Is Your Goal Setting System Flawed? Learn How to Fix It with These Three Easy Steps

If I asked you to rate your current goals on a scale of 1-10, what would you say?

You don’t know?

It’s ok…

It’s a weird question, right?

We don’t really think about our goals as something that we rate.

They’re just our goals.

Some vague dreams far off in the distance that we chase.

If that is how you view your goals, then chances are, you would get an “F” on your ranking.

Modern goal setting sucks…

Primarily because we were never taught how to properly uncover, outline, define, and strategize our biggest dreams and ambitions. 

It doesn’t help that the modern media is constantly telling us what our goals and values should be while social media forces us to compare ourselves to every other person in the world.

If you want to be a truly grounded man then you must take a long hard look at the quality of your goals you’ll end up running around in circles. 

You’ll chase mirages that don’t contribute to your master plan – and you’ll wake up one day wondering why you haven’t moved an inch towards your dreams.

But there’s good news.

There are very specific and proven steps that you can take today to not only improve your chances or reaching your goals, but to improve the quality of the very goals you are trying to reach.

Here are three important steps we all need to clearly define in order to make viable moves towards our grand dream and to make sure we are setting specific and attainable goals that align with our core values.

Step 1: Define What YOU Want to Suffer For

How to really set goals

One tough truth that every person has to realize is that pain and suffering are inevitable.

In fact, they’re key components in our lives that help us grow, and the tough fact is: there’s no avoiding it.

Although you don’t have the power to choose if you endure pain and suffer, you can have very clear and compelling reasons for enduring that pain.

As kids, we like to fantasize about our dream careers and all the of the amazing positives that will come along with it down the road.

For example, growing up, I had a number of “dream jobs” that never really panned out – but one that stuck out was being a professional basketball player.

On every long drive, every class I fell asleep in – I would daydream about what it would be like to be one of the greatest ever up there with Kobe and Jordan.

I’d imagine myself bringing the ball down at Staples Center as the Lakers starting point guard, with time expiring at the end of the game, breaking three (Celtics) defenders’ ankles and dropping that game-winning three with roars of a deafening crowd in my ears.

Those daydreams were sweet.

But every time I started “paying my dues” and putting in the work that goes on behind the scenes – it was never really worth it to me.

The insanely long practices.

The failure of losing.

Getting yelled at and berated by my coaches.

The constant conditioning.

I was in love with the dream of being at the top of that particular career, but not in love with the process of working, failing, and earning my way to the top.

In hindsight, it was just another childish daydream that I played around with in my head without the pain and suffering that came with it – and that particular struggle just wasn’t worth it to me.

This wasn’t the first or the last time I chased something I thought wanted – something I thought would be worth suffering for.

However, just because one of your dreams isn’t worth it, there is “something worth suffering for” for every person – even if that something changes as we grow older. 

There’s something that we’re so passionate about, something we are so in love with – that the failures and the struggles are just little bumps in the road that make the end goal that much more worth it.

When I was traveling through South East Asia for four months, I stumbled upon my own passion for writing – something I never even thought twice about growing up.

There were (and still are) tons of struggles that came along with being a writer (not the least of which was changing my entire career path):

I struggle with the insecurity of putting words out to the entire world to be judged.

I struggle with the instability of being a freelancer.

I struggle with never knowing how a lot of people receive my work.

I struggle with the loneliness of not being on a team.

I struggle with constantly questioning myself if I made the right career decision.

But the great thing is I freely chose these struggles for myself.

I chose this form of suffering for myself because simply put:

It’s worth it to me.

Being able to be a digital nomad and work where I want to. Being able to express myself in a way that I can’t in any other capacity. Being able to work at a craft that I’m able to visibly progress at. But most of all, being able to help other people that might be going through similar problems that I go through.

I found a passion of mine where I was not only in love with the dream end goal, but I fell in love with the process as well, including all of the failures and hardships.

It’s a tough growing pain realizing that no matter what path you choose – pain, failure, and hardships will inevitably follow.

But it’s an incredibly liberating feeling finding something that you love so much, that all of those negative aspects tend to lose focus because the positives end up outweighing the negatives.

If you want $10,000,000 in the bank, are you willing to suffer through 80 hour weeks, following other people’s orders, and lots of failure for ten years (or more likely longer) of your life?

If you want to be a successful filmmaker, are you willing to deal with years of no recognition, being a glorified coffee runner, and creating failure after failure to hone your skills?

If you want to be a professional athlete, are you ready to push your body to its absolute breaking point? Are you ready to be humbled and broken down time after time to become the best at your craft?

There isn’t some universal answer that will work for everyone, and finding that process worth suffering for will be harder for some people to find than others.

But the struggle of finding what’s worth suffering for is in itself part of the journey of life. And once you realize how in control you are of choosing what’s worth struggling for, life tends to get a lot simpler.

(If you are interested in learning more about this particular point, I recommend you check out our interview with Mark Manson who writes about this concept extensively on his blog.)

Step 2: Separating and Defining Your Ends Goals and Means Goals

After finding what’s worth suffering for – the next step is to define and separate which of your goals are ends goals and which goals are means goals.

A lot of people have no idea what the difference is – and if you can’t identify which is which, you’ll end up spending a lot of time on things that don’t matter, and not enough time on the big picture.

Your end goals are all of the dreams you hope to achieve at the end of the road.

The outcomes that you’re unwilling to compromise on. They are, at the most basic level, what you truly want. 

