If you go onto the internet you will find masses of information relating to personal objective setting. Much of it relates to using the SMART objective setting methodology.
This is a simple approach to setting objectives and can be very effective. Yet many people still fail to achieve the personal goals that they set. Why is that?
It's not a problem with the SMART approach in itself. It's more a failure of people to understand one of the fundamentals associated with personal objective setting. You have to be totally committed to achieving it.
Your personal objective must reflect your desires, aspirations, beliefs or vision if you are going to be totally committed to it. In other words it must have a fit with your goals in life. If it doesn’t you will not be committed to it. And without commitment, failure soon comes a’knocking.
When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. Obstacles and barriers are things to go through, around, over or under. Where there is a will there is a way. That will comes from commitment. If you share your personal objectives and communicate progress with people who matter to you this can also aid motivation and commitment. The fear of public failure can produce positive results.
Personal objectives and goals are not the same. Personal objectives are milestones on a route to achieving your goals.
I will try and illustrate my points with a personal example. I am into hill walking and having completed the Munros (284 Scottish mountains over 3000ft), I was left with the question - what next? There is something in my psyche which drives me to go out into the mountains. I don’t know whether it is the challenge, the release from the strains of modern life, the companionship or the beers afterwards. Whatever the combination of factors, it’s what I love to do.
So when a six of my walking buddies suggested we do the GR20 trek in Corsica, I was up for it. The fact that I had never done a long distance trek before and the GR20’S reputation of being the toughest waymarked trail in Europe didn’t put me off (too much) because it fitted with my goals.
So my personal object became to walk the GR20.
The GR20 requires to be backpacked its entire length with some scrambling in places as some of the more dangerous parts of the route have chains and ladders, such as the infamous Cirque de la Solitude. We would have to stay in high, remote, mountain refuges and also be prepared to camp out if there was no room available.. We would essentially be away from civilisation for up to 5 days so we had to carry everything we needed to survive on our backs. Which meant that we had to be able to carry heavy rucksacks for up to 12 hours a day for 15 days, over rough mountainous terrain.
Unfortunately I injured my knee whilst preparing for the trek and, to cut a long story short, I had to have an operation on my knee. This severely reduced my physical preparation time. The easiest thing would have been to cancel the trip and let the other go. But that would mean missing a once in a lifetime opportunity to go with my friends.
This is where my point about commitment comes in. I was now faced with a significant obstacle. I had to let my knee recuperate. If I tried to exercise it, either too hard, or too early, then I would be likely to damage it and scupper the trip. So what was an alternative strategy? Well I have never been the thinnest of people. I could walk for hours with my normal rucksack so if I could lose weight equivalent to or more than the difference between my normal rucksack and the trekking one that I would take, then I should manage.
So I went on a diet. Never really been able to diet in the past – love my food too much. But now there was a driving reason. I actually managed to lose 2.5 stone. That’s the benefit commitment brings. Needless to say after the GR20 the weight slowly came back on. The commitment was no longer there and my love of food came once more to the fore.
Another fundamental of realising your personal goals is to adopt strategies that make the activities interesting and for there to be a constant drip feed of achievement and benefit as you go in order to maintain your motivation.
I hate doing gym work. I find it boring and I often overdo it - which was probably what accelerated the knee injury. However I do like cycling and that is what I did to help recuperate from the knee operation and to build up my stamina. The pluses for me were that it took me outdoors and down country lanes and trails around where I live that I had never been before. It’s amazing what is on your doorstep that you don’t know about. The trip computer on the bike also spiced things up. Can I go a bit further today? What was my previous best time for this route and can I beat it? All little things but it added interest and zest to the activity of getting me fit again.
Another challenge that I enjoyed was the task of reducing the weight of my trekking rucksack to a minimum whilst including all of the essentials. It proved to be a thought provoking and interesting task. In our lifestyles we take so much for granted as everything we need to survive is to hand. We just pick it up when we need it. But what happens when you have to live off of what you carry on your back? Well that’s quite an eye opener. Foe example,you’d be surprised how heavy water is. Try carrying all the water you would use in a day, if you can!
I started by creating a checklist of what I felt I would need.
Then I weighted them all individually and totalled up the weight, Shock. Horror.
I used some simple strategies to reduce the list such as the rule of three for clothes. One for wearing, one washed from the previous night and possibly still wet, and one dry for changing into at the end of the day. Another strategy was to include items that could be used for more than one purpose. Then I classified them as essentials and nice to haves.
Still too heavy. So it was it was down to refinement. Plastic spoon lighter than a metal one? Cut off half the stem of the toothbrush? Do I really need to allocate 3 sheets of toilet paper/day?
Still too heavy.
Was there any assumptions that we could reasonably make that would help reduce the weight by altering essentials to nice to haves?
So here’s a couple we made. Removing ice axe and crampons etc made a big difference.
So did taking dehydrated food. Probably wouldn’t taste very nice but it was light and may not have to be used.
Ultimately I got the fully loaded rucksack down to 16Kg including water for the day. Still heavy but manageable. I was just going to have to be extra careful on the scrambling sections.
The good news is that I achieved my personal objective. However not everything went quite as planned.
When we arrived in Corsica in the north, we discovered that had been late falls of snow and that you could not proceed for more than 2 days before you needed ice axes and crampons. One big assumption we had made turned out to be false.
So we changed tactics, hired two cars and drove to the south of Corsica in order to start from the southern end of the GR20 in the hope that the snow in the problems areas would melt sufficiently in the eleven days that it would take for us to reach the Cirque de la Solitude.
A gamble but fortunately this approach worked, and we got through the treacherous Cirque de Solitude unscathed.
We completed the GR20 and had the trip of a lifetime.
So if you can identify personal objectives that are aligned to the goals that you are committed to achieving, then the likelihood of you achieving them will significantly increase. There is something in it for you, something that you desire. It will be a must have, not a nice to have and you can see the benefits in your minds eye. You want them. You are passionate about achieving them.
And finally, remember to adopt strategies to achieve the objectives which contain as many activities that provide interest and benefit to you as you progress
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I certainly enjoyed writing it as it brought back some fond memories. I wish you all the best in setting and achieving your personal objectives. Remember to include lots of commitment and interest.
Again, any queries or comments, Ask Gordon