The Big Idea
Goals are meaningless if they aren’t aligned with your vision.
Questions I Answer
- How do I set better goals?
- How can I achieve more of my goals?
- What’s the SMART goal system?
Actions to Take
- Start thinking about what goals you hope to reach in your life. Think less about the goals themselves and more about how you want to feel when accomplishing them. Use the SMART goal framework to help you get started.
Key Topics in the Show
Setting goals to make sure you’re on the path to your ideal life
Paying attention to lessons learned and resources gathered
Focusing less on what you want to do and more on how you want to feel
Using the SMART goal method as a framework to help you achieve what you want
Finding joy in the experience and journey toward the goal
This is Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on using productivity not just to do more, but to achieve what’s truly important to you. And this season is all about you, you 2.0. To learn more about yourself, take Tanya’s free quiz and discover your own productivity style at Tanyadalton.com.
And now get ready, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is Episode 157. You may have noticed a brand new introduction by my husband, John, who introduces all of my podcasts. And to be honest with you, I thought it was really time for a change. It was time to shake things up a little bit, take a good look at what we’re doing on the podcast and maybe make a few adjustments. And the intro was just one of those things.
You see, it’s the start of a new season, it’s the start a new year and not just a new year, but a new decade. And I think it’s such a great time, especially at the start of each year, to stop and reflect, think back about who we’ve been over the past, think about who we want to be in moving forward. And that’s really what I thought about when I was thinking about this new introduction and what I wanted for the feel of the podcast.
As you know, last season we did something totally different, pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I loved it. So, I want to keep doing that. And when I was thinking about how much I really loved pushing myself into a new direction, I started thinking about this season, this season, which is Season 13 of Productivity Paradox. And I was thinking about, you know what, we all need to do that from time to time. So this season is all about you 2.0.
We often think that we need to make changes or that we want to shift who we are, we want to be a different person. Especially with the fresh turning of a calendar, we think this is a great time to change up who we are. But honestly, a lot of times it’s just the tiny adjustments, the small tweaks to help us feel like we’re a little more on track with where we want to go and who we ultimately want to be.
The truth is you’re doing so much better than you think you are. You have to remember, we’re all works in progress and we’re never ever going to get to an end point where we say to ourselves, “Yep, yep, I’m done. This is the best I’ll ever be.” We always have room for a little bit of improvement. We always have opportunities and chances to make these small changes and tweaks to really stretch ourselves and become the best version of ourselves.
So this season is going to be all about making those adjustments to help you feel a little bit better about your journey, to give you some ideas on how you can shift your mindset to see your positives, and even some strategies to help you in places where you do want to grow and evolve. So I’m really excited about this season. I’m excited about that brand new intro that John did for us.
And so I really wanted to start today with something that I felt would be really impactful because I think, especially at this time of year, so many people are thinking about goal setting. So I wanted to start there because I feel like some of us have an unhealthy relationship with our goals. I think that so many people have this feeling like, well, I should set goals or do I want to set goals? I don’t know. And I know many of you have probably set some new year’s resolutions and the chances are that many of you feel like you’ve already fallen off track.
But honestly, did you know that 25% of new year’s resolutions are abandoned in the first few weeks of January? It’s true. So you’re not alone if you’re feeling that way. And I want you to walk away from that feeling that maybe you just aren’t good at goals or maybe you shouldn’t set goals. Setting goals is a key part of our growth, and I want you to start feeling better about how to set those goals and what goals you want to set. Because for many of us, it’s really how we start making sure that we’re on that path to our ideal life.
Setting goals is a great chance to create these milestones for ourselves to get to that ideal version of you. It’s these little small movements in the same direction known as goals. That’s really the key to getting to that life we want. So that’s where we’re going to start today. We’re going to have some new ways to look at goal setting, and I think more than likely we’ve all set a goal or two sometime in our lives. After all, setting and achieving goals gives us a strong sense of satisfaction, especially when we have a good practice in place to help us.
There’s really no other way around it. That little hit of dopamine that we get when we accomplish something that we’ve set out to do, boy, that feels good, doesn’t it? Right? It’s that feeling inside where you’re like, oh, that feels good, I want to do that again. And it encourages us to keep moving forward. That’s what it did for our cave ancestors. This hit of dopamine that we get when we set goals and we get to these little milestones that’s hardwired into our DNA. It’s been hardwired into our brains for thousands of years.
