If you are alive, things change. Sometimes, you may need a goal reset. And if you find you need to reset your goal, there is nothing wrong with that. You’ll fare better in the long run.
A Goal Reset
Every year for the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve taken a couple of weeks at the end of December to think about the year that has just passed and to plan for the year ahead. During this time, I set goals for the year. Actually, I set three goals, based on Brian Johnson’s “big three”: Energy, Work, and Love. I then divide these up into monthly goals. Each week, I set weekly goals based on the monthly goal. And each morning, I set a daily goal to achieve the weekly goal by the end of the week. And full disclosure – I don’t always hit my targets, but they keep me on track.
However, as the weeks of this year passed, my Work goal began to seem less than ideal. It was OK as far as it went, but I sensed a larger goal behind the one I’d come up with. So, in mid-March, I decided to change my Work goal for the year. I write my goals down in my journal each morning and, on March 20, for my yearly Work goal, I’ve written “*Reset” followed by my new, bigger goal. And things are working much better.
I wonder if you’ve ever had a similar experience? You set out toward a goal that seemed really good, but part way there, you realize it just isn’t working for you. What do you do? Do you keep going, trying to reach a goal that is no longer inspiring, exciting, or gratifying? Or do you stop, take a step back to reevaluate, and set a new goal that is more in line with your desires? One that takes you closer to where you want to be?
Sometimes, we may need a goal reset. And if you find you need to reset your goal, there is nothing wrong with that. You’ll fare better in the long run.
Why Reset Your Goal?
There are any number of good reasons to reset your goal.
As I did earlier this year, you may find that your goal is too narrow, that it’s more like a step to a larger goal.
Sometimes, situations change. For example, suppose you had a weight loss goal but got sick and couldn’t exercise or the illness made it impossible to change up your diet. It could be that an unforeseen life event, such as a job loss or the death of a loved one, made your current plans irrelevant.
It may be that your priorities have changed for some other, less catastrophic reason. Perhaps you’ve lost interest and the goal isn’t as important or exciting as you first thought. Or maybe your goal was too much of a stretch and the steps you are trying to take are simply too hard for your current abilities.
Steps To Reset Your Goal
If you realize that you are not inspired by your current goal and you feel that a reset is called for, understand that you are better off stopping and resetting your goal rather than continuing to work for something that seemed good at first but has lost its appeal.
As you think about how to reset your goal, consider following these steps: reflect, evaluate, and plan.
As you look at your goal and your performance, take a “neutral thinking” stance. [Moawad] Look at what has happened up to this point in a non-judgmental way, neither positive nor negative, but just as it is. Remember the mantra “No shame, no blame”.
Review how you got to this point. Understanding what got you here gives you a better idea of where you want to be instead.
Finally, embrace the reality of the situation and focus on what needs to change in order to get back on track.
Ask, and answer, these questions to understand why you may need to reset your goal.
What happened? And why?
Did your priorities change? What matters now? How can you address your new priorities?
Did your focus change? What is important to you now? How do you want to change where you are going?
Did the situation change? Why did you set the original goal? Do you need to do a complete reset? Or do you want to recalibrate and alter your original goal?
Now, you’re ready for a reset. As you think about your new or updated goal, use the PLAN method: Prepare, Learn, Actions, Needs.
Prepare for your goal reset. Ask “What’s important to me now?” “Why do I need a reset?”
Learn. What skills do you need to learn, relearn, or brush up on? What steps do you need to take to begin this process?
Actions. What actions do you need to take? Are there things you need to stop doing? What habits can you install to help you move in the right direction?
Needs. What resources do you need to have in place? Who can help you or advise you?
Reset Your Goal
Resetting your goal doesn’t necessarily result in a smooth, wide path. So be prepared for new obstacles. To help you look ahead and prepare for what’s coming, use Gabriel Oettingen’s WOOP model. [Oettingen] WOOP is a tool that is especially useful for doing a goal reset because it helps you focus on what is going on inside of you that may keep you from achieving your goal. And it offers a method to find strategies for dealing with those limiting thoughts and behaviors.
WOOP, Gabriel Oettingen tells us, is an exercise that uses “free thoughts and images rather than rational or effortful thinking.” [Oettingen] You practice quieting your “judging and analytical” left brain and use your right brain, which is more intuitive and connected to the world and allows you to be present in the here and now. [Taylor]
Here are the basics of WOOP. For a complete understanding, see Gabriel Oettingen’s Rethinking Positive Thinking.
WOOP = Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan
Wish: Take several minutes to breathe and relax. Think about your goal, why you need to reset, and what you’d like to achieve instead. Make it challenging but doable in the timeframe you have in mind.
Outcome: Thinking about your wish, what is the desirable outcome? What would fulfilling your wish look like? Make it as vivid and detailed as possible.
Obstacle: Now that you have your best outcome in mind, what could keep you from achieving it? Per Oettingen, we’re not thinking of external obstacles, but things within you that could hold you back. Examine your limiting thoughts and beliefs, past behaviors and habits that have held you back. What is the one obstacle that is most likely to prevent you from reaching your desired outcome?
Plan: Now that you have an idea of the obstacles you are facing, it’s time to make a plan for dealing with them. In the WOOP model, this takes the form of an implementation intention. An implementation intention is an “if. . .then” statement in the form of “If X occurs, then I will do Y.” Think about that obstacle that you’re likely to run up against, the thought or behavior that could derail you from your goal path. When and where will it occur? Now, what will you do to overcome or bypass the obstacle, the most effective alternative? Formulate these thoughts into your If. . .Then implementation intention.
That’s how you WOOP your goal reset.
When NOT To Reset Your Goal
When is NOT a good time to reset your goal? In a word, or rather in four words, when things get difficult.
If your goal is a BIG (Bold-Important-Gratifying) goal, it won’t be all that easy to obtain. To achieve bold, important, and gratifying goals, you must get out of your comfort zone. This is by definition uncomfortable
Go back and review the reasons to reset your goal in the “Why Reset Your Goal?” section. If one of these does not apply, look long and hard at your desire for a reset. There will be obstacles. Prepare for those (WOOP) but don’t let them be a reason to give up on your goals.
A Reset Isn’t a Failure
Just because you have chosen to reset your goal does not make you a failure. If you are alive, things change. You change. Circumstances change. What’s important to you may change.
So be flexible but don’t be wishy-washy. Do not give up on a goal simply because it is challenging. But if your goal no longer suits your circumstances, if it’s too broad – or too narrow, or if it no longer fits you, maybe it’s time to think about a reset. That isn’t failing. That is embracing your Excelerated Life™!
How are you progressing on your BIG goal?
Do you need to calibrate or even do a full reset?
Share your comments by leaving a post below.
Excelerated Goal Setting™ — planning and achieving BIG (Bold, Important, Gratifying) goals — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Moawad, Trevor with Andy Staples. It Takes What It Takes – How To Think Neutrally And Gain Control Of Your Life. New York: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2020.
Oettingen, Gabriele. Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside The New Science Of Motivation. New York: Penquin Group (USA) LLC, 2014.
Taylor, PhD., Jill Bolte. My Stroke of Insight. New York: Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2006, 2016.