Goal Setting… On Steroids

As you have probably heard throughout your life, it is a good idea to set goals for yourself.  The process is usually something like this:

Step 1:  Set Goal

 Step 2:  Figure out what you need to do to accomplish that goal

Step 3:  Do those things

The other traditional mindset is that of solving problems.  The mindset here is:

Step 1:  Identify problems

Step 2:  Figure out what you need to do to solve those problems

Step 3:  Do those things

Both of these are great, and you should use both of them.  However, there is a “next level”: inevitability thinking.

Step 1:  Envision an outcome

Step 2:  Figure out what conditions would make that outcome inevitable

Step 3:  Create those conditions

Step 4:  The outcome happens

Let’s say you want to get an A in your Astronomy class.  The grade is based off homework assignments and tests that require you to apply equations learned in class.  Here is how you could apply goal setting and problem solving.

Goal Setting

Step 1:  I want to get an A in Astronomy

Step 2:  To get an A in Astronomy, I need to get the full amount of points on the assigned homework, attend every lecture and focus on the equations the professor gives, and get a group together to discuss the concepts.

Step 3:  Do all of those things

Problem Solving

Step 1:  I am not getting high enough marks in my Astronomy class

Step 2:  I need to put more effort into the homework, focus more on the equations presented in lecture, and I need meet with other classmates.

Step 3:  Do all of those things

Notice how much both accomplishing goals and solving problems requires you to actually motivate yourself, and to stay motivated.  They both require intense amounts of willpower AND a great deal of self-discipline.  Like your ability to focus, it is possible to build up your self-discipline like a muscle.  However, willpower is different.  You only get a limited amount of it, and it burns up pretty fast.

Once both the goal-setter and the problem-solver run out of willpower, they begin to “slip.”  Once that happens, the goal will not be accomplished nor will the problem be solved.

Now, let’s see how an inevitability thinker would handle this.

Inevitability Thinking

Step 1:  I want to get an A in Astronomy.

Step 2:  If I do these things, I will automatically get an A in Astronomy: get an A on every single homework assignment, learn every single equation presented in lecture the first time it is presented and meet with a group of classmates twice a week to figure out the concepts together.

Step 3:  To ensure that I get an A on every single homework assignment, I will give my roommate a $500 check.  When I get anything less than an A on a homework assignment, he will immediately cash that check and buy himself something with it.

To ensure that I learn every equation the first time they are presented in lecture, I will volunteer myself to do the example problems whenever the professor asks for volunteers.  I really hate looking stupid in front of other people.  If I do not volunteer to do the example problem, I am not allowed to go out this weekend.

To ensure that I meet with classmates twice a week, I will have them come over my place at a set time.  If I am not there, that would be pretty embarrassing.

Step 4:  I get an A in Astronomy

Do you see the power in using inevitability thinking?  Would it be even possible for me to get anything less than an A in Astronomy if I do those things?  Because of the accountability I put in place, not doing the things that will automatically get me an A would be much worse than simply doing them.

You need to be very creative with exactly how you create those conditions.  Obviously, money and embarrassment are not the only tools you can use.  I really don’t want a bunch of emails saying “OMG Andy, I have massive credit card debt because of using inevitability thinking.” 

All you need to ask yourself is “how do I make it painful to NOT do the things that will lead to what I want?”

Keep in mind the basics of creating new habits:  Only create one or two new habits a month and force yourself to be consistent for 30 days before deviating.


3 Responses to Goal Setting… On Steroids

  1. […] In the Goal Setting… On Steroids article, I talked about “inevitability thinking” and how the best way to get an outcome is to develop habits that make that outcome inevitable. […]

  2. […] Instead of relying entirely on your willpower to change a habit, it is usually better to use your willpower to create systems that force you to do the things needed to change the habit.  This article goes into this in more detail. […]

  3. […] way is by using that inevitability thinking I talked about in another article.  That mindset is a very important one to […]

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