It makes me crazy when I hear of people setting goals and then just a few weeks later, they’ve completely forgotten about them. It’s like signing a job offer and then never showing up. It’s not funny. It’s your life.
I don’t believe in setting goals. I believe in living them, which means they’re on my mind every day and they help me allocate my time to the things I love; that get me to where I want to go in life. It’s a simple philosophy that has served me well as an athlete, entrepreneur and human being.
Making the jump from setting goals to living goals starts with figuring out what is truly important to you in life. The goals you forget about are usually the ones you didn’t really care about in the first place. It feels weird because we as humans feel out of integrity with ourselves when the way we spend our time is not aligned with what we say we want to spend it on. Figuring out what matters is the pre-work to setting goals you can truly live.
This post is the first in a series intended to help you make the jump from setting goals to living them. Take the leap!
Step 1 – Reflection
Here are a series of questions that will get you grounded in how you truly lived the past year. They’re intended to get you thinking so to do it right, you’ll need to spend some time on them. But if you go deep, answer honestly and authentically, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to set the most meaningful goals. Hat tip to Paulina Cameron who authored these questions:
1. Where did I thrive?
2. Where did I struggle?
3. Who was important in my life and why?
4. What lesson am I grateful to have learned?
5. Where and how was I courageous?
6. What brought me joy?
7. How did I treat my body, heart, spirit, and mind?
8. How did I show up for the people I care about?
9. What situations triggered fear or discomfort? Did I move through them? If so, how? If not, why not?
10. Which rituals and habits served me well and which ones didn’t?
11. Bonus: What moments stand out the most for me from the year.
Step 2 – Commitments
Having answered the questions, zoom out and take a 30,000 ft. view. A few themes are probably coming through loud and clear and some will resonate more strongly than others. Pick the most meaningful to you and make some commitments (like intentions) to guide you in the year to come. These commitments will help keep you heading in the right direction, especially when life throws you the inevitable curve ball.
Here’s an example from my own life. One theme in 2016 was around physical performance and my commitment was ‘I play with my physical edge’. I’m a triathlete, so all my fitness goals were focused on pushing my edge in the pool, on the bike, on the run, and at the studio. It all represented a contribution to my being in the best physical fitness possible for my highest priority race of the year, my first full Ironman triathlon: Ironman Canada. Five weeks before the big day, I got injured and was not able to complete the race. That was a big setback – a huge goal (I’d trained for 39 weeks) made impossible by injury – and the one thing that kept me going was my commitment to continue pushing my physical edge. I couldn’t bike but I could swim, so I shifted all that time to the pool (and made great advances on what has been my weakest sport in triathlon). That commitment allowed me to continue living my goals (my first Ironman is still on the cards) even though the goalposts moved.
Another example was a commitment around how I wanted to feel every day. In my case it was “I show up with love and support”, felt as a reflection of the love I show myself and of the love I showed to others. Every morning I wake up I walk past the mirror in the bathroom. It’s my first glimpse of myself each day. What I noticed is that if I wasn’t getting enough sleep and eating well (i.e. not showing myself even basic forms of self-care), that internal voice didn’t say very nice things – and when I was taking care of myself, that voice was a lot more optimistic. Having a stated commitment allowed me to prioritize life accordingly throughout the year.
Step 3 – Set Those Goals!
(Hint: this is usually where most people start in setting goals – and why they fail).
Now it’s time for the actual goals. Thanks to the previous steps, you can think really specifically. Because now you have “The Why”. And that’s what you need when things get tough. It’s the key difference between setting goals and actually achieving them. Needless to say your goals need to be specific, measurable and with deadlines attached.
The Power is in the Pre-Work
The power in doing all that pre-work is that it gives you something to anchor all this stuff back to. Because life is going to get noisy. Shiny objects will show up. There will be distractions. You’ll meet someone new. You’ll go through a break up. You’ll accidentally conceive with your partner. You’ll get the job opportunity of a lifetime that you didn’t expect. Heaven forbid a family member gets sick. There are all of these things that will blindside you in life.
So how do you set up the practice of living your goals so you continue to do the things you want to do and that you’ve identified as mattering to you in life? How do you feel the way you want to feel as you are going through life and making a conscious choice to stay there, despite the noise and shocks and waves that are going to wash over you? Because that’s going to keep coming. And the only way you can continue to stay on purpose is if you set yourself up to allocate your time to live those goals and continue to feel like you want to feel in spite of all that stuff.
When you are clear on the goals, and those goals matter to you on a much bigger level, then you have a bigger commitment to actually hit it. It’s the difference between being a nice to have and a must have. It’s nice if I hit this goal, but if not, well that’s ok. But when you are living your goals, that’s not even part of the equation. There is no option but to succeed.
About the athlete
Originally from Australia, Jonas Caruana is an athlete and entrepreneur now living in Vancouver. Passionate about racing, he’s currently training for his first Ironman distance triathlon with the big-ass goal of swimming the 3,800m swim in 3,800 seconds.