Harnessing the Inner Fire: Goal-Setting Techniques For The Adventurous Spirit
One unique aspect of being human is our desire to better ourselves and innovate. As a species, we have an innate feeling that the grass is always greener. For better or for worse, this urge drove us to populate the most remote locations on Earth, progress from stone tools to nuclear weapons, and become masters of our own bodies. Harness this ancient, inner fire by learning how to craft unbreakable goals and maximize your true potential!
Every single person has some kind of goal or aspiration, but how do we harness that inner fire? How do we take the gift of innovation and apply it to our own lives?
Whether you want to improve your fitness, learn a new skill, read more books, or spend more time with loved ones, you must first lay the foundation. Use the following 5 Steps to identify your goals and ensure they become a reality.
Step 1: Write your goals down!
There’s a reason why the journals of great men and women are treasured in museum exhibitions and national archives. Lewis and Clark, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, and Jamestown’s own John Smith are just a few world-influencers who recorded their thoughts, fears, goals, and ideas onto the written page.
In the modern age, the practice of writing things down is even more of a necessity. Our thoughts are constantly pulled in different directions by distracting smartphones, fleeting social media, and even navigating traffic. How many times have you had a great idea while driving to work, only to have it vanish into the void as soon as you get out of the car?
The first step is simple. If you have a goal, habit, aspiration, or idea you would like to form, write it down! Whether this is in a journal that you check daily, an app, or good, old-fashioned post-it notes stuck to your mirror/desk/dashboard, manifesting your thoughts on the page transforms your dream into a reality.
Keep these materials on hand, and make sure they are seen on a daily basis. The more important the goal, the more visible it should be.
Step 2: Seek out why you have this goal.
Once the goal has been plucked from our mind and placed firmly into written reality, ask yourself why this goal is important to you. Breathe life and purpose into your idea! Think of this step as imbuing your goals with motivation and drive. And when it comes to motivation, intrinsic value always outweighs the extrinsic.
Starting an exercise routine so that you can have a six-pack or so that you can eat junk food without guilt is an extrinsic motivation. It is based on external or material rewards. Big muscles and junk food are great, but why do you want them?
Improved fitness may allow you finally take up that activity you were afraid to try, play with your children, help you live long enough to see your grandchildren, improve your confidence and self-image, reduce the pain you currently experience, or allow you to assist others in need. These are intrinsic motivations, and they represent deeper, personal values within yourself.
First, focus on as many intrinsic reasons for your goal as possible. What would your life look like if this goal was achieved? What activities, sports, or experiences would you participate in? Who would you help? How would you feel? Who would it inspire or influence? What negative consequences would it prevent?
Once this list is exhausted (and recorded in a visible place!), then tack on some extrinsic goals. Maybe hold off on buying that piece of clothing or watching that movie until you have walked for 30 minutes a day, for 2 weeks. Maybe you plan a beach trip at the end of a 6 week hypertrophy program to show off the guns. Or, put some cash into a jar every time you fail to complete the goal. Extrinsic motivation has its place, but it should always be secondary to the true values you hold close to your heart.
Step 3: Hone your goals!
Now we are getting into the nitty-gritty. Return to your written goal, and consider it a first draft. The idea exists in your reality. Now, shape it to fit your life.
This is your opportunity to think of every environmental, physical, emotional, social, familial, and personal aspect of your life and determine how that may help or hinder your progress. Temper and hone your goal by sending it through the following categories:
The broader your goal, the easier it is to ignore or let slip. Tie your goals to specific amounts, times, or cues that prove you are performing the behavior. However, see Adaptability.
The more specific your goals are, the easier they will be to measure. Choose goals that can be easily measured and identified as a success. This will help you identify whether or not you performed the behavior for that day, and whether or not you are progressing over time.