I mean, think about it, a group of cave people would go out looking for some food because they had a goal to not be hungry. So once the group spotted tracks on the ground of maybe a tasty saber tooth tiger, that hit a dopamine pushed them to follow the tracks. And then once that group spotted the animal, there we go again, another hit of that glorious dopamine to get them even closer. And before they knew it, there on the fire sat a tasty meal. Not that I’m interested in saber tooth tiger, but this is a thing, is dopamine helped keep those hunters on track, following the beast and therefore, the goal was met. They achieved their goal of not being hungry and they were incentivized to keep at it.
And this is the thing, our brain is hardwired to want to achieve goals. It’s hardwired to want to set these goals because we’re looking for those dopamine hits. We’ve talked about dopamine in the past with things like to-do lists and how it can work against you, but really it’s designed to work for you, to help push you forward, because it feels good to be on the right path. And here’s the trick. Once that first goal is achieved, it’s easy to get another goal going. Momentum, right?
But beyond the way that achieving goals makes us feel, goal setting also provides us with the benefit of being more resourceful. We take what we learn and we apply it. You see, once we catch one meal, it’s easier to catch the next one and to maintain that goal of full bellies. So we become more resourceful and the more we can apply it and keep moving along that same path, the closer we’re going to get to our ideal goals. Setting and achieving goals results in us being more resourceful.
Now, we can easily see this effect in children. It’s really, really obvious. So let me give you an example of what this looks like here for kids especially. So it’s been proven, of course, that kids take what they learn at school as they gain more skills in let’s say organizing, decision making, problem solving and planning, and then they start applying it outside of school. That’s not rocket science there. So as a whole,
these skills become the foundation of resourcefulness, a whole grab bag of skills to help them solve even more problems.
Their ability to seek out and apply resources that are available to them help them achieve their goals. According to expert Marilyn Price-Mitchell, who explores the idea of Teaching for Life Success, she has found that as children learn to visualize these potential outcomes that they hope to achieve, it helps them set objectives, otherwise known of course as goals. And not only that, it encourages these kids to be creative in how they approach those objectives in the future.
Resourcefulness lends itself to overcoming challenges and these elements help kids build connections between what they learn and how they go about achieving their goals, which in turn, of course, helps bring more awareness to the idea that they are the conductors on the train to their own destination. Just like you, you set the course for your own life through your choices. Being resourceful helps us see those choices. So we want to cultivate resourcefulness.
Whether we’re talking about ourselves or resourcefulness in kids, it’s really important to note that high levels of achievement, it doesn’t always mean that you have a high level of resourcefulness. I mean, even the brightest college students or working professionals sometimes struggle with the basic, everyday problems. So when it comes to resourcefulness, what really matters is how we process the information, intellectually and emotionally.
You see, when our logic-based and emotion-based processing centers are engaged and working in tandem, when they’re working together, the more resourceful we can be when it comes to approaching and achieving our goals. I think this resourcefulness is so important because it allows us to see that our goals can be achieved in many different ways. So when we hit those stumbling blocks or we hit a hard time, we can stop and reassess and change our direction, and that’s all a good thing.
In fact, researchers have found that resourceful students are not only better at achieving their goals, but they also respond better under stress. Now, according to a study conducted on first-year undergrads that examined the connection between academic stress and academic performance and what researchers called this learned resourcefulness, the level of student resourcefulness played a critical role in how stress impacted their performance.
So I think this is really important. We want to make sure that we’re really paying attention to the lessons we’re learning and the resources we’re gathering because that helps eliminate a lot of that stress we’re feeling, especially like I said, when we have to
pivot or we get off track, because it’s going to happen from time to time for all of us. Students who are low in resourcefulness were more likely for academic stress to negatively impact their grades compared to those students with high resourcefulness. Their grades were not affected by their stress.
And if setting goals helps us not only in getting closer to that life that we really want, but also in building up resourcefulness, I want to help find ways for you to feel more successful with setting those goals. We want to have more resourcefulness. We want to see more choices. We want to see more opportunities. So of course, we want to incorporate goal setting into our daily life. Now, when I said that sentence, you might’ve thought, “Oh my God, into my daily life. That sounds daunting.”
It doesn’t have to be, especially when we’re actively setting goals that are tied to our ideal life. That’s really when goal setting gets to be fun. Now, I know you might balk at the idea of goal setting being fun, but why shouldn’t it be? When goals are aligned with the people that we want to be, the life that we want to have or whatever it is we’re really aiming for, goal setting should be fun. It’s not supposed to be something that’s difficult or you’re enduring, it can be something you truly enjoy.
