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Goals vs. Decisions

By Philip Humbert

During a day-long Corporate training, I talked about the critical importance of having automatic systems to keep us focused, on-track and productive. I thought I was being clear and using plenty of illustrations, when one of the participants asked, "Can you give us an example?"

Like teachers from the beginning of time, I admit to being momentarily stumped, but then I heard myself talking about the common example of "setting a goal to get up earlier in the morning." Expanding on that idea seemed to clarify things and several people later told me how helpful the discussion was. I'd like to share some of it with you.

1. Goals versus Decisions.

Too often, people set "goals" that really aren't goals in any meaningful sense of the word. Many of the goals people set for the future are actually just decisions they aren't quite ready to embrace in the present. One of the common ways to avoid or delay a decision (or a commitment) is by calling it a long-term goal.

Here's the example I used: Getting up early to exercise, or read, or meditate is NOT a goal! It's a decision we can make any time we are ready. Admittedly, if you aren't used to get up early, you may be tired or uncomfortable in the morning. It may be a difficult decision to execute, and some mornings you may change your mind and sleep longer.

But adjusting your morning routine is not a "goal." It's simply a decision you make, depending on how important it is to you.

Also, knowing that follow-through will be difficult some mornings, you'll want an effective SYSTEM to support your decision day by day. More about that in a moment.

2. Procrastination versus Commitment.

If getting up early is merely something you "should" do or "might" do, you'll think about it, perhaps set an alarm clock or write it down as a "goal" so you can prepare for it in the future. But this is just a sophisticated form of procrastination.

Most of us, most of the time, avoid doing "hard" things and if getting up early is difficult or painful, we tend to turn off the alarm and doze a few more minutes.

The truth, however, is that we have all gotten up in the middle of the night to catch an early flight, leave on vacation or whatever. For fifty years, my mother got up at five o'clock on every major holiday so she could get the turkey in the oven and work all day so her family could enjoy a memorable, relaxing holiday. (Bless her!) Why would she do that? Because it was important to her!

We do the things that are important to us.

So here's a SYSTEM for getting up early if you make the decision to do so. Remember, this is not a goal. You can decide this today, tomorrow, or next month. It, like many changes we would like to make in our lives, is merely a decision that will be implemented when you are ready.

And when you are ready, here's a system that can help you follow-through:

Do not set an alarm clock! Decide you will get up at a specific time and then set SEVERAL alarm clocks. Set one alarm beside your bed for the time you want to get up. Then set several other alarms to go off five minutes later. Put one in the bathroom. Set a larger, louder and more obnoxious one in the kitchen (next to the coffee pot?). And if you are truly committed to doing this and suspect you may have a problem, set a really loud one next to the baby's crib! If you have a good-enough SYSTEM, I guarantee you will get up and stay up for the rest of the day.

If, on the other hand, you merely want to "think about" getting up, set one alarm and you're good to go.

I love goals! We are goal-achieving creatures and successful people use effective goal-setting techniques to transform their lives. But we also tend to procrastinate, and we can use that knowledge to our advantage. Never set a "goal" when a decision is the more appropriate tool. Powerful decisions, matched with effective systems, can change your world faster than you can imagine! Decide to go for it!

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