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Discussion Forum > Purpose of Goal Setting

As a tangent to the other thread about goal setting…

Why should I set goals at all? What's the purpose of it?

I can think of three reasons why I should do it:

— To force oneself, or to ensure, that one will give as much effort as possible to reach those goals on a daily basis. After all, this is the only thing one has under control about the whole thing: do I give as much as I can today?

— Or more conservatively, just to regularly improve one's performance, because the formality of a goal setting system gives one a point for self-evaluation.

— Using formal goals as a means to decide what to do (giving the "why" for your effort) and establishing accountability and evaluation.

These are all a summoned under the heading "improvement of self conduct", perhaps.

— But there is always a feeling that I need more perspective, more overview over my activities than what a single long list can provide. Even when using DIT I always wanted to have a "big picture" overview of some sort. But why is that? Pondering that, I never could find a good answer.
March 22, 2018 at 0:32 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
Goals as you have described them are all about FORCING yourself to do something (you even use the word). The trouble with forcing yourself is that you will eventually rebel against it - and even if you succeed with the goal you may find in the end that it wasn't really worth all the effort you put into it.

A useful exercise is to take a time period (yesterday/the past week/the past month/the past year/the past decade) and ask yourself "If what I've done over this period is one hundred percent in accordance with my real goals, what would those goals have been?"

In the past I've identified some very important themes in my life using this question, and also saved myself from going down paths which in the end would not have satisfied me.
March 22, 2018 at 1:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Great question. Some times it is hard to see when you are in the midst of doing what seems important.
March 23, 2018 at 3:40 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Interesting point on force. Sadly, most people need force applied to them to do things. Hence a system of fines imposed by Government. Parking tickets, tv licence etc. People just don't do things without some sort of consequence imposed.

I've had quite a lot of success with forcing myself in the end to do things I don't particularly like doing. To the point now I don't really get any resistance/rebelling against tasks.
So I'm wondering if a certain amount of "forcing" is the way to achieving a breakthrough and become a better person in the long run. Bit like training a muscle by breaking it down over and over. The power of habit, etc.
Mark: I know you advocate non forcing, but it does have merits.
I feel much better with a more rigid system of doing things sequentially rather than stand out. It gives me a sense of control rather than doing things at a whim.
Interesting topic though.
March 23, 2018 at 11:29 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I find different methods work better on different days. Without goals, I don't do what I need to do (eg goal of keeping the house comfortable), and I stagnate (eg goal of learning new things), and curl into myself too much (eg goal of socializing every week).

On the other hand, the wrong goal can discourage me. My relationship with different goals changes. When I'm in a rut, I need different goals than when I'm on a roll.

If I only use standing out, I miss important deadlines. If I only use plans and deadlines, I often resist them.

Sometimes, it works best for me to get started by using standing out, then look at my urgent, high-priority goals, then my middle goals. When I'm in a rut, this is usually my best option.

Other times, looking at my goals keeps me focused, so I look at them first. When I'm on a roll, this is usually my best option.
March 23, 2018 at 13:45 | Registered CommenterCricket
Mr Backlog:

<< Sadly, most people need force applied to them to do things. >>

Do they? Would they just lie in bed all day doing nothing? Well, some might. But the vast majority of people would spend the day doing things - things they want to do.

<< Hence a system of fines imposed by Government. Parking tickets, tv licence etc. People just don't do things without some sort of consequence imposed. >>

What you mean is that without consequences people don't do things which they don't want to do but the Government does want them to do.

They can usually manage to do the things they do want to do.
March 24, 2018 at 1:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Cricket:

<< If I only use standing out, I miss important deadlines. >>

Why?
March 24, 2018 at 9:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mr Backlog:

<< I feel much better with a more rigid system of doing things sequentially rather than stand out. It gives me a sense of control rather than doing things at a whim. >>

"At a whim"?
March 24, 2018 at 9:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Voice of intuition:

"This is an important deadline coming up"

"This is an Important Deadline coming up"

"This Is An Important Deadline Coming Up!"

"This Is An IMPORTANT DEADLINE Coming Up!!"

"THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DEADLINE COMING UP RIGHT NOW!!!"

