Note: this was drafte on 3/1/2021 and finalized today.
I think it’s common for people fail to make new habits and/or meet goals because they set up rules and strategies at the beginning of a project but then don’t go back to review and update those rules and strategies frequently enough.
Here’s some things I used to ask myself. They weren’t the right questions to be asking. Over the years I’ve found some better ones. Let me share them with you.
Don’t ask: “Do I really want to do this?”
On the surface, this seems like a great question to check in with your heart. However the wording is problematic.
First of all, it’s a yes or no question. Obviously at some point this endeavor was important to you for some reason and it deserves better examination that thumbs up / thumbs down.
The wording is also problematic because it’s not clear what “this” is in “Do I really want to do this?” Are you referring to accomplishing the goal? Or are you referring to the task at hand that will get you to the goal? It’s easy to take a negative feeling you have for the task at hand and project it onto your original goal. Do you want to run a marathon? Yes. Do you want to get up at 4am to train? No. Which question are you asking at 3:30am when you ask “Do I really want to do this?”
Rubber-stamping your exit from your goal pursuit is very easy when you ask this question that seems specific but is actually pretty vague.
Don’t ask: “Is this strategy a good one?”
Asking “Is this strategy a good one?” has similar issues as the first question.
Obviously it’s another yes/no question that invites a quick answer and minimizes the reflection needed.
Yes/No questions also invite you to project your feeling in that moment into the answer. (Many good salespeople have capitalized on this to their advantage by getting the prospect to feel good before closing the deal).
When you ask “Is this strategy a good one?” another thing happens: “shiny new things” start appearing on the horizon. You can see the tough parts of the road with the strategy you are familiar with but those shiny new and unexamined strategies always seem easier and better because we want them to be and we hope they will be and we don’t like feeling where we are right now.
So we throw out the training plan and get another, try to start a different routine, mix it up. Until that new strategy’s challenges are revealed and it is no longer passes the “Is this strategy a good one?” test.
Then the next shiny thing on the horizon is spotted. All of the switching comes at a cost and we never really know if one is better or worse than the last because we haven’t been asking the right questions.
Asking this question puts the focus on whether or not you like the strategy itself (not if it’s working), what you feel about the strategy in the moment (not about how you feel about it is helping you get to your goal).
So what DO you ask?
Here we want to combine the two questions and make sure we are clear on what the questions are asking.
Additionally I think it is important to jump up 20,000 feet and review the mission. What’s really driving you? What is the purpose? It all starts with mission (that is for another post, but I’ll assume you have some idea of what I mean here).
- What is my mission?
- How well does this goal that I am pursuing align with my mission?
- How well does this strategy help me accomplish the goal?
These might not be the perfect questions, but they are more exact and invite a better more nuanced analysis of your actions.
The previous two questions give you room and set you up for a comparison between your current feelings and your current strategy. But these questions I’ve outlined here force you to focus on comparisons that are more fact-based and help shift you from the right brain to the left brain: goal and mission, and strategy goal. (The first question might be one for the right brain, but that’s another post).