Hey, yo!

So you wrote down a goal, right? One goal to rule them all?

Nice.

The next three posts are all about what is arguably the most important step of all goal-achieving steps: implementation. If you are one of those people who loves to dream and make plans, but falls flat at the first implementation hurdle, fear not. There are ways to overcome those anti-implementation instincts.

First though, you need to identify what kind of goal you are working with. I think goals can basically be divided into two kinds: step-based goals and practice-based goals. I had so many tips to share on implementing these that I have actually divided it into three posts! Today’s post is all about the difference between step-based goals and practice-based goals. On Friday, I’ll be sharing a post of tips for implementation of practice-based goals, and Tuesday’s post next week will delve into how to implement step-based goals.

So, what’s the difference between a practice-based goal and a step-based goal? A practice-based goal is founded on a change that you want to incorporate into your lifestyle indefinitely, whereas a step-based goal requires a one-time change that, once done, is done. It’s really easy to tell the difference between them by looking at the change your goal is founded on and asking this one simple question: “Could I, conceivably, ever be done with this?” If the answer is yes, your goal is a step-based goal, and if it’s no, your goal is a practice-based goal. Another way of thinking about it is whether your goal is more about the outcome (step-based) or more about, well, the practice (practice-based).

An example of a practice-based goal would be “spend an evening a week quality time with my family for the next three months.” I can’t ever imagine being ‘done’ with spending quality time with the people I love. It’s not like I could suggest to Aaron, for example, that we calculate the appropriate amount of quality time we need for a happy marriage then just do it all now. It just doesn’t work that way. Spending quality time together is part of our lifestyle and when we don’t do it, we both suffer. Similarly, I can’t ever imagine being “done” with getting enough sleep or exercise, or spending time with God or healthy eating or sustainable living. Any goals based on these things are practice-based goals.

Now, with a practice goal, though the change you are seeking may never be “done,” your goal will indeed get done. “Get seven hours sleep every night for thirty days” gets done, even though “get good quality sleep” is never finished. A practice-based goal is based on something that you want to incorporate into your life indefinitely.

Step-goals on the other hand, are based on things that are done once they are done. Maybe, if you were superhuman, you could just sit down and do them all at once (but, don’t try this at home). For example, one day I will be finished with this PhD I’m in the middle of. If I were superhuman, I could just sit down and do it all in one go.  Similarly, you may want to write a book, or have a kid, or make a million pounds, or start a business or visit Chile or get a promotion or buy a house, and no matter how big those goals are, when they’re done they’re done. Sure, they may impact on your lifestyle indefinitely, but the change itself gets finished.

So, before you plan your implementation strategy, figure out whether your goal is a step-based goal or a practice-based goal, because the implementation strategies for each of these types of goals differs.

One tool is useful for any type of goal though, and that is accountability. There is nothing that helps you actually achieve goals like accountability. Obviously, what that looks like will differ depending on what your goal is and who you can trust to hold you accountable. It may look like asking someone to do your goal with you. It may look like meeting up with one or more people regularly to hold each other accountable to whatever you are working on. It may look like getting someone to check in with you regularly, or it may look like setting yourself up with a hard, unmoveable deadline. Whatever it looks like, I don’t think accountability is meant to be about fear  but it is about exposure – the best kind of exposure. This is a big deal for PhDs! If I say I’ll write a chapter by the end of next month, but no one knows whether or not I do it, I can hide, even from myself, and that can become quite destructive. If, on the other hand, I say I’ll write a chapter and present on it at a conference at the end of next month, then whether or not I do it is exposed. There may be good reasons not to do it, in the end, and I can explain those, but it is out in the open – that is the difference. The exposure not only makes me more likely to do it, but it gives me someone who can really see what’s going on with me and help me grow and change in the best ways. The thing about exposure is that it is only appropriate in the right contexts, so don’t expose yourself to any old person, but find someone you trust and respect, share your goal with them, and find a way of being accountable to them. It’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

Featured Image by Ryan Tauss via Stocksnap.io