How I think about goals has changed a lot over the years.

From making sure they’re S.M.A.R.T, to focusing on 1% gains and Atomic Habits, to shifting annual goals to 12-week “years.”

There are two things I’ve been trying to think about differently lately, which have helped me personally with goals and the underlying habits that I really want. Those two things are: obstacles and sacrifices.

Many of us have goals we keep low-key because they’re scary to say out loud. Or they require us to build habits we know will be hard. And we keep these things in our minds (year after year) because how could we not want them anymore?? They’re the reality we want so badly.

So what makes it hard to accomplish those things? To change?

Unfortunately, we make comfortable but unhelpful moves when we’re faced with obstacles we’ve seen before. And often there are hidden commitments we’ve made (and we protect), that work against our goals. If we’ve responded to these obstacles the same way every time we’ve faced them, simply *wanting* the goal more won’t help. Making a different move next time we face them, will.

Here are a few examples:

  1. “What’s my move when that person in that meeting does that thing that flares me up?”

  2. “What’s my move when I’m asked for input in front of 10 other people, and I’m not ready to speak yet?”

  3. “What’s my move when no one on the team has ideas right away, and I feel anxious?”

I like to use prompts like these for all sorts of areas, from leadership and strategy, to working out, to running a business.

Now what about sacrifices? We tend not to talk about this much in goal planning. We usually look at sacrifices in a rear-view mirror on the path to something worthy. If we think about sacrifices up front, they become part of a known plan. “When X gets tough, what am I willing to give up or be flexible with?” Calling these things out ahead of time can make the sacrifice less stressful in the moment. You’ve prepared for it.

Here are a few prompts for common scenario’s:

  1. “Am I willing to sacrifice the feeling of being right, if it keeps a constructive, helpful conversation going?”

  2. “Can I be flexible with how a plan is executed, even if it’s not exactly how I would do it?”

  3. “When I feel that someone is being difficult to work with, am I willing to learn and negotiate versus command and control?”

Thinking through obstacles and sacrifices, in advance, is hard to do which is why we usually avoid it. But, if we can make obstacles less daunting by calling them out, and agreeing to sacrifices we’ll make up front, the hard work will be worth it.

Here are a few related resources that I’ve enjoyed recently and have been sharing:

1 // “The oldest and strongest emotion of humankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown,” H.P. Lovecraft – this article breaks down the “Uncertainty Matrix”, a framework that can help us with decisions. Sometimes calling out all of the things we actually know can minimize the looming feeling of “known unknowns”. (10 min read)

2 // Starting Principles help us confidently navigate the world – i.e. they can help us overcome obstacles and prep for sacrifices up front. (10 min read)

3 // “Can’t” is a dangerous word, and usually means something else. (2 min read)

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