We’re going to take a look at a behavior-based approach to goal setting and goal achieving.
I’m going to assume, at least to some degree, that you’ve already been through your fair share of goal setting or goal achievement type of training. Maybe you’ve already set some goals for yourself. I’m sure you have. Maybe you’ve worked towards and achieved some of the ones you have been hoping for in your life.
Like any good goal setter, you are probably setting some new ones that you want to achieve in the coming months and years.
What we’re going to do today is flip the whole paradigm of goal setting on its head, and look at goal setting from a different angle.
This is a particular approach that I find quite useful for myself, and a number of people have agreed with me that when you look at a behavior-based approach to goal setting, it just gives you a new way of attacking an old problem.
Without further adieu, let’s dive into this discussion right now.
Traditional Goal Setting
Your traditional goal setting approach looks at a timeline, so to speak. If you were to look at today, mark it on the calendar, whatever day it may be, at some date in the future you want to achieve some kind of result.
In order to make sure that result becomes a reality, you set it as a goal for yourself.
This could be a goal of something you want to achieve a week down the road, it could be a year or it could be a number of years down the road. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
Obviously, the magnitude of the goal will usually have a pretty big role on the amount of time required.
If you’re trying to go from maybe making $50,000 to $1 million, that’s not necessarily going to happen overnight, without some extreme luck. There’s a lot of planning and a whole lot of work that goes into that.
Setting a goal to do that, maybe in the next 5 to 10 years, is a little bit more realistic, per say, than maybe three months.
You get the idea here.
The traditional goal setting approach focuses on some kind of outcome in the future.
Let’s take a look at a chart here:
Across the top, we have short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. I’ve picked some arbitrary timeframes here, but you will probably agree these are fairly standard.
Let’s say a short-term goal would be anything you want to achieve in the next zero to 3 months; a medium-term, 4 to 12 months, basically up to a year; and then longer term goals will focus on the 1 to 5-year range, in terms of the timeline.
Across the vertical access, we have being goals, which really deals with attitude, how I want to be within a certain goal timeframe; things I want to do, or actions I want to take; and having goals, i.e. results.
These are the three different areas we can set goals, and then we can decide when we want to achieve those type of goals, based our timelines that I just discussed.
Let’s look at some examples that you may see, when it comes to setting these type of goals:
I filled in the chart here. I’m going to go through it quickly, top to bottom.
When you talk about being goals, how we want to be, the attitude we want to carry, there’s really no timeline on this.
You can start being the type of person you want to be today, and if you keep that going, you’ve certainly achieved that being goal.
But let’s just look at some random, or common let’s say, goals that people might say that they want to be in their life:
• Somebody that expresses gratitude.
• Somebody who smiles and is happy.
• They’re excited
• They’re motivated
• Maybe they have empathy.
Those could all be short-term goals that you could set right now. This is the type of person I want to be, starting today, or at least within the next few weeks and months.
Again, I’ve picked random timeframes here. I would also, in the future, be more loving, be kind, help other people.
Longer term, I’d like to recognize others or be stress-free or at least reduce stress, and to laugh daily. Again, being happy and expressing that type of happy attitude.
So as you can see, being goals, attitude-type goals, even though we’ve arbitrarily picked some timelines here, they really aren’t bound by time. You can be any of those things, at any given moment in your life, and you can choose to keep that attitude going forward.
So we’ve really just time boxed these for no other reason than just our example here.
Doing goals. Now, this is a little bit more concrete.
I’ve picked, again, some random examples. So let’s say I have a short-term goal of I’d like to read a book weekly, or I’d like to work out daily. Those are very short-term goals of things that I want to do, starting today, and to keep that habit going.
Medium-term, maybe I want to learn to play a full song on a guitar or write a book. Well, I can’t necessarily do all of that today or in the next couple of weeks. It’s going to take some time. But a reasonable timeframe here could be 4, 5, 6 months. Yeah, I could probably learn how to play a song on a guitar in that timeframe. I could probably write a book in 3, 6, 9-month type of timeframe.
Longer term, maybe I want to travel the world. I can’t just start traveling today. Well, maybe I can if I have the money and the resources, but it might be something I need to plan. So let’s say we set that as a longer-term “doing” goal, that I’d like to travel the world in a couple of years’ time from now. It gives me some time to save up some money, plan my route, maybe some people to come with me and so on.
