Don’t Set Goals, Solve Problems

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Don’t Set Goals, Solve Problems

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If you and I are friends on Social, you’ve likely seen me share a post or two referencing Michael Easter, author of The Comfort Crisis.

I don’t subscribe to many newsletters, and even fewer paid newsletters, but his is one of the two I subscribe to and hand over a few dollars each month in exchange for a steady stream of his wisdom, advice, encouragement, and motivation.

Early December, he sent out a post on goal setting; more specifically, the problem with how we set goals. The Problem with Goals

The main bit of advice that I took as the takeaway was this: Don’t set goals, just to set goals. Instead, solve problems!

His advice is to look at areas of your life you want to improve, and use the pain points as guiding factor in goal setting.

If you do “x”, how will “y problem” be solved?

As we sit down to write down New Year’s Resolutions, or goals, we often times pick things seemingly out of thin air, and end up writing things down that most others are writing down as well. 

Ask 10 friends what their goals are in the New Year and their goals may sound suspiciously similar to yours.

Why? Because we all know what we should be doing or what others tell us we should be doing.

I should go to the gym more.

I should lose 15lbs.

I should be more present with my family.

I should drink less.

I should do a better job disconnecting from work.

I should do more to de-stress.

I should utilize that Peloton I bought two years ago and haven’t used since.

I should start reading again with my kids.

Any of these sound familiar? Maybe a few of them?

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with any of those goals.

But, if you don’t have strong conviction for working toward executing on them, consistently, those goals aren’t very powerful.

Instead, try to dig at least one or two layers deeper.

Take something you initially write out and then ask yourself, “Self, what problem will this solve?”.

Going to the gym more, doesn’t solve a problem, at least now with how generic it’s written, right?

Now if the problem we’re looking to solve is getting winded doing chores around the house and being unable to keep up with our kids when playing with them, then absolutely, going to the gym more is a very worthwhile goal that WILL solve a problem or two for you.

Losing 15 lbs…what problem will that solve?

Will you fit into your wardrobe better?

Will you be kinder to yourself when you look in the mirror and begin that nasty self-judging that we all do?

Will you carry yourself with more self-confidence?

Great! Legit problems, and now your proposed goal, or resolution, will work toward solving those problems!

You may have seen the Values-Based-Goal-Setting-V2 Worksheet. I created it a few years back after seeing more and more that when our goals are not tied to our values, the likelihood of follow through is much much lower versus when our goals and our values ARE aligned.

This “Don’t set goals, solve problems” sentiment is different, but very, very similar.

As we head into 2024, after what most can describe as a very trying year in 2023, I feel like setting ourselves up with goals that really truly matter, is a fantastic way to start off the new year on the right footing.

We all have problems that we’d love to solve and so reverse engineering our goals in that manner means having the BEST reasons possible to stay getting after them.

Empty goals creates an empty work ethic and if we put time and energy into simply going through the motions, those motions won’t last long.

Well-set goals that will make our lives easier or better or happier or healthier, these are the ones that stick, with effort that sticks in turn.

This year, let’s work hard on solving our problems by setting effective goals in that spirit!

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