Goals vs. Decisions
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
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
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
Dr Humbert is a Success Strategist, author and popular speaker. Imagine what's possible! To inquire about having him speak to your group or organization, or to schedule an initial coaching consultation, contact him
or visit his site at Philip Humbert.com