The importance of attainable goals

I wanted to write a short post today. Part of what I was originally going to talk about was already mentioned in last week’s post, which you can find here if you missed it. As the title suggests, I think it’s very important to have attainable goals. I have a long history of setting goals that I can’t attain and then giving up on the progress completely.

I’ll give an example. I am a stress eater. I am also someone who gets stressed very quickly. I know, not the greatest of combinations, but that’s just the cards I’ve been dealt. One of my go to addictions has always been soda, in particular Pepsi Max. In combination with a lot of crisps, candy and cookies I would also drink 1, 2, 3 and eventually almost 4 liters of Pepsi a day. For those of you who don’t use the metric system, that’s too much. Way too much. So at some point I decided it was enough. I was going to go cold turkey. This went great, for about a day. Anyone who’s had any addiction will recognize this. It’s not as simple as “just stop drinking, smoking, gambling, whatever your addiction may be.” You need to find a method that works for you. And for me, goals are best when they’re slowly increased.

Nowadays, I drink around 0.5 to 1 liter of soda a day. That’s still not perfect, but that’s down a lot from where I started. Small disclaimer, it’s recently been going up since my mental health has been very bad, but that’s besides the point, I’m confident to get that back under control. I did this by setting limits, and then slowly lowering those limits. I started by saying “no more than 3 liters a day.” That’s still a lot, but it was a small, very attainable step down from where I was. Then less bottles per week and before I knew it, I’d cut my soda intake by more than 70% in the span of half a year. On the side I did the same with sweets and other snacks, and after about a year of slowly lowering I got to a place where I’m comfortable with how much junk food and drinks I take in.

I did something similar for writing. As some of you might remember, I wrote about writing 100.000 words total back in 2020. I then set my goal for 2021 at 300.000 words. This seemed like a high goal, but it wasn’t. Well, it’s more complicated than that, but it wasn’t as high as I thought it was. In the first five months of the year I wrote 153.000 words. Continuing at that pace I would possibly reach way more than 300.000. But knowing this, I got complacent. I started writing less and less, and this is reflected in the words I’ve been writing each month. Now I do have to admit that the state of my mental health has been a big influence, but that’s not all. I’ve gotten lazy. 

The moral of the story is that goals are important, but you need to be able to shift the goalposts. If you’re struggling to reach a goal, and it’s too hard, you need to allow yourself the breathing room to set the goalpost a little lower, and then move from there. It’s better to succeed at easier goals than fail at harder goals. The former feels good, the latter does not. I also think it’s important to then learn to adjust your goals up. If you’re overshooting your goals by a lot that’s great, but don’t get complacent. If there’s progress to be made, then aim for that progress. If it gets too hard you can always scale back down. This works for any goals you have in life. Just make sure you know where you’re headed, and you are doing this at a comfortable and efficient pace.

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