Learning a language like Spanish, as an example. Again, can I do that overnight? Can I do it in the next three months? Chances are slim.
But if I dedicate myself to doing this, to doing this goal over the next few years, I could probably achieve it with a high degree of proficiency.
Having goals. Now, this is probably the biggest, most common one. Most goal-setting programs focus on outcomes or results.
In the short term, I’d like to have extra money. Obviously, if you’re a good goal setter you’re going to pick a specific amount you’d like to achieve, but this is an example. In the next three months, maybe I want an extra $5,000 or $3,000 for some kind of project.
Or I’d like to lose some weight, a specific amount of weight, or weigh a certain amount of pounds by a certain date. Those are short-term goals, as an example of things we’d like to have or outcomes we’d like to achieve in our life.
Medium-term. Buy a car, get a promotion. Longer-term, maybe get married or buy a home.
All of these types of goals, particularly that bottom row, are things that we see all of the time in traditional goal-setting programs.
Not so quite often on the first horizontal row here with the being goals. It’s not necessarily something very many of us think about when it comes to goal-setting programs.
And the reason I bring that up is for the following slide here:
The things we want to do and the things we want to have in the medium to long-term range, this is where we would traditionally see a normal or “traditional” goal-setting program really have the person focus.
So if you’re focusing on things you’d like to achieve, maybe a business that you want to start or that buying a home goal, a traditional goal-setting program would have you write that down and start mapping out the steps and actions you need to take to make that happen, in the next whatever it is. Maybe for you, you pick two years.
How do you make sure that you can buy a home in two years? You go two years into the future, you write it down, then you work backwards.
What do I need to do today, and the coming weeks, months and years, to make sure that vision becomes a reality?
Here’s the difference now.
When we start talking about behavior-based goals, we’re focusing more on this section of the chart:
We’re focusing on shorter-term goals that deal with how we want to be and the things we want to do.
The difference here is that instead of focusing on the results, we’re focusing on the activity.
I realize here that it could be semantics, it could be just a new way of looking at an old problem, but that’s the key. That’s the point here.
A lot of people will set goals. As an example, maybe it’s, I’d like to open my own business a year from now and have it successfully generating X number of dollars in revenue within my first three months.
Well, that’s a great goal to set, but what if you don’t hit it? You could do all kinds of work and then feel completely unsuccessful.
Behavior-based goals programs focus on the short-term being and doing activities that you can write down and check off, so that you have that feeling of success.
If you become the type of person that focuses on behavior-based goals and you achieve those goals on a daily basis, over the long term you will eventually have no choice but to hit those results-based, traditional goals.
But a behavioral-based program allows you to generate that feeling of success on a short-term basis.
So instead of really focusing on, hey, two years from now I want this amount of money, we’re going to focus on, hey, today I’m going to express gratitude. Today I’m going to do a workout. That’s going to be my goal. That’s going to be my focus.
Every single day, I’m going to achieve my goal. I can focus on it, check it off and feel successful, day after day after day.
Do that enough times, your long-term goals will begin to manifest themselves.
Comparing the Two Models
Let me break down and compare these two models of- raditional goal setting versus behavior-based goal setting, so you have a bit more of an understanding of how it works, and then we can get into some examples, some concrete examples you can look at and maybe even copy, or at least borrow for your own goal-setting adventures.
A traditional goal-setting approach is long term, maybe my example earlier about starting your own business. A year from now, I want to have a business running that earns $5,000 a month in revenue.
Traditional goal setting would look at that and say, okay, your goal is in 12 months, have a business making $5,000 a month.
The problem is, between now and then there are going to be 365 days where you’re looking at your calendar, you’re looking at your notes and saying, “Have I achieved my goal yet?” and the answer is no.
You’re constantly focusing on the fact that you’re not there. There’s a lack of feeling of success, until the goal is achieved.
With a behavior-based goal-setting program, you have the opportunity to achieve goals daily.
We acknowledge that, yes, we have a longer-term vision and yes it’s going to take a long time, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff that happens between now and then.
If I actually set micro behavior-based goals to focus on every single day, I can create a feeling of success.
