As a former perfectionist, I remember spending a ridiculous amount of time writing down big, lofty goals that described me 'crushing it' in the future. I wanted to win Oscars, Nobel Peace Prizes, be a Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist... all at the same time.
Which is comical and adorable in how ambitious it is. But COMPLETELY unrealistic.
And this is what perfectionists excel at: Setting impossibly high standards, recognizing they're unrealistic, yet expecting ourselves to meet them, and feeling very bad about ourselves when we don't.
Even though we KNOW what we're trying to do was failed from the start.
And unfortunately, this is how a lot of people think about 'goals'. Mostly because, we don't know any better!
We write lists of Vague Wishes like:
And what happens?
Excitement, and then the equivalent of crickets. Nothing.
It is NOT because there's anything wrong with us. And it's NOT because we don't have the best intentions for ourselves. I believe that if you ask anyone if they want to improve, the answer is yes. They may not do it, but they have good intentions and that's an important part of the game (though not enough).
The reason why we put Vague Wishes out there is because we simply weren't taught the SKILL-the skill!-of 'goal setting'. And the skill is easier said than done, because it requires you to be extremely specific, ELIMINATE options, and ask yourself the all-important question: What actually matters ENOUGH to me to put my time, energy, money, and effort into? (Not to mention, the sneaky fears of: What if I go down the wrong path? What if I start and quit? What if I hate it?)
Questions that aren't going to be solved in a day. Not even a week or a month. They're ongoing, and they change a lot.
But the SKILL itself? That can be learned. Starting today!
Introducing: The Hummingbird Technique
For those of you who run, have you ever wondered why you 'hurt' after doing it? Maybe you feel that twinge in your knee, that pang in your lower back, that throbbing in your foot, or that snag in your hip.
We think: "Running is running!" You just do it.
But has anyone ever taught you the right way to run?
In a recent book I read, Born to Run, it tells a fascinating story about how everything we know about running is wrong. In fact, even running shoes prevent us from running the right way, causing us to have heavy, long strides that put a ridiculous amount of pressure on our knees and joints.
A better technique-which is described in the book-is about a way to run that allows you to feel light as a feather. You run on the balls of your feet and take tiny, quick steps in your stride. You end up going faster, running longer, and your body is pain-free.
But how does this relate to goals?
For one, we are so conditioned to believe that a goal isn't worth it if it doesn't FEEL like struggling, hard work. Even though we 'hate' the work, we'll do it anyway because it boosts our self-worth. Anything that feels 'easy' we write off as not worthy pursuing.
But how valuable a goal is-how much it challenges you to grow-doesn't mean it has to FEEL hard. You can have a meaty challenge to work on that takes mental effort, but FEELS easy.
Because here's what happened:
After YEARS of running and feeling pain, I was thrilled to have discovered a way to make it more enjoyable. So I tried it. Felt a little awkward at first. But felt better. Then tried again. Then I ran 5.5 miles in one shot and I barely lost my breath (like I usually do).
I was amazed.
And every time I felt like I needed to go faster, I could feel my stride feeling heavier and more painful. When I corrected it, I took smaller steps, but I took them FASTER, and it increased my speed without me having to 'work hard' for it.
So let's go back to your goals for a minute.
Let's say that you want to have a more active social life. But you're busy with work and other projects, but you miss having friends. So while the ideal sounds nice and you'd probably write something down like: "Make more friends", you likely won't end up doing anything. Why? Because it's not specific enough, not easy enough to do, and at the moment, it seems like too big of a lifestyle change. I.e. "What if friends take away from important work?"
Here's a better way to do it:
Step 1: Think about WHY you want to make new friends (or whichever goal you're using for this). How would it make you feel if you had it? What are you really looking for? (You might realize it's not friends!)
Example: I would feel 'happy' to be able to see a good friend and catch up.
It's important to understand the FEELING behind what you want, because you may find that there are other ways to get that feeling without as much effort. Caveat: This does not mean dicking around for hours on end. While you THINK that would make you feel happy, we both know that you can feel anxious and 'behind' after, so that is actually not aligned with your goal.
Step 2: When you've identified that it's the right goal and the feeling that you want, ask: What's the first bite-sized piece of this I can work toward?
Because 'make more friends'-that could mean 1 friend or 20 friends. And 20 new friends sounds like a lot. How about 1 new friend who you really enjoy that you could see 1x/week? Now we're cooking.
The key is to make it so small and doable that it seems 'dumb'. You want your reaction to be OF COURSE I can do that instead of "Mmm, don't think I have time". Notice that the tendency to not 'value' the tiny steps is exactly like seeking out 'the struggle' and making life harder for yourself. This is a self-worth issue, NOT a time issue!
Step 3: Now we get into the meat. Because I know you're thinking: Well HOW do I make this new friend? Where do I find them? That sounds like a lot of effort.
Instead, flip this entire thing upside down. The better question to ask is: How can you make your social life a priority?
Normally, we think: "Okay. If I'm going to make 1 new friend I'm going to find this events to go to, talk to this person at work and see if they want to hang out, etc."
And that's great!
But we want long-term change. Wouldn't it be nice if you made one friend, but had a system and a LIFE that allowed you to make more if you wanted?
This is what most people ignore when they give goal-setting advice. There is an entire system to keep in mind here with many different moving parts.
So back to the meaty question: How do you make your social life a priority? (And notice that when you ask this question, it makes you go back to Step 1. Is this REALLY a priority?)
Here's where we get into The Hummingbird Technique, where you take tiny, fast steps instead of trying to take a huge stride so you can get to where you're going quicker.
Here's what making your social life a priority could look like:
- Make eye contact with and smile at each person you see at work
And all you have to do now is choose just ONE of those tiny, fast steps to practice so you can start building the habit, and momentum faster than you would have by trying to do it all at once.
Now, why does this work?
When you integrate 'being social' into your life, you naturally make room for it. When talking with people is a way of life, it is extraordinarily easy to make new friends because you've created a life that allows for it. It's like getting the right fertilizer to plant a garden of tomatoes. Why would you get fertilizer that's better suited for eggplants, if tomatoes are what you want?
Step 4: Remember that you're playing the LONG game
Most people stop at "Make more friends"-or another goal-and that first tiny step is never taken. Why not play the long game, knowing your effort will have made this a natural, easy thing for you to do instead of a one-off strenuous thing? While we glorify "hard work", when things feel easy, we do them again and again. Why do we watch Netflix? Because it's easy. Make it so enjoyable it's irresistible not to do!
And the best part about this process is that it reveals what IS important to you vs. what you *think* is important. You may find that making new friends is not a priority, but using this process to run a 5K is. Great! Because not everything is a priority. What matters is that your life is designed in a way that's true to your nature, and not what other people think you *should* be doing.
What to Do Today
Apply this process to one of your goals-big or small-and start by taking that tiny, fast, Hummingbird step! I believe you'll be amazed at the momentum that can create.