Me:

"Oh no! I've missed that important deadline. I just can't trust my intuition."
March 24, 2018 at 9:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.... For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:18-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The monastics engaged in systems to help do better things better, so why not us?
March 24, 2018 at 22:08 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< The monastics engaged in systems to help do better things better, so why not us? >>

Simple Scanning, FVP, AF, etc. are systems, and very systematic ones too.
March 24, 2018 at 23:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

I am one of those people who would spend all day in bed doing nothing. I've often done just the minimum for weeks at a time, even ignoring things that would make a huge difference (such as things that I know would break the depression cycle).

I often ignore the voice that's says something is getting urgent, even if it's getting louder and louder each day. If I don't break things down and set intermediate check-points, I often end up starting too late.
March 31, 2018 at 20:39 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket wrote:
"I am one of those people who would spend all day in bed doing nothing..."

So am I. I have done plenty of it and will do it plenty more. I don't even have to be depressed to do it. I get tired of constantly needing to *do* things, and the littlest ones seem the most oppressive.
April 1, 2018 at 3:51 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Cricket & Bernie:

Been there, done that, as they say.

In fact that's precisely why I got into the study of time management.

But what I found in the end was that it wasn't goals or highly structured systems that solved the problem. It was providing a simple framework which allowed my mind to establish its own preferred routines, which it was happy to keep to.

The important proviso is that if you find something that works for you, then stick to it.
April 1, 2018 at 11:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:
"But what I found in the end was that it wasn't goals or highly structured systems that solved the problem. It was providing a simple framework which allowed my mind to establish its own preferred routines, which it was happy to keep to."

Yes, right on the money!
April 4, 2018 at 4:16 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
How do you ensure your mind's preferred routines get the important work done? That it doesn't prefer to laze about all day, or hyper-focus on something less important?
April 4, 2018 at 16:23 | Registered CommenterCricket
Quote: "Goals as you have described them are all about FORCING yourself to do something (you even use the word). The trouble with forcing yourself is that you will eventually rebel against it..."

I'm increasingly coming round to your ways of thinking. Mark. For example, I've recently been fasting (after a fashion) on alternate days, but I've found it to be at least as effective to use a loose framework than a strict one. Because I rebel!

I know you experimented with IF yourself, and I wondered if you had any advice about applying your principles to a dietary regimen.
April 4, 2018 at 23:07 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Williams
I've been waiting for the weather to warm a bit before I take to really trying Intermittent Fasting. Because I tend to feel colder when I haven't eaten, and I don't need that added distraction of feeling cold on a cold day.
April 5, 2018 at 0:53 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Cricket:
"How do you ensure your mind's preferred routines get the important work done? That it doesn't prefer to laze about all day, or hyper-focus on something less important?"

You don't. Mark's "simple framework" gives the mind something to latch on to, some better-than-nothing options. You get some structured procrastination, your #2 or #3 or #7 priority finished, instead of a big fat nothing. If #1 were on the table, we could feel bad about that, but if you were ready to lie around in bed all day, then #1 was probably never on the table.

There are times when even a simple framework won't help, and I will lie around instead of even looking at any kind of list. A more complex tight-laced system won't help me out of those situations either. The fact is, I don't need to be helped out of them. I'm still here.
April 5, 2018 at 5:22 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Goals etc:
I think we all must be quite different on what works for us. For myself I need a very rigid structure with lots of forcing to do things. It seems to be the only thing that works for me so I don't miss deadlines etc and I feel much happier as a result. If I pick things out I want to do, then it all goes badly wrong.

Indeed, having done lots of forcing and imposing a rigid structure of when to do things for a while now I will stick to it.

However, I think others will need other approaches to hit the right thing that works for them. e.g. standout, intuition, etc.

I'm wondering now if there is no particular right way of doing things. Instead, it is a case of finding a way of doing things that works best for you. If you keep switching systems, then the search for the right system should continue! If everything gets done with ease and no procrastination, then you have hit the right system.
April 5, 2018 at 12:59 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I am more than a bit perturbed reading you guys talking about laying in bed doing nothing at all for prolonged periods as some kind of evil.

