I spent 2 days planning goals for 2015 this year. I reviewed three previous years of previously set goals. There were highlights – three years ago my motorcycle was just a dream, my plans to hunt were a vague idea that I should sign up for a hunter’s ed course, and starting my own business was a very long term goal. I’ve achieved all 3 of those goals. This year I set some goals that I had set before and some new ones.
This is serious. I am trying to be as serious about my personal goals as I am about my job.
I tried to apply SMART criteria to my goals. I went to a local meetup to discuss my goals. I put myself through a 40-hour fast followed by a 4-hour isolation tank float during which I visualized myself executing my goals. I practiced setting an “implementation intention” where I tried to imagine exaggerated sensations around my goals – what achieving them might feel, taste, smell, and sound like. I challenged myself by imagining myself a month in the future, having failed a particular goal, and considering what my future excuses would be for failing that goal. When I could think of a good excuse, I made an action item or sub goal specific to resolving that excuse.
This is also the first year that I actually set business goals. By this time next year, I will be as serious about my career goals as I am about each client job I work.
This year I won’t be making the mistake of setting big impossible to achieve goals. I’ve had experience breaking my goals down into smaller chunks. For example, weight loss will not be one of my goals. I do have half dozen habits that I can track though and if I follow them then I am sure weight loss will result.
This year I also won’t be making any “every day I’ll..” goals. Consistency means setting goals that are achievable.
One of the things I’m most excited about is my new tracking app: Beeminder. For each goal I set, Beeminder sends me a reminder email in the morning. I respond to that email with any progress I’ve made on the goal. If I fail to achieve the goal after a certain period of time, Beeminder charges me $5. If I fail again, they up the fee to $10. The fee schedule is: $5, $10, $30, $90, $270, $810, $2430. My intent is to layer in different goals each month that will help me achieve my larger goals.
On January first I set up 3 new beeminder goals:
- Meditate 4 times per week
- Exercise 4 times per week
- Read 4 hours per week
They sound a little underwhelming, don’t they? Here they are again in less than 140 characters:
Daily Goals, per week: Meditate 4x. Exercise 4x. Read 4 hours.
— Justin (@recomphacks) February 16, 2015
The idea here is to take some existing habits and ensure consistency. By setting a goal that I can achieve for the entire year, I am confident that I’ll make these goals happen. In February, I’ll layer in a few more goals.
Low-carb for me has always been about weight loss, but lately I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of cognitive enhancement. Low-carb started for me as a low-carb, low-fat, and high protein diet called a “protein-sparing modified fast”. For the past decade I’ve often gone through periods of losing a good amount of weight (20 – 40lbs) using that tactic or a more traditional low-carb high-fat. But when it comes to goal setting, weight loss is a lousy goal. First, it doesn’t seem to be achievable for me. Not directly. Second, low-carb itself is not the only tool to get to weight loss.
Enter cognitive enhancement. I almost certainly feel better mentally while eating keto. The mental clarity I get from fasting or eating only fat is unmatched. When I’m supplementing right (enough salt), I do a great job of avoiding brain fog. I make better decisions at work and recover from stressful events more quickly. I feel better overall. Maybe cognitive enhancement is a goal that will help keep me aligned to a low-carb diet?
For 2015 I am setting goals that I think are 100% achievable. Weight loss, in any kind of relative or absolute terms, is not. Daily keto, as a goal, is not. Tracking my food intake daily is achievable. Taking a few minutes each day to be mindful about how I’m feeling and reflect on how what I ate may impact that is also achievable.
Another change I made is 2015 is to do my best to avoid “elimination” goals. What I’ve observed over the past few years is that I’ll often eliminate one habit, which may or not even deserve to have been eliminated, and then quickly get creative about replacing that habit with an equally bad one. Instead, much better to set a desired habit first and then let creativity works its magic in figuring out how to get there.
So this is the tack I’ve taken for 2015: set very small, easily achievable goals that lead to habit formation. How to apply it to my desire to maintain a keto state? First, I need to prevent my gut health from going downhill. So I think one goal has to be to get enough fiber and other plant matter:
“Eat 5 servings of vegetables a day”
Another, I need a way to get excited about cognitive enhancement. I’ve had 3 ideas so far on this front:
“Read 4 hours per week”
“Write 500 words 4 days per week”
“Study online course material 4 hours per week”
My current thinking, after tracking against these reading/writing/studying goals for about a month, is that I cannot achieve these cognitive enhancement goals without the cognitive enhancement that comes from keto. Or, if I can, then I am probably operating at 50% efficiency or lower without keto. I would measure this cognitive performance on two main factors: mental endurance and ability to focus.
One of the most interesting points about these SMART goals that I’ve chosen is that they all feel incredibly underwhelming. There is something to be said for a bombastic, unrealistic goal. However, that is very much not what I am aiming for. I am aiming for consistency in my life. I am trying to form repeatable and sustainable habits and patterns. My belief is that by cultivating this consistency and discipline, I will be able to set and achieve wildly unrealistic goals in the near future.