About a month after meeting Sara I wrote a personal proclamation. I called it GOAL 298, as in the goal weight I wanted to target. As a narrowly focused objective G298 was a failure (I weight just slightly less now than I did at the initiation of G298). But taken as a series of goals to make my life better, it was a general success. I got a kayak and got on the water, I biked for a while again, I ate less fast food (then more, then a bit less later) and more salads, I saw lower weights for a while, I walked a couple hundred miles, I drink much less soda and eat fewer sugary treats, I’ve tried to be outside as much as I can, I’ve been to see a doctor, and I’ve tried to learn from failures and not repeat the same patterns. These were all things set out in GOAL 298 that were ancillary to the weight loss, but as it turns out were positive goals.
I like to think of GOAL 298 as a pilot project. It helped me learn that the process of defining my goals is as important as actually achieving them. It also taught a number important lessons for goal setting and achieving.
- Make it real and tangible by writing it down. Understanding what I want and how I want to accomplish it can be tricky, especially for someone who lives in their head as much as I do. By manifesting those thoughts, dreams, objectives, desires, goal, and hopes into text transformed them from nebulous thoughts bouncing around in my brain to something real and solid. By writing them down I was able to keep them fresh in my mind and when the opportunity presented itself I mostly knew what to do.
- Broaden the scope of the goals. Through that process, I learned that the goal should not be so narrow in focus. So while the GOAL 298 was a bit of a bust, there were many accomplishments, which is why I felt that my next mission statement needed to be broader, to encompass the things I want to do, not just the weight I want to lose. Losing weight is a good, but being healthy should be the goal. A mission statement should be much more than how I’m going to lose weight. It should include goals for all different aspects of life. It should include some goals that are easy to reach (low hanging fruit) and some that are nigh on impossible (astronaut, lotto winner). These broader goals can have branches and sub-goals, objectives and plans. But they should also be worthwhile pursuits.
- Understand the need for flexibility and reprioritization. It also helped me think of goal prioritization. G298 took a backseat during a large bit of the last two years because other things became a priority, it was not my only goal. Since writing G298 I have accomplished many things, mostly outside of the manifesto framework. I published a major paper; I met/fell in love/married Sara; together we created Katie and kept her alive and happy (a topic for another blog); I found a new job; and we found a new house in a new town. I am not a single focus person, there are always many things occurring simultaneously. Priorities change. If the house is on fire, it doesn’t matter that I was in the process of reorganizing my files.
- Don’t just do the difficult things. The science of productivity tells us to tackle complex and difficult tasks first, head on. But that sucks. Especially, when there is a lot of daunting shit you want to accomplish. It is OK to do the fun stuff (as long as the house is not on fire).
- Using shorter-term achievable objectives to build to longer term goals. I think one of the failures/lessons from G298 was that I saw it as a single process – lose 100 pounds. It became intimidating and overwhelming to the point where main objective priority fell precipitously, to the point of being almost wholly ignored. The idea of manageable units, the idea of building up incrementally those came from the some of the previous failures. I am not suddenly going to like to eat salad for 2 meals a day and the idea of losing 100lbs is daunting. But choosing a salad over a burger once a week and losing 10 pounds those seem obtainable. All those things in the plan were good. But I think the idea that I needed to do all of them at once became a bit overwhelming.
- Incremental implementation of change. Part of the problem with G298 was that I tried to do everything at once. For most of my goals I won’t accomplish them overnight. Often they require commitment and modification of current behaviors or patterns. The idea that those can change instantaneously doesn’t always fly. By allowing for some incremental implementation I can make positive progress without being overwhelmed and out of balance.
- Be open to opportunity. This is kind of similar to flexibility, but not exactly. It is important to not be so focused on the goals I have set that I miss out on something new. This doesn’t mean I am going to chase every squirrel that crosses my path. But new opportunities arise. By having a good understanding of what I want to do and where I want to go, I can better judge the cost and merits of something new.
- Add some accountability in my goals. These are my goals and whether or not I accomplish some, none, or all of them will matter very little to anyone who isn’t me, so the accountability must be personal. But by allowing the community to see those goals and how you have set forth to accomplish them it creates for me an unspoken responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care (some of you may, which is great, if you don’t that is also fine), or if you didn’t even read it, just the physical manifestation of the goal makes me liable for its completion. This was the lesson from G298. By simply writing it out it made me think about it and while I didn’t lose the weight I wanted I make better food choices (most of the time).
- Create some personal incentives for some goals. Sometimes a goal is only achieved through hard work. There is no fun to be had, no joy in process. In these cases I think it is OK to manufacture a little joy. Some type of reward for a job well done. These of course would differ from goal to goal. I love Legos and sunglasses. Those will likely be rewards for doing something onerous that gets me closer to accomplishing something worthwhile.
So there are many things I want to do in the next year, the next five year, the next ten, twenty, thirty. With those thoughts in mind and the lesson learned for GOAL298, I write this new mission statement: GOGOBEAR. Great Opportunities, Goals, and Objectives Being Established as Achievable and Reasonable. I really wanted to us GO-DOG-GO, but there were too many Os to find reasonable words for. In all the name of the mission statement doesn’t matter as much as the content. It is just an easy way for me to remember the plan and where I want to go. As a bonus, GOGOBEAR has a physical manifestation in a stuffed bear with lots of meaning. GoGo Bear was purchase at the Cincinnati Zoo, on the day I proposed to Sara, which was supposed to happen in front of the bears, but ended up happening in front of the orangutans. She was also named by Katie, who was not sleeping one night and was picking up different stuffed animals in her bedroom to cuddle. When she picked up the bear I asked her its name and she said GoGo, which may have been less naming and more I don’t wish to be put to bed right now, but I’m going with naming.
What I realized in writing it was that it suddenly became so large it was not going to fit into a single blog post that anyone would ever read. It was also longer than I could hope to accomplish in a single sitting. I’ve decided my mission statement should be broken into parts, representing different aspects of my life and goals. These intertwine and connect as needed, because I am a whole person, the sum of my parts. Some of these things require more thought and introspection than others. It is going to be a series of blog post each covering a specific aspect of my life. It will cover the goals and objectives, but also how I think I can transition goals into action, taking into account all the things I’ve learned so far.