Years ago, I shared my Bucket List with y’all. It’s kind of been bugging me ever since. Recently, I realized that what was making me grumpy about it — there were many items that were not ‘big’ enough to be true Bucket List items. Like, taking a cooking class. All that is preventing me from crossing that off the list is time and a bit of money. Not hard, not *Bucket*.
Science has demonstrated that humans do better when they have tangible goals to achieve. And it’s goals plural; one goal isn’t good enough. Some goals take longer to achieve than others, and if you spend years working toward only one objective, you’re likely to get discouraged when it doesn’t happen right away. When you have a long list of goals, you have more to strive for and more opportunities to check those goals off your list.
Ambiguous goals or goals that are too easy to attain won’t get the best results. Edwin Locke, an industrial and organizational psychologist found this to be true in his painstaking, twenty-five year project testing the effect of goal setting on task performance. Locke’s results show that setting high goals leads to better task performance, due to:
- Higher goals leading to greater effort
- Goals directing attention and effort to goal-relevant actions at the cost of non-relevant actions. For example, In order to meet the goal of writing a novel in one month, one must write every day; one must not spend time practicing the perfect typing technique, but perform the basic, most effective actions to get the job done.
There are some other important factors in goal completion, however. One can’t simply set a difficult goal and hope that the act of setting it inspires the desire to complete it. Completing goals also requires:
- Commitment to the goal, self-efficacy, and perceiving the goal as important
- Task complexity in which knowledge is hard to acquire
- Situational constraints: the means necessary to accomplish the task can’t be too much more than is required to complete it.
However, some new warnings come with current research that teach us Locke’s Goal Setting Theory isn’t foolproof and isn’t an exact science. In some cases, setting a high, difficult goal was not more effective than simply being encouraged to do one’s best. It is also possible for one who focuses so much on a specific goal to lose sight of bettering themselves, and simply aim straight for the task completion. In other words: Goal setting should help the setter to gain critical skills and not just reach the finish line.
Not only is it possible to get tunnel-vision, race-to-the-finish-line mentality that is counterproductive to successful task completion, it’s possible for a goal setter to focus on failure rather than success and view their goal as a threat rather than a challenge. These warnings add up to a list of things to keep in mind as you set your goals:
- Complete small tasks along the way to your big destination; learn and grow as you proceed.
- Don’t get wrapped up in abstract concepts or distracted by fear of failure. The more energy and worry you expend on those distractions, the less energy you have to devote to success, thus hurting your chances of achieving your goals.
Setting goals gives you something to work towards in life and brings you a sense of purpose. When you set your goals, you are taking the first step toward achieving them. Writing down your goals is essential because it helps you switch from being in a passive state to being actively involved in your life. The act of writing cements your goals in your mind.
So, what’s on my Life Goals list?
Take a cooking class
Master knife skills
Cook all meals for a month (no dining out)
Cook all meals for a month, hardcore (no dining out OR anything prepared)
Give up meat for a month
Outside the Home
Start a garden (grow actual food)
Landscape front yard — in progress
Landscape back yard — in progress
Inside the Home
Improve library bookshelves — DONE
Create a guest/fitness room — DONE
Remodel the bathroom
Clean out extraneous objects* — in progress
Catalog electronic data (in progress) — DONE
Create a household binder — in progress
Create a passive income stream
Plan for maximal retirement opportunities
Fitness & Health
Exercise daily for a month
Exercise daily for 3 months
Exercise daily for 6 months
Exercise daily for a year
Structurally reintegrate yr body (SOMA) — DONE
Re-learn belly dancing
Lose 50 pounds
Get 8 hours of sleep every night
Do 30 ‘full’ pushups without stopping
Walk a 5k
Swim a mile
Teach at a ‘con again
Write your biography — in progress
Collect family stories (record, transcribe) and make a book
Create web videos for class — DONE
Zoom a ritual — DONE
Publish monthly blog posts for a year
Utilize self-hypnosis to achieve a goal
Do something creative for several hours each week
Create a vision board
Learn to take awesome photos — DONE
Learn to bead
Paper crafts: learn/ do for a year
* If we don’t love it and/or use it frequently we don’t keep it