December 28, 2021

Episode 19: Effective goal setting

You might hesitate to set a goal for 2022? After all, you have the bad habit of giving up, procrastinating or sabotaging your goals. Not on my watch! In this series of 5 episodes, I’m going to show you how to set goals in a way that HELPS you reach it. Today, we’re looking at what goal to pick when nothing seems enticing enough.

What you will discover

  • A useful cognitive bias you’ll make work in your favor
  • The hidden benefit of setting a measurable goal
  • What to do when no goal is compelling enough to take action
  • 2 ways you’ll always know what to do
  • My pro tips on effective brainstorming
  • The powerful question that’ll nail down the goal


Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

Hi, and welcome to the Excellent Rider podcast. I'm Mélanie. I'm a certified life coach and I specialize in helping people just like you get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you've lost your mojo.

So if the end of the year, and it's the perfect time to set a goal, because you're going to be able to benefit from a powerful cognitive bias, which is called mental accounting.

I'm not going to go into detail here about mental accounting, but let's say that we tend to divide our lives into chapters and we open up a clean slate or a new account at some very specific moments in time. So for example, the first day of the week, your birthday, the first day in a new job, and of course the first day of a new year.

And this is why new year's resolutions are such a common ritual and why so many people decide to set a new goal or to give up an old habit at the start of a new year; because then you're opening up a new mental account and it gives you the impression of a fresh start.

It gives the possibility of a new beginning in which you get to be whoever you decide that you want to become. And this is a very powerful motivation to do something new, to do something different, to get out of your comfort zone. There's an excellent podcast on cognitive biases, which is called Choiceology; and episode five from season two of that podcast is precisely about those mental accounting effects.

So I'll put a link in the show notes. So let's use the powerful symbol of January 1st to help kickstart you into achieving a goal that's important for you, which is why since you still have a few days until January 1st, I'm going to start preparing you for setting a goal right now. So today, we're going to look at how to set a goal when you don't know what to pick.

And next week, we're going to look at how to plan the goal in a way that will tremendously increase your chances of successfully reaching its outcome. And the following three episodes will be about some of the key skills that you need to develop to reach an ambitious goal, learning how to enjoy failing, yooohooo!

Knowing how to take effective action and what to do when nothing is working out and you want to quit. So if you already have a goal, what you can prepare before next episode is a clear measurement for your goal.

How will you know without a doubt that you have reached your goal? "I want a better job", for example, is a very vague goal. But "by end of June, I will have a job in which I get to present my conclusions myself to the clients", that's a very specific goal that can be meansured. So clearly described the measurement of your goal, because this will give you a very clear idea of the direction in which to start taking action.

If you're trying to get a better job, it's very easy to just daydream or feel stuck. But when you're trying to get a job in which you will present your conclusions to the clients, and on top of this, it needs to happen before the end of June; that gives you a very precise idea of the activities you need to take and what steps need to happen in order for you to reach your target.

So that's what you can do if you already have a goal is you can describe a very clear measurement of how will you know that you have reached your goal or not. It needs to be zero or one. It needs to be super clear: did I reach it, did I not reach it.

If you're hesitating between several goals now, I recommend that you pick just one. Reaching a goal requires that you get out of your comfort zone, which by definition means stepping into your zone of discomfort. And managing discomfort takes a lot of energy.

So, if you're trying to reach several goals at the same time, you need to make sure that you will have the emotional energy to deal with all of that discomfort. And by discomfort, I mean all of the frustration, the confusion, the de-motivation, the overwhelm and all of these other lovely feelings that you will indeed face when you're trying to do something unusual for you.

So if you have several goals and you're not exactly sure which of them too pick; for example, if you want to, at the same time, lose some weight and you also want to find a new job; what I recommend is that you go and listen to episode 16 on indecision and episode 4 on getting unstuck and you will have some pointers on how to make the choice.

