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Goal setting: Don't get lost in the sauce

Goal setting: Don't get lost in the sauce
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Homemade, jarred tomato sauce: it’s a standout on my list of goals for 2021. Amongst career, health and lifestyle aspirations, it stands out because I know it will be fun and has the potential to restart a family tradition. While I am excited about the prospect of jarring authentic ‘Giordano Gravy’ this summer, the doubts have started to creep in. Will I lose momentum? How will I find the time? Where did I put my grandmother’s recipe? Where am I storing 100 jars of tomato sauce? It’s tempting to put this one on the back burner.  

I’ve been down this road plenty of times before with my New Year’s resolutions. I get energised in January, only to fall by the wayside by the time spring comes around. With a full plate at work and home, and only so many hours in the day, it’s no wonder that 80% of people give up on their New Year's resolutions by February.  

The funny thing about goals is that just setting them alone provides an instant adrenaline rush: read 52 books in a year, learn a new language, start a gratitude journal, work out… you already feel renewed and hopeful! But two months later, the disappointment is just as immediate. It’s easy to chalk up failure to old habits or a lack of time, but we need to find a way to resist this temptation. Maybe the lack of progress has little to do with the goals you set and everything to do with the plan you didn’t set.  

To avoid getting ‘lost in the sauce’ of goal setting, here are some tried and tested methodologies to ensure forward momentum.    

  1. Write the recipe (commit to a plan). We’ve all heard that when we write goals, we should make them S.M.A.R.T., but we need to be smarter than S.M.A.R.T. If you want to make a meal, you need more than just the ingredients; you need the step-by-step instructions. Set clear daily, weekly and monthly milestones to track your progress. Write down the steps for starting, sticking with, and accomplishing each goal. Whether you write a broad plan or a more granular one, committing to action brings you closer to your goal.  

  1. Focus on the front burner (keep distractions at bay). It’s not easy to focus on your goals when distractions are everywhere. Learning to say no to random, unproductive requests, or even opportunities, is not easy. But creating space in your day to make progress is key to success. Set customised limits on your app and social media time but be intentional about what you will replace this time with. For example, if you typically spend 20 minutes on Instagram, restructure that time by saying, ‘I will limit Instagram to 5 minutes per day and will spend 15 minutes researching equipment for jarring tomato sauce.’ I feel better already!   

  1. Post the specials board (make it visible). Many of my favourite lunchtime haunts hang large chalkboards on the most conspicuous wall touting the daily specials. No matter where you sit, you can’t miss them. When it comes to goals, put them where you can see them. When a good friend’s son set a goal to get recruited to run track in college, he added a ‘sub 51’ alert to his daily calendar for the entire year. This year, I added my top goals to my screensaver so that every time my laptop goes to sleep, I am reminded to take a step towards jarred tomato sauce.  

  1. Hire a sous-chef (enlist someone to keep you accountable). Why go it alone when you are trying to make changes? We all need a nudge every now and then to stay motivated and on track. Find an ‘accountabili-buddy’ to partner with as you tackle your plan. Your partner should be someone who believes in you, but also has what it takes to check in on your progress and keep you motivated, and your partnership should be about support, not judgment. Set clear expectations about the process and how you would like them to hold you accountable. My favourite sous-chef for this type of check-in is my wife as she’s also excited to have our kids take part in the tradition and have readily-accessible jars of sauce in the cupboard.   

My advice to you is not to give up. Revisit your goals and make them manageable. If there are some you need to shed, put them aside and focus on the most important ones. There’s no greater path to goal-setting success than portion control – don’t bite off more than you can chew. And speaking of chewing, here’s an open invitation to you for a plate of pasta with ‘Stevie G’s homemade tomato sauce’ this summer (and with that offer, there’s no turning back!)   

Stephen Giordano is an Associate at Impact Americas.