Now, I know some of you don’t feel that way because after all I hear from some of you, you don’t even know what goals to set and that can be really overwhelming. Well, if you’re unsure of what goals to set or you don’t really know what you want to focus on, that’s okay. A lot of people feel that way. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do. I think so often goals are centered around the things that we want to accomplish, the milestones we want to experience and the things we want to do before our time on earth is done.
That does sound daunting. That sounds huge and really heavy, but think about it. When we’re unsure exactly of what it is we want to accomplish, let’s look at goal setting another way. Let’s take it from a different angle. Let’s not focus on what you want to do, but maybe how you want to feel instead. Do you want to feel happy, relaxed, maybe instead of frazzled, content rather than anxious. Tap into your core emotions and go from there. You might want to even consider asking yourselves not what do I want to do, but how do I want to feel instead?
And I think this can make a huge difference. How do I want to feel at the end of the day? How do I want to feel in June? How do I want to feel at the end of this year? And I think if you start to look at your goals from less of a place of doing and more of
a place of human feeling, we can then look at ways to make space for those positive emotions to take center stage and for more positive experiences to come about because of it.
So a few feeling specific ideas you could use to springboard for deciding on your goals. It could include being content in your own skin, feeling more connected with those people around you, getting in touch with your instincts or your intuition, feeling gratitude for those people you love and what you have. Use these couple of
ideas as a springboard for how you really want to feel and instead of thinking about how do I want to feel at the end of the year, let’s make it shorter. That makes it a little more accomplishable and a little bit easier to think about.
How do I want to feel at the end of the first quarter? Or how do I want to feel six months from now, instead of worrying about 12 months, which can feel really, really long. For many people focusing on goals from a more emotional feeling-based place is revolutionary and that can really open a door for more joy, kind of like what we talked about last season. This is what underlies the entire book that I wrote, The Joy of Missing Out. We want to have those feelings at the end of the day of satisfaction, of feeling content, of feeling happy. Let’s think about those and see where that takes us.
When goals are centered less on our external world and they’re more focused on an internal level, it helps put us front and center instead of the action or instead of the milestone, it puts ourselves there at the center and that really helps make a big difference. It ensures that our human needs are met and that we have the energy and the positivity that we need to approach some of the doing-specific goals.
And here’s the truth. When our basic needs are met, when we feel like we’re in a good space as our best self, magic happens, that’s when our goals get accomplished. And I think that’s really important to remember. Think about the emotions, not just the actions, not just the doing.
Okay, so right now is when I normally take a quick sponsor break in the show, but I decided today to not really have a sponsor because I wanted to take just a little bit of this time to make sure you knew about the Goal Setting Challenge that I offered this past week. I have to tell you, this is my second year of doing the challenge and
again, I was blown away by the reactions and the breakthroughs. Now, while the challenge officially took place last week, it’s okay, I got you covered. Especially if you’re like, “Oh man, I really want to hit this goal setting going.”
I got you covered and you’re going to be fine because I’m going to keep the videos that I did up through the 21st of this month. So all month long, we’re also going to be talking about stumbling blocks and breakthroughs and more in my private Facebook group. So this is what I want you to do. If goal setting has been a challenge for you in the past, I want to make this year different. Go to Tanyadalton.com/ goalchallenge, and I’ll send you a link so you can watch those videos and you can catch up and really start implementing the strategies to help you feel more successful.
This Goal Setting Challenge is absolutely free. I just was thinking about it when I was getting ready for the show and I was thinking, “Man, this is all about goal setting and they will have missed that Goal Setting Challenge.” So I want to make sure that you feel good about getting that done. Seriously, I cannot say enough about how great the challenge is and I would love to have you sign up. I could talk about it for the rest of this episode, but I want to get back to the show because I want to take some time to talk about why we feel like achieving goals can be hard and how we can make it easier. But do write down that web address, Tanyadalton.com/goalchallenge and head there after we finish up the show.
Okay. Like I mentioned, I want to talk about why goal settings feels hard, because I feel like for many they think, “Gosh, goal setting seems like such a simple concept. Why isn’t it easy?” And that’s why we feel so bad when our goals don’t really work out. It’s why we sometimes think that we have to struggle to make our goals work. It’s just another lie that we’re telling ourselves. You see, when goals are tied to what we truly want, when they’re tied to the vision of where it is we want to go in our life, it is so fulfilling. So the first thing we need to ask ourselves is, are we really thinking through what we want for our goals?