But today, what I want to focus on is what goal to pick when nothing is particularly grabbing your attention. When it doesn't feel like anything is important enough, interesting enough, or compelling enough for you to want it. So, for example, maybe you wish you would be more fit, but you're not really motivated enough to sign up for the gym; or you also wish that you would have a raise, but you don't think that your boss will listen to you.

And so it doesn't feel like it's worth the effort. Or you perhaps also wish that you will have a new job, but you're not really sure what, you know, what kind of job will actually tap into your potential. The first thing to remember is that we as human beings, we are made to grow and learn and explore and evolve.

When you're not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you're basically slowly dying. You're becoming stiff. Your body's becoming stiff and your mind is becoming stiff. You're letting yourself turn into a zombie because you're afraid to be afraid. So aiming for a goal IS scary. There is no doubt about it.

There will be failure. You will feel uncomfortable. And you will also be amazed and feel proud and competent and make things possible in your life that you had no idea were possible for you. And that's invaluable. So pick a goal outside of your comfort zone and show yourself what's possible.

So there are two main ways to identify a goal when you don't really know what you could aim for. The first way is to allow yourself to daydream. What would you do if you had no responsibilities at all? What would you do if you didn't have to worry about money ever? What would you do if you knew that you would live to be 600 years old? How would you like to occupy your time?

What would be interesting for you? What would you finally dare to do or jump into? There are a few rules to brainstorm efficiently. The first one is to allow all the ideas to come up. I'm going to repeat that because this is super important and it seems that we have this tendency to want only perfect ideas to come fully formed out of our mouth.

So the first rule of effective brainstorming is to allow all the ideas to come up. It means all the crappy ideas, as well as the good ones. It means all the crazy ideas, as well as the more feasible ones. Let all the ideas out. When you start to censor yourself, you prevent your brain from digging deep and finding all of the great ideas that you actually have in store.

And, you know, you don't notice all the dreams that you had forgotten about; all the desires that were ignited once when you watched that movie or read that book and that you had locked up in a cupboard in your mind somewhere and stopped thinking about. The second rule of effective brainstorming is to let yourself daydream over several days, several weeks even.

Don't put a demand of productivity and efficiency on your creativity. Ideas happen when they happen, not when you have decided they should happen. So explore what you would love to do. Next week. We're going to have a look at all the obstacles at what, you know, all the things that make it apparently impossible to reach such a goal.

But this week there is no limit. You'd love to be an astronaut? Write it down. It doesn't matter if you always sucked at math and physics and you are 75 years old and you're completely broke. You want to write a book, but you don't know what it could be about? It doesn't matter. Write it down. Allow yourself to dream freely and see what comes out.

Challenge yourself to write down 100 things that you'd love to do; big and small: world peace and learning how to juggle. Daydreaming and welcoming all the ideas is the first way to identify a goal. And the second way is to list all the things that you don't like, or you resent about your life. Make the list. Here again, big and small things: the kitchen drawer that squeaks and the job that drains your soul.

When you have a list, for each item, write the exact opposite. If you're tired of fighting with your spouse all the time, describe what a wonderful relationship would look like. If you don't want to have this boring or scary job anymore, what would an exciting or safe job look like?

How would you know that you are in such a job? What would be the markers? So daydream about what you like and about the opposite of what you don't like. And when you have a list of experiences or statuses that would be wonderful to have in your life, ask yourself this last question:

if you were absolutely certain that you could get all of this, everything on the list, hundred percent certain: which one would you love to get first?

If you found this episode helpful, go to my website That's Excellent Rider in one word dot com to get the episode notes. They are organized in a structured way that makes them easy to remember. And I always add powerful questions and exercises to help you apply these concepts to your specific situation.

If you want to help the podcast, the best way is to share it with other people, either by leaving a review or by tipping a friend about it. Thanks a lot for listening today. And remember that even when you cannot get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions or unpleasant thought loops.

And even when you don't believe it - especially when you don't believe it: you're not broken. You're not flawed. You're not jinxed. You're just learning how to be an Excellent Rider. There are no bad horses, only untrained riders.

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