The Resolution to Your Problems? – Goal Setting With the GoMoTo- Framework
A disclaimer up front: I know that the magical moment separating 23:59:59 on December 31st and 0:00:00 on January 1st in any given year is pretty arbitrary. I am also intellectually aware that you actually could change your life on any given day of any given year. Nevertheless, I am a committed practitioner of New Year’s resolutions as you might have read in previous Life-Sparring rounds, when I experimented with different forms of resolutions, like SMART Goals and Mini Habits.
I guess I am not entirely alone in my emotional attachment to the calendar. As it seems, most of the human race seems to function better with some basic structures in place. We think and remember in hours, months, seasons and years. That’s why the change of the year has this magical aura that calls for big changes, even if we then often fall back to our old ways.
Quantified Self – Improving Life Through Self-Tracking
If you follow the Life-Sparring.com Facebook page, you might know, that I am an active member of the Hong Kong Chapter of the Quantified Self movement (general info on Quantified Self here, Facebook page of the Hong Kong Chapter here). Once per month we get together and discuss how to put our personal data to use to improve our lives in all aspects.
Our last QS Meet-up in 2017 had the theme “New Year’s Resolutions: How to Quantify Your 2018 Goals” and in a smaller than usual circle we had a very lively discussion on different approaches to target setting for the new year.
One of my contributions to the discussion was the idea of a little 3-step framework (starting around minute 16 in the video), an attempt to put self-tracking into a larger context of self-improvement.
While the framework is actually quite simple, I thought it might be worth to write the idea out in full, give it a funky name and open it for a broader discussion. So, without further ado, let me introduce the GoMoTo-Framework.
GoMoTo – Three Steps from Goal to Action
Step One: Determine your Goals
It is obvious that your first step to any form of improvement is to establish the goals. What is much less trivial, however, is how to get there.
It takes a serious amount of reflection, or as I called it with a charming German accent in the meet-up discussion “an honest dialogue with yourself” to get your priorities straight. The importance of honesty cannot be emphasized enough. Even when talking with ourselves, we often tend to be not fully honest about our true priorities.
“What made you happy in the past year? What were you unhappy about? What weakness of yours would you love to eliminate? What are to-dos on your bucket list? What would be a great human capital investment for upcoming years? “. All this are questions, that can help you to establish your target system.
Try to be as precise and specific as possible. If possible, try to have a goal that is quantifiable and instead of saying “I want to improve my fitness level” say “I want to be able to do 5 pull-ups” or “I want to be able to run 10km below one hour”.
To see your progress, you need to be able to measure it. Quantifying your progress towards your goal might not always be straightforward, but without what managers and consultants call a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) you are basically flying blind. Be creative and try to look beyond the obvious. If you are trying to lose weight, for example, don’t purely focus on weight. Measure your waistline or if you have a body fat scale calculate your “total fat mass”, by multiplying your body weight with your body fat percentage to measure your progress.
Once you are pretty certain about what you want to achieve, spend some time seeking for potential trade-offs between your goals. Be realistic about your available resources, such as time, willpower and money. Is it realistic to become fluent in two languages at the same time? Can you save more money and make the bucket list trip to the Himalayas? Can you lose weight and increase muscle mass? While some goals might be benefiting each other, others come with heavy trade-offs or are practically mutual exclusive. Being ambitious is great, but you can easily set yourself up for failure with some lofty goals that fall out of reach just a few weeks into the new year. Strike the right balance and don’t chase too many things at the same time.
Step Two: Understand Your Motivation
People come in different shapes, forms and flavors and one big differentiator is the way our motivation systems work. Some people need barely any extrinsic motivation at all to deliver peak performance, other people need more than just a gentle nudge just to get their butts off the sofa.
Some of us thrive on praise, others need a drill sergeant screaming into their face. For some people financial incentives are extremely powerful, others get hooked on gamification or interaction with a dedicated community. My wife and I, for example, could not have different strategies to keep ourselves motivated on long and challenging hikes. While I add-up kilometers in my mind to monthly totals and see me with every step getting closer to my annual kilometer target, my wife spends large parts of any hike contemplating what to eat once we are back. Both strategies work reasonably well.
Knowing your goals is one thing, finding ways to keep yourself on the path is a whole different topic. Spend some time to reflect on what drives you and what incentives you could use to hack yourself into compliance.
Step Three – Find Appropriate Tools
Now that you know what you want to achieve, and you have a rough idea how to keep yourself motivated, it is time to fill up your toolbox with appropriate tools.
There are recipes and hacks, apps and gadgets in abundance, choosing the right ones, however, should be tied closely to your motivational system.
If you are for example as motivated by food as my wife is, maybe you just allow yourself a cup of ice cream or a juicy burger once you reached your workout goal for the week? If financial rewards are a huge driver for you, would joining a diet betting pool like dietbet.com possibly motivate on your weight loss journey? If gamification and friendly competition in a community are what drives you, maybe getting a Fitbit or a PIQ robot (I recently reviewed the Everlast and PIQ boxing sensor) would help you to reach your fitness targets?
The tools you use don’t have to be the newest and fanciest, sometimes pen and paper might be the best way to track your progress. Find what works for you, not just use what someone else recommended.
A Few Examples – Some of My Goals for 2018
Just like in every year, I have quite a list of goals for myself, spanning different areas of life. As for motivation, for me keeping streaks intact and delivering good scores and metrics usually works quite well for me. I usually do much better on goals where I have strong direct metrics to track.
Here a few of my goals for 2018:
Health and Fitness
Goal: Improve cardiovascular fitness and running time
(Run/Hike > 1,000 km in 2018 and improve 10km best of 2017 by 3 minutes)
Motivator: Sign up for at least 6 races over the year
Tools: Use TrainAsOne algorithm based training plan to schedule my runs, Track runs/hikes with Garmin watch, Garmin Connect and Strava
Goal: Make a mindfulness practice part of the daily routine
(250 sessions of meditation or playing handpan over the year)
Motivator: build the longest streak of days in a row with meditation
Tools: Subscription to Calm app, bought Handpan,
Track routine with Strides App
Goal: Improve my Mandarin (Chinese)
(Reach 1,000 mastered cards in my Pleco vocabulary card game
Motivator: Improve score, maintain streak
Tools: Pleco App, Duolingo App, Strides to track streak
I hope that this article gives you some ideas, how you can use self-quantification to reach your personal goals. Happy New Year and all the best for 2018!
Do you have any questions, comments, ideas or constructive criticism? Do you want to share your goals and the tools you use to reach them? Post your comment here or send me a direct message!