Abstract vs. Concrete Goals

A goal without a plan is just a wish...but a plan without a wish is a tyrant.
Goals should be set to help you not punish you.

Have you set goals in the past but just don’t know how to achieve them?  Have you set a goal and made a plan but your mojo just wears out before you make it to the top of the mountain?  

Although there’s lots of reasons we don’t meet our goals, often it has to do with the kind of goals we are setting.

Abstract Goals

These are often the goals that we start with – vague hopeful expressions of something we want to change about our lives or ourselves. They could be  ‘I want to be healthy’, or ‘I want to have enough money’. 

They are not specific enough that we can even start to make a plan, so we continually fail at them.   Our doctor sighs and ups our blood pressure medication.  We continue paying outrageous rent and living paycheck to paycheck.

Because they are so vague, we are unable to form a plan to achieve them.  Without a plan they are impossible to achieve.  Our continued inability to achieve them makes us feel like we aren’t capable of anything.

We sit looking at the mountain range and assume that we just aren’t strong enough to climb a mountain.  But we are.  We just have to spend a little time figuring out exactly which mountain we want to climb so we know what path to take.

Concrete Goals

Most good goal setting advice stresses setting concrete goals.  Concrete goals are specific achievable goals.  You define exactly what you want – to get your blood pressure down to 120/80, or save $5000 for a down payment for a house.  You KNOW when you have achieved a concrete goal.  You are either at the top of the mountain or not.

A goal without a plan is just a wish…

Even concrete goals can end up as unfulfilled wishes if you don’t plan.  You can’t just charge up the mountain willy nilly, you have to look for the correct path and follow it carefully.  This is the purpose of planning – to set the path that will get you to the top.

You plan to lose 20 lbs (a step towards lowering your blood pressure) by walking 2 miles a day, and replacing cookies with fruit.  You plan to save $100 a month towards your down payment by taking lunch from home 3 days a week.

You may need some intermediate goals to keep your motivation up (let’s make it to that big tree and then look down to see how far we’ve come), but your plan will break that concrete goal into actionable steps.  

It is unlikely that you will achieve even a good concrete goal without a plan.  

But even a concrete goal with a good plan won’t necessarily take you to the top of the mountain.

Why Concrete Goals and Plans Are Not Enough

Abstract goals are what give your concrete goals hope and motivation.

But a plan without a wish is just a tyrant.

Sometimes we set concrete goals that have no relation to what we actually want for ourselves.  We read about a marathoner and decide to run a marathon.  We watch a documentary about someone who made a million dollars by selling widgets and decide we should sell widgets too.

But getting up and running 5 miles every morning gets old really fast.  And we don’t even like widgets.

Sure you can force yourself to climb a mountain.  

But that requires a lot of willpower.  Do you really have that kind of energy?  Or will you collapse before you reach the top and berate yourself for failing again?

Connecting your abstract goals to your concrete goals puts you in touch with your why.  When there are some gooey chocolate cookies in the breakroom, you will remember that you want to be healthy for your family.  When you are just SO SICK of packing a lunch you will envision the house and the bank account.

So go ahead and do some dreaming and asking why.  Know which mountain is the one you want to conquer.

Once you do, define some smart concrete goals and break them down into actionable steps so you can make it to the top.

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