Means goals, on the other hand, define one of many paths to reach your end goals.

Why is it so important to clearly define which is which?

If you start out focusing on your MEANS GOALS as your big picture and hit a roadblock, chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time not only getting frustrated but spending way too much time trying to find solutions to a goal that isn’t even in your grand schemes.

But if you start out focusing on your END GOALS in mind and you hit a roadblock, you’ll be able to clearly take a step back and look at the big picture and how it fits into the grand scheme of things, which will help you find an alternative route to the same ends.

Here’s a great example from Steve Pavlina:

“Let’s say you want to see your favorite music group perform live in concert. That’s an end goal — it defines your outcome. You want to be there in person and enjoy that particular experience. It’s not a stepping stone to anything greater, and no substitute experience would produce the same result.

Now suppose a radio station is having a contest where the prize is two tickets to that concert, and you decide you want to win that contest. That’s a means goal. Winning the contest is not the final outcome you’re after. It’s only one of many ways that could lead to you sitting at that concert.

But if you don’t win those tickets and fail at your means goal, you may still be able to achieve your end goal. You just need to find another way to get to that concert.”

Putting all of your energy into finding every single different avenue of winning that contest would probably be a waste of time – you’re not looking at the big picture of what your actual goals are. There are probably many other better uses of your time and energy that would be better placed working towards your end goal of attending that concert.

When we combine our means goals and end goals without specifically defining them, we often get trapped by our means goals without even knowing.

As you go through life, chances are you’ll have tons of goals, all of different sizes. Make sure to stop and clearly define what end goals that your work is contributing to, and don’t waste another second working on goals that don’t progress you towards your ultimate dreams.

If you are wondering whether or not a goal in question is an ends or mean goal, then ask yourself one simple question.

“Why?”

Seriously, that’s it.

For example, you set the goal of earning $25,000 next month.

Great!

Why?

Is it so that you can take an awesome vacation with your wife, send your kids to that fancy new private school, or simply afford to upgrade your current car?

If you can answer the question “Why” then the goal in question is a means goal… Period.

Think about it.

If your goal was to hike Machu Picchu next year with your significant other, the only purpose of that goal is to hike Machu Picchu!

The more you can fill your life with End goals, the more successful you will be and the happier you will become.

Step 3: Focus on the Building Blocks to Your Success

Now that you have your end goals and means goals clearly defined, it’s important to be able to dissect your ends goals into manageable means goals and habits in order to keep your motivation alive.

Having our end goal defined is important so that we know what mountain we’re chasing – but it’s extremely important that we break them up into bite-sized, attainable means goals.

If your goal is to be 190 lbs. with 10% body fat – that’s a great ends goal to have. But it’s going to take a while, and it’ll be really hard and frustrating when you wake up every single day not having reached that goal.

But if you reframe it into smaller “means” goals and “habits” goals – like going to the gym 6 times a week and eating 3,300 calories every day, you now have smaller victories that you can achieve daily to keep your motivation alive.

With the big picture in mind, focus on these smaller means goals and habits so you don’t have to wait 10 years to feel successful.

When it comes to defining our “means” and “habits” goals, there are 5 important elements that we need to define – and luckily there’s an easy acronym to remember them – SMART goals.

S – Specific – Your goals need to be written simply, and clearly define what you are going to do.

“I’m going to lose weight.”

M – Measurable – You need to be able to have tangible evidence that can be measured to show that you accomplished your goal.

“I’m going to lose a certain number of pounds.”

A – Achievable – Your goals should be slightly challenging, but defined well enough to where you can achieve them.  

“I’m going to lose 5 pounds.”

R – Results-focused – All of your goals should be able to measure the outcomes, not the activity itself.

T – Time-bound – Your goal should be linked to a timeframe that creates a sense of urgency. You need to be able to create your own deadlines in your head and feel compelled to complete them. This is extremely important, because without tension – you’ll never feel that push to conquer that goal.

“I’m going to lose 5 pounds in one month.”

Following the SMART acronym to define our means goals and habits is extremely important because it allows us to not only track our goals through simple and easily recognizable units of measurement but helps us create reachable steps that will keep us motivated as we pursue our ultimate “mountain” goal.

Like anything else, creating SMART goals takes practice – but it is something that every successful man needs to do. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself running in circles and wondering why it’s so hard to stay focused on your goals.

Once you find that perfect balance where your goals feel specific, measurable, and achievable, yet challenging enough that you feel you are being pushed forward, you will find yourself making steps towards your dreams that you can actually see and measure.

Conclusion

As we grow up, we’re often told by our mentors to “follow our dreams” – but less often what steps that actually entails.

It’s about time to tune out the bullshit that radiates from the media and all the comparisons from the other people around us and ask yourself what your goals are and what steps you’re taking towards them.

Defining our goals so visibly can be intimidating.

It can feel like we’re shoving ourselves into reality by clearly defining exactly what we want and the hardships that will come along with them.

But the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll be able to make real, measurable progress to your goals.

It may seem like common sense, but it really isn’t. Just like any other subject, there are a lot of “first steps” that a lot of people weren’t ever taught. But once you understand that there is real progress to be made on how you set the goals in your life – there really isn’t any excuse not to do it anymore.

Put yourself in the driver’s seat, and dissect the hell out of your goals.

If you’ve been floundering and feel like you haven’t been progressing towards your dreams, this is the first step you need to take.

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