Finding Peace in Goal Setting: Inch by Inch

achieving goals overcome Jan 24, 2021

Goal setting is an activity that takes place at the beginning of each new project. During the month of January, we take stock of where we were in the previous year and where we want to go in the current year. There is a natural tension between setting these large goals and the day to day of setting setting the small, achievable goals. Let's examine this natural tension today.

Goals v. Resolutions

Most resolutions set in January have an element of dream associated with them and 82% of them are forgotten by the end of the month. By the end of the year, 98% of the resolutions have been forgotten. So, what is the difference between resolutions and goals?

Goals represent milestones along the path to achieving dreams. They are strategically placed within the journey. Achievable, actionable items are associated with goals. Certainly, the benefits of SMART goals are well documented. If you are not familiar with SMART goals, here is a quick rundown. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Reasonable
  • Timely

Mark your journey with goals not resolutions. Our paths twist and turn. In life, we come upon unseen and unexpected turns (2020 anyone?). If we keep align actionable goals within our dreams, we are still making progress. We constantly achieve and reassess our progress.

Here is an example of one of my goals vs resolutions this year:

In 2021, I want to run a sub-25 minute 5k. My stretch goal is to be able to run this time after coming off the swim and bike in a sprint-triathlon. Notice how this goal is specific? Time is easily measurable. Exercise is actionable. It is reasonable for me in my age-group and level of fitness. The timeframe is this year.

In contrast, my resolution is to "get fit again." The resolution is a starting point, but my goals put teeth to the dream of fitness. Start with a dream, find your resolution, but put it into action by defining goals.

Wildly Improbable Goals

Wildly Improbable Goals (WIGs) are based on our values. Want to learn more about your personal values? Check out our course on values identification here. These goals set our direction. 

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you land among the stars."

~Norman Vincent Peale

WIGs reflect our dreams, the speak to the truth in our heart. Are you moving in the direction of your heart? The challenge with WIGs is that they are sometimes so far away, we cannot always see the outcome. For some, this lack of transparency can be frustrating, disappointing, and even depressing. Sometimes, life is chaotic and the WIG goals lead to a feeling of overwhelm.

Inch by Inch Goals

My morning routine includes coffee(!!!) and setting daily inch by inch goals. When I am at my most peaceful moments, I find myself humming. Let's take a look at setting inch by inch goals, humming, and finding peace.

In recent years, positive psychology has realized the importance of setting goals that are achievable. Thankfully, one song I grew up humming was the Garden Song by David Mallet. Maybe you heard it sung by John Denver with the Muppets or sung by Pete Seeger. The song opens with 

Inch by inch, row by row gonna make this garden grow

Gonna mulch it deep and low, gonna make it fertile ground.

~David Mallet

These words bring me peace and have formed my approach to goal setting for over four decades. Is it a little hippie? Perhaps. I have big dreams, I set large goals, but the daily, little achievements are the moments that bring me peace. In a chaotic world with unpredictable twists and turns, use inch by inch goals to bring yourself peace.

It is the mindset of setting daily, achievable goals that brings me peace on a daily basis. In the quiet of achievable goals, there is a simplicity and elegance of the moment. Today, as you approach your day, consider your inch by inch goals.

What examples of my inch by inch goals?

  • Water the plants
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Take a walk
  • Call a friend

Steps Forward

Each year, evaluate your values to set your goals and resolutions. Each day, focus on small, achievable inch by inch goals. Seek these moments of peace. Overcome the overwhelm by setting inch by inch goals.

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