We need to think about what we want to spend our energy on and the things we want to achieve and I want you to consider the time it’s going to take you to reach them because here’s the truth, goals can get pretty messy because life, well, life is messy. Things get us off track and sometimes we get blown off course, but that’s okay. You’ve heard me say a thousand times probably that one size doesn’t fit all, and that’s true when it comes to our goal setting because truly, it needs to be customized to you. It needs to allow for that flexibility that life requires.
Now, all the way back in season one, which is like three years back, we talked about my preferred way to set goals using the SMART goal method and you’ve probably heard me talk about it several times since. So I’m just going to recap it kind of quickly. SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and timed. And I think this framework definitely works on a general level, meaning it’s really easy to navigate and to customize to fit your lifestyle and the goals that you have in mind. And there’s some wiggle room in how you approach the SMART goals you set.
But here’s where people get off track, I think. It all comes down to that action plan. The action plan is where we take those SMART goals and we create a map to help us achieve them. So the general idea is to start with the end in mind. The destination or the outcome of the goal is your point B. And then we work backwards from there until you get to where you are now, point A. And so then we can look backwards and go, okay, the years where the little stepping stones are along the way that get me to where I want to go. These are the milestones or the guideposts I need to keep me on track.
Remember, I said goal setting is one of those things where one-size-fits-all doesn’t really apply. Okay, truth bomb, I say that about everything and that is because it’s right. one-size-fits-all, never fits all, barely fits anyone. And that’s definitely the case here. So if you’ve tried goal setting in the past and you got derailed or you failed somehow to act upon your goals, or even if you wound up achieving the goal but then feeling like you weren’t sure where to go next, don’t worry, it turns out you’re not alone in that struggle at all.
Here’s one of the things I find most interesting about goal setting, is that we think that, okay, if I achieve this goal automatically I’m going to be happy. But there are times where you achieve your goals and you don’t have that sense of satisfaction after achieving something incredibly difficult or some kind of higher level goal. In fact, researchers have been studying this, predominantly in sports, where these athletes had achieved these high levels of success and yet they’re not really satisfied.
And the theory that goes along with these studies is that this sense of defeat after attaining a loftier goal relates back to the brain. What they were finding was these athletes would experience changes, like reduction in brain signaling activity, a decrease in blood pressure and reduced heart rate that came along with this increased negative mood state. It seems pretty strange, right? These athletes set
these goals, they achieved them and then they’re not really satisfied. There’s this complete paradox about you’re achieving something big, why aren’t you happier?
So these studies found that mindfulness came into play in a very big way with setting yourself up for success and with good reason, being more mindful helps in our life in general, it lowers our stress, it eases anxiety, it also helps us take stock of our emotions, which we talked about earlier in the show, how our emotions play a big role in what goals we want set and how we want to feel. So it comes as no surprise that mindfulness could also take some of that ugliness and uncertainty out of the experience, the joy in the journey, especially when things go awry with our goal setting, like we get off track.
You see, so often we think, “Oh, I’ll be happy when X happens, when I finish the marathon or achieve the big promotion.” You’ve heard me talk about this someday syndrome before in the past and I think it holds true now. We get so laser focused on the end result, crossing that finish line or losing that last pound, that we lose sight of the joy we can experience while we’re on the journey to get there. There’s a lot of joy that’s left to the wayside in that laser-focused pursuit of accomplishing goals.
And when we’re mindful in choosing our goals and when we are mindful and our actions that we take to achieve our goals, we can increase our chances of success while increasing our happiness. So it’s not just about getting to that end point, it’s not about getting to that point, like we talked about at the very beginning of the show, we’re never ever, ever going to get to a point where we’re like, “All right, that’s the best I’m ever going to be. I’m done.” We are always having room for improvement. You’re never going to achieve that someday.
It keeps moving and it keeps moving. And if that’s what we’re shooting for to find our happiness, we’re going to be awfully disappointed. So let’s find the joy in the journey. And part of that is being mindful with what we’re doing, the actions we’re taking on a regular basis to achieve those goals. And if those goals are tied to our feelings and our emotions, that makes it even easier to see how this all ties together. So if you’re finding that you’re falling off track or falling behind for reasons you can’t even put your finger on, it might be a good idea to address the methods you’re using to help you keep track of the goals, to make sure that you’re staying on track the actions you’re wanting to do on a regular basis.
