you can control

Last time I talked about some common mistakes people make when making New Year’s resolutions. What I didn’t mention is one of the most common – but not often talked about – mistakes, which people frequently make when setting any kind of goal.

Let’s look at some popular goals:

  • Losing a particular amount of weight.
  • Getting rich.
  • Finding your soulmate.

What do these goals have in common? You might notice that none of them are about the ‘How’ – how exactly are you going to accomplish those goals? But there’s an even greater error in play here. They all set an objective that is outside your personal control.

Think about it. Is weight loss completely under your control? You can go on a diet, you can get more exercise, but a large part of the outcome depends on your genetics, your metabolism, your hormones, and your health. You do not single-handedly control the outcome. Getting rich is even trickier. You could start your own business, but your profits will be influenced by the state of the economy, whether you get enough clients, and whether they pay you on time. What if your office burns down? You’ll fail to become rich, but did you fail at achieving the goal if it wasn’t up to you to achieve in the first place? As to finding your soulmate, they may not even exist, or may exist on another continent. Or you might walk past them on your daily commute and never see them again, losing them through no fault of your own.

Setting such goals often results in disappointment and frustration, as you might miss the mark despite working hard. So what’s the solution here? To set a goal that you might be able to achieve, set one that’s actually up to you to accomplish. One way to think about this is by identifying actions you can do, and making those your goal. These can be actions like:

  • Eat at least five portions of vegetables a day.
  • Going to an exercise class twice a week.
  • Opening a high-interest savings account.
  • Hiring a financial consultant.
  • Signing up for a dating site, and messaging at least one person every day.
  • Joining a local club where you might meet new people.

These actions may or may not lead you to accomplishing the above goals, but they would certainly increase your chances. And most importantly, they are completely under your control. This means you can actually achieve them by making an effort!

Over to you – are the goals you’re setting ones you can control? Or could they use a tweak to become accomplish-able actions? Let us know in the comments!

Tune in again next week for a relaunch of the Productivity Tools series.

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