I present to you a cure for this kind of thinking: G.K. Chesterton's excellent essay defending the art of lying in bed doing nothing, titled (of course) "On Lying in Bed".

http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/On_Lying_In_Bed.html

And oh yeah, if someone could invent a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling, that person would become very rich indeed.
April 5, 2018 at 19:04 | Registered Commenternuntym
If you're willing to mount a TV screen on the ceiling, your wish can happen!
April 5, 2018 at 20:56 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Sounds like Chesterton would have loved white boards.
April 5, 2018 at 22:54 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Probably would!

On the other hand, he likes chalk very much.

http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/chalk.html
April 5, 2018 at 23:20 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:
"I am more than a bit perturbed reading you guys talking about laying in bed doing nothing at all for prolonged periods as some kind of evil. "

Oh, I don't find it the least bit evil (not sure if you were referring to my posts though). It did used to make me anxious, with all those "deadlines" approaching, but I've finally seen through that! I have an ADD-ish source of power that kicks in at just the right moment to avoid real catastrophes, and that seems to suffice. It might not be that way for everyone, I don't know. I may even have actual ADD, I don't know that either.


MrBacklog:
"For myself I need a very rigid structure with lots of forcing to do things..."

I used to say the same, and I accomplished some apparently great things through strong self-discipline with a rather negative edge. I honestly believed that would be my lifelong secret weapon and was rather proud of it, but shockingly it turned out unsustainable. At the same time, I discovered that the meaning of "great" had often shifted long before I'd reached my goal. But due to my amazing "discipline," I was unwilling to shift with it. Instead, I complimented myself for hollow victories and interpreted others' well-meaning praise as evidence that I had done well, as if others would know what makes me happy.

Meanwhile, the two skills that I value most are those that I developed without any exercise of willpower whatsoever: computer programming, which I did as a hobby from grade school on up and is now my career, and playing the guitar which I taught myself by ear, by playing for 2+ hours a day after school from about age 12 onward. The guitar may stretch this premise a bit, since I did have mandatory classical piano lessons before that, which definitely built a foundation for my free-wheeling approach to the guitar. Still, unlike the piano, I never did force myself to pick up the guitar (not that I could ever hope to pick up a piano!), never did set a timer for the mandatory amount, did not have any assigned pieces to memorize... I simply turned on the radio and attempted to play what I heard. Eight months of lessons helped to fill in some gaps after I got my bearings, but they were informal, and I stopped them once I learned enough to chew on for a while. So without the piano lessons, maybe I would be less skilled at the guitar, but I think I still would have played it just as much. Maybe more, since I wouldn't have had to divert time to the piano!

By all appearances, I exercised great willpower to put in all those hours of practice, sheer trial and error, learning by sweating, on both the computer and the guitar. But no, it was an entirely different experience and one I have not been able to duplicate in adulthood. I still enjoy playing the guitar occasionally, but not for hours. A few years ago, I tried to force myself into it with a lesson book and a time table, a checklist, a video series, etc. I had plenty of spare time for it, but it just wouldn't stick. I even built a soundproof studio in my basement--any musician's dream! But it doesn't call to me anymore. I can punish myself over it or let it be.
April 6, 2018 at 2:56 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Bernie:
Yes, I think forcing should only be used in a constructive way. If the task is at odds with overall goals, then forcing is not right.
I'm more thinking of giving myself a shove to get started and then I know after a while I enjoy the task. But I need that bit of force applied in the first place.
Take Mark's comment above which I can turn into:

Voice of intuition:
"This is an important deadline coming up".
The new me: Oh dear, I don't want to do that, it looks hard work but I'll force myself to do a bit of it now...
"This is an Important Deadline coming up"
The new me: I'll do a bit more...
"This Is An Important Deadline Coming Up!"
The new me: I'm enjoying this, not as bad as I thought, I'll do a bit more.
Great, all done, don't know what the fuss was about. Glad I did not miss the deadline as that would be at lot worse.

Now, it is easy of course to say this, but putting into practice is a lot harder. However, I have found that forcing myself just at the right time has led to quite a breakthrough in getting things done. No longer are those tasks sitting there nagging me in the back of my mind. I know they will all get done. Now it feels like I'm ready to tackle any task.
April 6, 2018 at 11:06 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Martin Williams:

<< I know you experimented with IF yourself, and I wondered if you had any advice about applying your principles to a dietary regimen. >>

There is a huge amount of contradictory dietary advice around which I'm not qualified to comment on.

