Set Goals Not Punishments

It’s that time of year.  Everyone is starting to think of their goals for the new year…and lamenting all the goals that they did not meet for the current year.

And so they set next year’s goals based on all that they did not achieve last year as some sort of punishment for failing this year.

But being mad at yourself doesn’t make it any more likely that you will accomplish anything.

What makes a goal a punishment

Setting a punishment instead of a goal is usually a knee jerk reaction to something that you don’t like about you or your life.  It doesn’t take into account any more than the fact that you are unhappy about something.   

Some examples might be:

  • I will stop eating all sugar because I’m so fat.
  • I will use a planner to plan out every minute of every day so I will get more done.
  • I will run every day so that I look better on the beach next summer.
  • I will organize my house so I don’t look like such a slob.

Punishment goals are about changing something that you don’t like about yourself.

Why punishment goals don’t work

They focus on where you don’t want to be

You want to move forward in your life, right?  So focus on what you are reaching for.  Remember being told as a child to look where you want the ball to go as you throw?  Or when you learned to drive that you needed to keep your eyes on the road, because wherever you are looking is where you will end up going? The same thing applies to goal setting.  The best goals are focused on where you want to be and what you want to become, not what you are trying NOT to be.

If you have a goal that focuses on what you are giving up, such as sugar, then you will be thinking about sugar all the time.  Not helpful, right?  If you have a goal that focuses on eating healthy food, then you will be thinking of healthy food.  Better?

If you set a goal that is focused on not going backwards, when you fail you are right back where you started.  But if you set a goal pointing forwards, if you fail you will still be on the right path, even if you haven’t reached the end yet. 

They are reactionary

When you set a punishment goal you are reacting to how you feel about something.  You create a punishment because there is something you don’t like in your life and the quickest solution to come up with is to just ‘stop it’.  If you have kids, you know that the best way to change behavior is not to just blindly lash out.  This type of parenting leads to kids that are confused and scared.

Which is better, telling a kid they are grounded because they got an D is math, or figuring out why they got a D in math and making a plan to help them improve? 

Goals should make you feel happy

Goals should be focused on positive things you want to achieve or become.  They should be tied to your values.

For example:

  • I value being able to move freely so I want to have a healthy body at a healthy weight
  • I value my time so I want to be organized in how I use it.
  • I value feeling confident in my own skin so I will learn how to like my body.
  • I value the peace that having organized surroundings brings me so I will learn how to create and maintain my environment to do that.

Goals also need to have a plan that makes them actually achievable. If something is important to you then take the time to come up with an achievable plan.

If the thought of setting happy goals and creating achievable plans seems impossible, check out Simple Steps to Goal Setting.

Do you have a repeat goal for this coming year?

What will you do differently this year?

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