Chuck Carroll

Properly Setting Goals

Published 2024-01-01

Last year I successfully cut energy drinks out of my diet and reached my goal of reading 18 books (I read 16 physical books, and listened to 18 audiobooks). However, I failed at most of my diet and training goals, as well as my attempt to cut down on digital media consumption. I've taken courses on motivation, decision making, and positive psychology and I think my failures are textbook examples of just not planning properly. For the goals I have accomplished, I think the following has helped me succeed.

  1. Instead of coming up with a dozen goals for yourself, I've learned that narrowing it down to just two or three simple goals makes accomplishing them much easier and simpler to manage. Also, some goals like "eat less sweets" will typically directly impact other things that are important like "lose weight".
  2. Write down your goals on paper. Actually writing them down is certainly crucial if you want to increase the odds of successfully hitting your goal, but some studies have shown that writing them down on physical paper is strongly associated with success.
  3. Instead of privately writing down goals, this year I decided to share my goals more publicly which, I believe, will motivate me more to accomplishing them as it adds accountability.
  4. I've learned that if I'm too vague or broad, I'll likely fail. It's not as simple as writing down a goal like "eat less sweets", you need to be specific. For example "instead of eating sweets, I'll drink a sparkling water and eat an apple". Or instead of "go to gym three times per week", be more specific like "go to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work".
  5. Reducing friction is critical. For example, if your goal is to go to the gym, it's easier to do if you're already dressed in your gym clothes. While I'm still deciding on whether to go to the gym, I put on my gym clothes to just see what happens. I've learned that while I'm wrestling with myself about going to the gym or training BJJ, I'll allow myself to say still say no after I get dressed. I've discovered that once I get the clothes on, I'm already committed so I might as well go.
  6. Checking in periodically to see how I'm doing reminds me of these commitments I've made and gives me new energy.

All this being said, below are three behavioral changes or goals I've set for 2024. I'm doing this "publicly" of course.

This year I also want to significantly reduce the amount of single use plastics I need to consume, which should be easy if I don't eat sweets at home. I also plan on reading more (physical) books in 2024 than I did in 2023 which should be easier without with video games. With books, however, I think the number arbitrary as some books are thicker than others. The goal here is to simply read more.

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