« All Episodes

Better Goals - Two Guidelines for Better Outcomes

Published 10/10/2022

Two guidelines for better goal setting.
First, goals don't stand alone.
Second, ranges often beat arbitrary points.

📮 Ask a Question

If you enjoyed this episode and would like me to discuss a question that you have on the show, drop it over at: developertea.com.

📮 Join the Discord

If you want to be a part of a supportive community of engineers (non-engineers welcome!) working to improve their lives and careers, join us on the Developer Tea Discord community by visiting https://developertea.com/discord today!

🧡 Leave a Review

If you're enjoying the show and want to support the content head over to iTunes and leave a review! It helps other developers discover the show and keep us focused on what matters to you.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
In the next couple of episodes of Developer Tea, we're going to be talking about goals. How to set good goals, not just good goals, but how to execute on them, how to frame your goals well, the psychology and all of that. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to updriven developers like you, find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. If you don't have a goal, if you don't have a goal, you cannot have clarity. If you don't have a goal, you're going to struggle with purpose. Win goals is one of the most common mechanisms for defining your direction. If you have a goal, very likely, your purpose and your clarity will come as a result of that. Now, interestingly, perspective will help you define the right kinds of goals, and you can use your purpose and your perspective together to clarify what kinds of goals are good for you. But goals are one of the most important mechanisms for directing your work. It's that simple. I want to talk today about two ways to improve your goals. Hopefully, you already know about the smart framework. We're not going to beat that into the ground other than to quickly mention it. If you don't know about it, consider that prerequisite for all of the episodes that we're going to be doing about goals, which may be just a handful. But we're going to give you two simple ways to improve the goals that you set. You can consider these sort of guidelines or rules for setting goals. The first guideline I want to share with you today is that rarely goals stand alone. Rarely goals stand alone. What does this mean? Well, for you to have a good goal, it needs to be measuring something. A good goal, for example, might be I'd like to wake up every day at 5 a.m. and begin working out by 5.30 this week. This is specific. It's actionable. It's measurable. It's relevant and it's time-bound. That's the smart framework that we already mentioned. This is a reasonable goal. It's a well-constructed goal. It's something that you can know exactly whether or not you've met. You've accomplished that goal. But if you zoom out, it's likely that accomplishing this goal alone is not your intention. Recognize that goals are ways of shaping or responding to our intentions. If you have a goal of waking up at 5 a.m., it's likely that your intention is something that this goal is contributing to. For example, you want to be the kind of person who wakes up at 5 a.m. You want to be the kind of person that works out on a regular basis. You want to be the kind of person that invests in your health. This is the intention. A trouble that people often face is either they go with one or the other. They go with the very specific goal of waking up at 5 a.m. and working out at 5.30 or they go with the very vague goal, the one that's an intention and then they call it a goal. They want to be a person that is healthy. They want to be a person that invests in their health. Of course, the second one is bound to fail because there are no ways to know whether you've succeeded or failed in the first place. The second one is an intention, not a goal. And so you use the goal of waking up early and working out to forward to that intention. But here's the problem. This is why goals don't stand alone. Now you probably need more than one goal and we'll talk about the kind of goal in just a second. What happens if you change nothing else? Let's imagine that your habit was to stay up until 1 a.m. every night eating potato chips on the couch. Does waking up at 5 a.m. actually carry you towards that intention? In almost every way the answer is no. You're getting less sleep and although you may have implemented one healthy habit, you haven't replaced the unhealthy habits which means you haven't met an intention of being the kind of person who invests in health at all. In fact, it's questionable whether it is better for you to wake up early and miss some sleep in order to work out or just get that sleep in. This is where those supporting goals come in, those secondary goals. Specifically, when you set a goal towards an intention, recognize that there's likely a balancing goal. A goal that requires you not to gamify the first goal. It's easy to gamify the first goal in this case as long as you wake up early enough and get into the gym by 5 30 you've met the goal. But you're not necessarily forwarding the intention. And so a secondary goal you might set is to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Of course we could go down the list here to try to detail out all of the many goals that you could set to be the kind of person that invests in your health. But a bonus tip here, if you list out 10 goals, you're unlikely to actually make any movement on any one of them. List on only a couple at a time, and with behavioral goals like this, eventually your behavior becomes less of a goal and more of a habit. Your status quo no longer needs changing. The second recommendation or guideline that I have for your goal setting is to make success a range. Make success a range. It's likely that most of your goals have a singular number attached to them. Because they're measurable, you've attached a singular goal, a number that means success. But very often factors that are outside of our control can affect us by 5% or 10%. Sometimes by 100%. But in most cases we have the agency to meet our goals all the way up to 90%. Sometimes we have the agency to exceed our goals by 10%. What I want you to consider is the value of the last 10%. Is the value or the criticality of that last 10% absolutely necessary for success? This isn't a rhetorical question. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes that last 10% is the closing of the argument or the final chapter of the book. Sometimes that last 10% is the shipping of the code. But I would encourage you to structure as many goals as you can to make the last 10% or the extra 10% in the range of success. Give yourself a target that you can hit and try to eradicate any false binary success. This means that if success is actually just adding more to the pile, if you can get close and still be overall successful, if it still has a largely positive effect, then identify a range that you're willing to accept and call the goal met. If this sounds like excuse making to you, if you see this as, well, this just lowers the threshold for success. You have all of the autonomy and agency to make the minimum of that range start wherever your binary success point started before. But by giving yourself a range, you're doing a couple of things. One, you're making the goal less about precision and more about progress. This is very important. You're making the goal less about precision and more about progress. It is still measurable. It is still a past fail. It is true that if you're not in the range that you've failed to meet the goal. We still pass that particular requirement for a good goal. But instead of being rigid about a specific number, a specific deliverable, specific date, something like that, your goal is more realistic to what is true in life, that we don't control every variable. This gives more agency to yourself, to the people who are executing on that goal. And it lends a stronger credibility to the meaning of the goal itself. This is because if you're like me and you're like most people, you see arbitrary dates or arbitrary goals as exactly that, arbitrary. So follow these two guidelines, the first being setting up your goals to point towards your intentions and recognizing that goals tend not to stand alone. And when they do, it's easy to gamify them. And secondly, instead of targeting a specific point, try to create a range of success. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope you enjoyed this discussion on creating better goals using these two guidelines. We will talk more about goals in upcoming episodes of the show. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider joining the Developer Tea Discord community. We talk about things like this there all the time. And there's other engineers who are looking to invest in their personal relationships with engineers in their professional relationships. They're investing in their careers. And imagine that you fit all of these categories as well at over to Developer Teaa.com slash discord. You can join totally free today. Thanks so much for listening. And so next time, enjoy your tea.