If you have a year to pull this thing off, there will be goals you can achieve every single day, that slowly but surely move you towards that long-term goal, but now you have the opportunity to actually feel the success because you do something daily and check off the fact, “Hey, I hit five, six, seven of my behavior-based goals today, and I know that moves myself closer to this longer-term vision.”
The next piece is that with traditional goal-setting programs, going back to the business example, what if a problem comes up? There are many variables that come into play.
You want to launch your business or have it making $5,000 a month, a year from now, maybe technology changes. Maybe you have a website or some kind of tech-based business, where the technology you built your whole business on breaks, changes, becomes unstandardized or it gets hacked.
I don’t know what the variable may be, but there are dozens and probably hundreds that could come into play.
Now what was originally a 12-month goal, suddenly becomes bumped to 15 months or 16 months, or even longer, because you simply couldn’t anticipate or plan for these kinds of problems.
Again, now your whole goal-setting program is altered and you’re still feeling unsuccessful.
Whereas with behavior-based goals, you have full control over the variables. These goals are focused on how you’re going to be and the activities you’re going to take on a daily basis.
There are no variables.
You either perform these activities and you behave these ways, or you don’t. You have full control over it, and nothing can prevent you from being successful with behavior-based goals.
Outcome-based goals, not so much. Many variables may prevent you from actually achieving those, and you can’t always anticipate them.
Think about the last time you tried to do something really huge in your life. Did it happen on the exact date you said it was going to happen? Chances are, it took a lot longer. It happens to all of us.
Finally, some goals can be achieved with brute force.
Think about the fact that with traditional goal setting, maybe you give yourself a goal of writing a book in three months. You put it out on Facebook, you get accountability partners, you hold yourself to the fire and you get it done.
You’re working under an extreme amount of pressure, but you force yourself to get it done, and at the end of it you go, “Look what I did. This is amazing. I wrote a book in three months.”
The problem is, how sustainable is that type of behavior, really?
Is it something you constantly want to do, constantly want to put yourself under that pressure? Probably not. It’s probably not the type of habit you can sustain on a long-term basis.
It goes in fits and spurts, but you’re not going to behave like that all of the time.
Behavior-based goals take a little bit more of a long-term approach, and it focuses on long-term, positive habits.
Let’s take the example of a behavior-based goal that says, “Every single day starting now, I am going to exert a high amount of energy. I’m going to be a high-energy person.” You set that to be your goal today and tomorrow and every day for this entire week.
For seven days, you can look at that and say, “I’m going to do this,” and either you did it or did not do it at the end of each day. You can check that off.
Well, if you stick to that goal and you check it off every single day for a week, then two weeks, then two months and so on, you’re actually forming a positive, long-term habit that will inevitably help you reach any long-term goal that you want to set.
It allows you to focus on the habit change and the root cause of these longer-term, big vision goals that you want to set.
That is the main difference here between traditional goal setting and behavior-based goal setting.
Now we can take a look at some specific examples that hopefully help you relate to this.
Here’s one that most people will get and understand and relate to:
• Increasing sales by (picking a random number) $10,000.
That may be per month, per year, depending on your business. That’s a traditional goal and how we time box it really depends on how quickly we want to achieve it.
With a behavior-based goal-setting approach, rather than focusing so much on did we achieve this $10,000 or not, we can focus on the daily approach of how we want to be and what we are going to do to inevitably get to that dollar figure.
How I’m going to be on a daily basis:
At the end of the day, I can check off, “Was I energetic and was a positive, for the most part, today?” If so, I’ve achieved both of those particular goals.
Here are actions I’m going to take or activities I’m going to perform each day:
• Talk to 10 customers
• Make 3 posts on social media (obviously related to what I sell)
• Attend a live or virtual event
Those are doing goals, behavior-based goals, that we can execute every single day. Again, at the end of my day before I close down my computer or go to bed for the night, I can check off these boxes.
Did I talk to 10 customers? Did I make these posts? Did I attend this event that I said I was going to attend?
If I can go 5 for 5, I’m going to feel very successful, and I’m going to create a long-term behavior or habit here that will inevitably get me to my increase in sales, whether I hit that $10,000 in the time box, result-oriented goal that I wanted or not, it’s kind of independent or irrelevant at this point.
