Friday, January 24, 2014

Goal Setting and Backwards Planning

     Do you have goals?  Funny question right.  Of course you do.  Don't we all have some goal or another that we are trying to reach?  I wonder, how long have you had this "goal" you are working on?  One year, two years, or keep making the same "goal" year after year?  Yea I know about that too.  On my personal blog in 2011 and 2012 I posted these goals each year:  

Bench Press 3 wheels. That's 315lbs (this will be pretty easy)
Squat 4 wheels. That's 405lbs (just did 315 yesterday, this will be easy too)
Deadlift 5 wheels. That's 495 lbs. (just did 405 today, shouldn't be too bad)
Run a 5 minute mile. (This will be freakin hard)
Run a sub 6 pace 10K. (this will suck ass too)
Run a 3:10 marathon, i.e Boston Qualifier. Planning for San Antonio Marathon 13 Nov.
25 Pullups. (I can do about 15 now if I really try, maybe)
Get down to 170 - 175 lbs range in body weight. Thats 25 to 30 lbs down from now.
Drink no more that 6 beers a week. That will be down from like 30+ a week

     About the only goal on this list I've even come close to meeting, is none of them. What did I do wrong?  They are specific, measurable and I wrote them down.  I can tell you what I did wrong.  I didn't put in the work, everyday work.  At the grind, the four AM, the pain, and the sacrifice.  I didn't do any of those things, so of course I was not successful.  But look again and see what else is the problem.  To many goals and no plan to reach them other than a time frame (Jan - Nov).  Which one do I work on first? Where is the ordinal priority list? Which one 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most important, etc...  

     For every goal you set, you have to have a plan to be successful with each goal.  The more goals you lay out, the more individual plans you need to lay out.  Sometimes you get lucky and plans will run parallel and can be worked on concurrently, with the same effort.  Essentially killing two birds with one stone. But you have found I am sure, that some goals can not be worked on concurrently, maybe this goal is a requirement to meet goal two in a latter time period.  Even though it is still a goal, it's unreachable without first meeting the immediate goal. In this case, you are mixing short and long term goals.  Maybe you have not classified each goal into a short term 3 to 6 months with a long term 3 to 5 years, etc...  

      Goal setting/planning is a function of problem solving, so to speak.  Ever heard of the 5 problem solving steps?  Well it used to be called the 5 problem steps when I was in the Army, but now I guess they complicated the shit of out it and made this easy concept into 7 steps, which is totally unnecessary, but here they are:

1. Recognize And Define The Problem
2. Gather Facts And Make Assumptions
3. Define End States And Establish Criteria
4. Develop Possible Solutions
5. Analyze And Compare Possible Solutions
6. Select And Implement Solution
7. Analyze Solution For Effectiveness

 If you say, "GOAL" instead of "problem" then you can see this process works pretty good!  Now just need to put these goals on a time line!   Hence the "backwards planning" concept.  To cut through the bullshit, here is the skinny on "backwards planning".   Basically look forward into the future and figure out where you need to be based on your long term goal.  Let's say your long term goal is to run a marathon.  Using mental imagery, stand at the finish line of your goal marathon, and look back to where you are right now.  See that big gap?  How do you close that gap?  Well to run 26 miles, you probably need to be able to run 20 right?  What about 15 miles, wouldn't you need to be able to run 10?  And etc... to the place you are at right now which could be only 1 mile.  You look at the time available and make incremental goals leading up to your final goal of 26.2 miles.  Now, you'll stand at time zero, which is now and look at November.  11 months.  Okay well in 1 month, I want to run 2 miles, in 2 months 4 miles, etc... non stop. But wait, you'll need to be specific inside of each month.  In month 1, how much do I run each day to get to two miles?  

     You'll see from the above and I'm sure you've see from your experience it really is tough to meet any one goal, and it get tougher the more goals you try to achieve at once.  But don't be afraid.  Use the following techniques to help you: mental imagery, goal setting, backwards planning, problem solving, research, and good old fashion hard work.  Don't be so caught up in the planning that no work is getting done.  Do the work first! 

Motivational Note:
This note comes to us from my favorite intellectuals, Ludwig von Mises:

Man's striving after an improvement of the conditions of his existence impels him to action. Action requires planning and the decision which of various plans is the most advantageous.

 You must act, there is no way to get around this!  Do it! 

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