Have your measurements match your willpower or discipline. What kind of measurement is the least daunting to you? If you are just starting an exercise routine, 1-hour sessions may be asking a lot. 5-minute sessions may be the right duration for you to complete with confidence, yet still feel accomplished. No measurement of success is too small. Every single step is worth celebrating.
In other words, “Can you do it?” Is your goal possible based on your current physical or environmental situation? For example, if your goal is to take up rock climbing, but there aren’t any boulders or rock gyms near you, your goal is not attainable. Choose goals that are easy to implement based on your current environment.
In other words, “Will you do it?” Using the above example, maybe you do find a rock gym outside of town, but the chances of you driving 30 minutes to get there 2 times a week are slim. This might be an attainable goal, but not a realistic one. On the other hand, you might want it so badly that the commute is realistic! Focus on the mental, motivational, and willpower components of your goal. Is the goal you chose something that can still be achieved during low-energy or stress-filled days?
Habits take a long time to build. Weight loss, for example, takes even longer. You can’t lose in a month what took you years to gain. To keep your motivation high and your chances of success higher, pick goals that can be achieved in a relatively short period of time. If your ultimate goal is to lose 50 lbs, start by trying to achieve a 10 lb reduction in 5-10 weeks.
Step 4: Adaptability
Despite your best effort, your S.M.A.R.T. Goal can’t prepare for everything. Illness, injury, travel, or unforeseen work and family issues are going to occur. These are the heat-seeking missiles that will destroy any goal, if you are not prepared.
A true adventurer expects the unexpected, improvises on the go, and always has a backup plan. In the event that you can’t complete your goal, what can you do?
Develop a plan B, or C, or D! The key here is to go back to steps 1 and 2, and remember the real purpose of your goal. Instead of getting bogged down in the S.M.A.R.T. Goal details, take an alternate route.
Let’s say your overall goal is to become more active and improve your strength. And, you want to do this so that you can play with your kid. Now, let’s say a work emergency left you with no time to hit your 1-hour strength session.
What can you do? Most of us would say, “Oh well, I can always try again, tomorrow.” But, one day off can easily turn into 2 days, and so on. Rather than give up for the day, find an activity that still satisfies your goal. Go for a walk, bust out a couple sets of push ups and squats, or spend 20 minutes wrestling with your kid when you get home!
The adventurous spirit means not giving up, finding an alternative route, and coming out victorious. Realize that any step towards your goal is progress, and consider every step a victory. Don’t hide behind an all-or-nothing approach. Rather, develop an “every step counts” mentality that propels you into action and reinforces discipline.
Step 5: Process Driven, not Results Driven.
The final step here is to enjoy the journey. Rather than focusing on the end goal, commit to the process. Looking at how far you have to go can be discouraging and intimidating. Focus on each day, and do not beat yourself up for not achieving things within a certain time.
One of my personal goals is to read more books. Unfortunately, I have always been a terribly slow reader. Instead of committing to reading a certain number of books per month (a results driven approach), I set the goal to read for 1 hour per day (a process driven approach). And because of my ever-growing list of books to read, I would split that hour into 2, 30-minute sessions for 1 book each.
I am confident that I can commit to 1 hour of reading per day. Many times, I even surpass that hour because I am enjoying the book so much. This is possible because I created the time and space to engage in this activity, and I do not feel intimidated by the task. If I had chosen to finish even 2 books a month, I may have felt rushed or discouraged when I did not see this accomplished. By focusing only on 1 hour a day, I often end up reading 3 or 4 books per month!
Adapt this approach to any goal that may seem intimidating to you. Don’t force yourself to run 1 mile a day, set a goal to run or walk for 10 minutes a day. Some days, that might be half a mile, and other days, 1.5 miles! Both days are considered a success, because you chose to commit to the process, and appreciate any result.
We are the only species on Earth with the gift of innovation and personal growth. Harness that inner fire! Any goal can be achieved if you lay the foundation for it to manifest. Follow these steps, and become the hero of your own adventure!