I can say that I successfully achieved all 5 of my behavior-based goals for the day, and that leaves me exiting this day feeling pretty good about myself.
Let’s look at another example, more on the fitness side of things.
“I want to bench press 225 pounds.” That could be a giant goal for somebody who’s just getting started and maybe can barely lift the bar.
It would be nice to say, “I want to be able to bench press 225 in a year,” or maybe 6 months. But I can’t necessarily guarantee that my body is going to work that way.
But I can certainly do the following in terms of my behavior-based goals, to work towards that.
• Be thankful for my health and the fact I can bench press at all.
• Being confident, to have a belief in myself.
Those are two behavior-based goals I can set and achieve every single day, to feel successful.
• Stick to my prescribed meal plan.
• Do my daily fitness plan.
• Do yoga and stretching.
Once again, here are five behavior-based goals that I can achieve and check off every single day, to feel successful.
Whether I achieve that 225 outcome-based goal in the timeframe that I set remains to be seen, but these behavior-based goals are ensuring that eventually I will achieve and probably surpass that goal in the long run, while feeling successful and not that I’ve missed out on something.
The next example is becoming fluent in Spanish.
I’d like to say, “In a year, I’m going to be fluent in Spanish.” But it depends on a lot of other things, especially if I have other goals. Maybe I have family commitments, a job and so on.
Whether I’m fluent in Spanish in a year or not remains to be seen, but there are goals I can set from a behavior-based goals perspective, and achieve every day.
• Be excited to learn.
• Be grateful for my healthy mind.
There are two goals already completed for the day.
• Complete daily lessons.
• Read Spanish articles, to get my mind used to looking at this type of text.
• Practicing speaking out loud.
Again, here are five behavior-based goals that I can set and achieve on a daily basis, to feel successful, with the inevitable result being that I will become fluent in Spanish.
It removes the charge from us needing to achieve this particular goal within a particular time, that we may not be able to control.
We can certainly control these behavior-based goals and make sure we achieve them every day.
The next example is eliminating student debt. This is a big one for a lot of people these days. It would be nice to eliminate my student debt in a time box window of six months. That may or may not happen.
But what I can control are my behavior-based goals.
• Be happy for my education. It helped me get a career.
• Be motivated. I have a job and I got this education. Even if you don’t have a job, you can just be motivated by the fact that you learned something and you had an opportunity to go to school. That’s exciting.
By achieving those two behavior-based goals, I’m already on my way.
From a doing perspective:
• Review current finances.
• Do my best at my current job to increase income.
• Look for additional income opportunities.
Those are five behavior-based goals that I can set and achieve every day, to feel successful, with the long-term goal being I’m eliminating my student debt.
Winning a marathon. Wouldn’t that be great if we could all just write that down on paper and go out and achieve a giant goal like this? Maybe it’s some other sporting event you compete in.
It would be great to go out and win the thing, but I don’t want to necessarily feel unsuccessful if I don’t.
Behavior-based goals and flip this on its head and say, look, I want to win a marathon but what can I do today, to at least work towards that being something that happens in the future?
From a being perspective:
• Be grateful for my health and the fact I can run at all.
• Be proud of myself, that I have ambition to even set this goal to begin with, to be the type of person that likes to compete.
There are two behavior-based goals that I can set and achieve every day.
From a doing perspective:
• Complete daily training, whatever that may be, whether it’s running or strength.
• Follow meal plans.
• Maybe outside of the gym, following top runners, looking at what their behaviors are and studying what they do to become successful.
Again, five behavior-based goals that I can set and achieve every single day, to work towards this giant goal of hopefully one day winning a marathon.
These behavior-based goals let me feel successful each and every day, and help me establish the habits that get me to the point where I can, hopefully one day, win that marathon, that giant goal that I’ve set for myself.
I hope some of these examples have connected for you, maybe given you some insight to your current goals and a new way of looking at what you might already be planning to achieve in your life.
Rather than looking at the strict, traditional, outcome-based approach to goal setting, you can look at setting some of these behavior-based goals that you can focus on every single day.
You can create that feeling of success, and probably give yourself a little bit more motivation to persist forward with whatever goals you’re currently trying to achieve.
I really thank you for reading this, and I encourage you to send any questions in that you may have. Thanks again.