Is it the goal or is it the goal setting method that you’re using that’s really the issue? Now, if it’s a strategy that needs some fine tuning, might want to consider adding some of that flexibility into it. We talk about flexibility a lot in Productivity Paradox and in my book and everywhere else because life demands it and it’s so true when it comes to our goals. So when we’re first starting a goal, it might be a good idea to soften up that milestone a little bit. Instead of having this very specific milestone we absolutely have to achieve, maybe we could start doing an alternative practice, like simply asking yourself for the first couple of weeks while your goal setting, have I done my best today?
Now, that may seem like a vague question, but what it comes down to is that you’re taking the time to dive a little bit deeper into how you spent your time. Taking an opportunity to tap into whether or not you spent your time well during the day means you’re also forced to think through how much effort you gave your goals. This is why I love the five minute daily download that I talked about in my book. It helps us tap into that. It’s a really quick check-in each day with your goals. Did you do something today to feel good about your goals?
We lose sight of the fact that it’s the tiny movements on a daily basis that get us to the big goals. We think it has to be these giant leaps and bounds, but it’s the small strides. It’s the tiny steps that get us to where we want to go faster and in a more enjoyable way. And I think that is what’s so important here. Let’s enjoy our goals. Let’s look forward to working on our goals. Let’s be excited about it. But the more that you ask yourself this question of, “Did I do my best today?” The more you’re really able to confront yourself and then it becomes even easier to dive in and determine where it’s possible mistakes were made and how to go about changing them or shifting or pivoting to prevent the same mistakes from happening again and again.
When you’re making a conscious effort to put your best foot forward at work, at home or whatever it is, it becomes so much easier to live a life right now that you are truly enjoying instead of waiting for that one day, instead of saying, “Okay, down
the road when I achieve this goal, that’s when the magic happens.” The magic happens now. It happens every single day by working on those goals because your goal should be things that you’re truly enjoying, things that you really love.
And then it begins to spread and that’s what I think is key to remember here. Just like we talked about with our little hunting party with our cave ancestors who catch dinner and then feel ready to hunt again. Once you accomplish your goal and
you achieve that feeling of satisfaction, it’s easier to keep putting that foot forward for the next goal and the next goal and the one after that and that begins to seep into all the other areas of your life and into your overall happiness, each goal, building upon the last to get you to that life you really want.
You use that knowledge, that resourcefulness, and you begin to see your choices and you begin to be the driver in your own life. That’s what I love about goal setting. It’s setting a course for your journey and you. You are the driver. And I think that’s so important to remember here. Take ownership of your life. Take ownership over your goals. Feel good about them. Stop setting goals for everybody else. Set them for you and your happiness, and that will begin to spread everywhere else in your life.
All right. I’m hoping that today’s episode has really helped you begin to look at goal setting and a little bit of a different way, start to really think about how we should be enjoying them. And if you’ve set goals already and you’re like, “Yep, those just aren’t going to work.” It’s okay. Move on. Throw them away. Crumple them up. Do what you need to do. Move forward. Today is a fresh start. It’s a new opportunity. It’s a new chance. And not because it’s a new year. Every day is a new opportunity to define who it is you want to be and the life you want for yourself.
So do it today. Whether you’re listening to this in January or whether you’re listening to this episode in June, it doesn’t matter. Today is your opportunity. Today is your chance to make life happen for you because you are in charge. Now again, if you are listening to this in January, go watch the Goal Setting Challenge. I can promise you it’s going to help you feel even more confident and moving forward and more excited about your goals. I can’t tell you the number of people who have emailed me over the course of the past year telling me how much last year’s Goal Setting Challenge made a difference for them.
So go to Tanyadalton.com/goalchallenge. You can watch all those videos. They’re up until January 21st. All right. I would love to see you join in the challenge. Get active in my Facebook group. That is the place to go if you want to get support in your goals. If you’re excited about the life you’re looking for yourself, go there, get the encouragement you need to get on track. All right, Tanyadalton.com/goalchallenge. Don’t forget, Tanya is with an O and a Y. It gets misspelled all the time.
Next week’s episode is all about looking backwards in order to move forward. We’re going to continue our conversation about you 2.0. So excited about this season. I can’t wait for you to tune in each and every week. All right. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. Want to learn more about your unique productivity style? Simply go to Tanyadalton.com to take her free quiz and get free resources designed just for you. That’s Tanya, with an O and a Y.