“I want to work-out more”, “I want to get promoted” , “I want to learn French”. Perhaps you’ve set goals like this for 2021. That’s commendable, but do you know why you want to achieve them?
Without a clear rationale for your goal, you wont have the drive to make it happen. Even worse, what you actually want might be more easily achieved by an alternative objective.
The real reason behind any personal goal is the expectation it will satisfy one of six universal human needs. Tony Robbins explains these in his Unleash the Power Within event that I attended last October. For the fellow personal development nerds out there, this builds upon Manfred Max-Neef's Fundamental human needs and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
1. Certainty – stability in basic necessities. I live in an apartment that’s safe and I have food in my fridge.
2. Uncertainty/Variety – changing our state, stimulating our minds & bodies. I like travelling and having new experiences.
3. Significance – feeling special and important. I secretly love being the centre of attention when facilitating workshops.
4. Connection/Love – feeling connected with someone or something. I have a wonderful relationship with my girlfriend.
5. Growth – you’re either growing or you’re dying. I’m constantly learning – whether from practicing new skills, reading books or listening to podcasts.
6. Contribution – going beyond ourselves and serving the greater good. I write articles like this to help people live more meaningful lives.
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” - Viktor Frankl
'When I set goals now, I ask myself 'why?' three times to understand the ultimate need behind them. Before I knew the importance of that, my goals failed me, and I failed my goals. Here's what happened:
In September 2014, I started going to the gym three times a week. It was going well; I felt more energised and stronger six weeks into this change. But then, I suddenly just stopped going. Back then, I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t due to a lack of discipline or time. Looking back now, though, the reason is clear: I got a girlfriend. To unravel my ‘failing’ to achieve my goal let’s use my 3-Why method.
So, why did I start going to the gym? Well, I was a relatively skinny guy that wanted to get a bit more muscle. Why did I want to get more muscle? Because I wanted to feel confident and satisfied in my own body. Why did I want to feel better about my body? To love myself and that others could love me. Wow, that’s the real reason: love. When I got a girlfriend that loved me, I didn’t need to slave away at the gym anymore (at least, not for my self-image).
The moral of the story: many roads lead to Rome. And for a skinny guy with a tolerable personality and sweet smile, I’d like to think that it’s simpler to build a loving relationship than become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you know your real goal, you can more clearly see how to achieve it, so you don't need to rely on lucky accidents.
Now, it’s your turn.
1. Take a pen and paper
2. Set a two-minute timer
3. Write down as many of your 2021 goals as you can
4. Select three that are important to you now
5. Take the first goal and ask yourself “Why?” three times and write out the answers
6. What’s the ultimate need behind your goal?
7. Is that what you actually want? Adapt your goal if necessary
Knowing the ultimate needs behind your 2021 goals will give you the drive to achieve them. If you’d like to raise your chances of success even higher, share your goals with an accountability partner. Research from The American Society of Training and Development found that having an appointment with someone you’ve committed to makes you 95% likely to follow through on your plans. Why not share your 2021 goals with a friend?