However I think it's safe to say it all boils down to:

Eat less
Exercise more

How to manage exercise through a system is pretty obvious. Treat it as any other piece of work and put all the various types of exercise you want to engage in on your list. Aim to build up routines.

It may not seem so obvious how to manage eating, but basically it is the same principle. Schedule your meals and ONLY eat scheduled meals. Avoid snacking at all costs. Again it's a matter of building up a routine.

One other piece of advice:
Avoid sugar as much as possible
April 6, 2018 at 12:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Alan Baljeu:

<< I've been waiting for the weather to warm a bit before I take to really trying Intermittent Fasting. Because I tend to feel colder when I haven't eaten, and I don't need that added distraction of feeling cold on a cold day. >>

Of course then it will be too hot to exercise.
April 6, 2018 at 12:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mr Backlog:

Here's a better way:

Voice of intuition:
"This is an important deadline coming up".
Me: "Noted. Let's start gathering ideas"

"This is an Important Deadline coming up"
Me: "Which are the best ideas? Let's get started on a few"

"This Is An Important Deadline Coming Up!"
Me: "Wow! This has got some real momentum behind it now"

"This Is An IMPORTANT DEADLINE Coming Up!!"
Me: "Yes, and I've got some really important stuff for it"

"THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DEADLINE COMING UP RIGHT NOW!!!"
Me. "Aced it!. Gimme the next deadline!"
April 6, 2018 at 12:19 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
> Of course then it will be too hot to exercise.

Sure but before that there's a week in May when everything will be perfect.

Actually with air-conditioned gyms around too-hot isn't actually a problem. Admittedly my excuse was weak, and I'll just claim there are additional reasons which cumulatively make sense and I'm working to overcome the barriers.

Let's call this Project I.F. and say implementing it is an important goal with an artificial deadline coming up. I'm gathering the best ideas and getting started on a few right now.
April 6, 2018 at 19:01 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan:

<< Let's call this Project I.F. and say implementing it is an important goal with an artificial deadline coming up. I'm gathering the best ideas and getting started on a few right now. >>

Don't forget to design a comprehensive reporting system which takes longer to fill in than doing the exercising.
April 6, 2018 at 19:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Bernie:

> I ... interpreted others' well-meaning praise as evidence that I had done well, as if others would know what makes me happy.

I've copied this sentence into my file of wisdom maxims.

Chris
April 7, 2018 at 8:03 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
April 7, 2018 at 12:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<< << Let's call this Project I.F. and say implementing it is an important goal with an artificial deadline coming up. I'm gathering the best ideas and getting started on a few right now. >>

Don't forget to design a comprehensive reporting system which takes longer to fill in than doing the exercising.>>

You respond like I was not serious, though I really was. I was using the template you presented above in outlining the plan.
April 7, 2018 at 20:22 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
@Bernie: "(not sure if you were referring to my posts though)"

I'm not so sure either.

@Alan: " If you're willing to mount a TV screen on the ceiling, your wish can happen!"

Or maybe a light sensitive screen on the ceiling and a laser pointer in hand.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....
April 7, 2018 at 21:26 | Registered Commenternuntym
Alan Baljeu:

<< You respond like I was not serious, though I really was. I was using the template you presented above in outlining the plan. >>

I know that. I was just adding a touch of humour. But humour always seems to misfire!
April 7, 2018 at 23:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
MrBacklog:
The constructive forcing you describe is my experience when using a system like Simple Scanning or FFVP. It seems to be the repeated exposure to these important tasks, mixed in with others to create just enough distraction and provide constructive alternatives.

The destructive, deadlocked type comes about when I use focused, intentionally sorted lists with rules about what I have to do first, etc... or no lists except the dread pressure in the back of my mind.
April 8, 2018 at 1:16 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Alan Baljeu:

The following link is to the page of a health/fitness hobbyist whose blog I follow. As a hobbyist, he kind of scours a lot of sources, and of course it's not medical advice. But you may get some ideas from his work.

http://criticalmas.com/best-of/intermittent-fasting/
April 8, 2018 at 15:02 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown