It’s goal-setting season. When calendars reset, we consider what we want to improve and then formalize our intention by creating goals or resolutions. We also know from experience that we often fall short of achieving our goals or making good on our resolutions.
What we fail to appreciate when setting a goal is that the goal can’t be achieved without something changing. We focus on the resources or behaviors we’ll need to achieve the goal. We ignore the impact that working on the goal will have on what’s already in place.
In the Unstuck Mind’s SCAN framework, the S stands for Structures
Structures are the hidden habits, routines, and systems that order our lives and choices. Structures provide predictability and comfort. Structures also stabilize things. Structures fade into the background once they become part of our lives. Structures are the invisible, uncontested way things work. Because we don’t pay attention to them, we neglect to factor structures into our plans for achieving our goals.
Altering our routines is not like adding a newly purchased article of clothing to your closet. Altering our routines is more like accommodating a new roommate.
A simple idea that will improve the odds of achieving a goal or sticking with a resolution.
After identifying the goal, think through the times and places when progress on your goal will bump up against an existing structure. Once you’ve identified a habit, routine, or system that will interact with the change you want to make, fill in the blanks on the following statement:
Instead of (this)______________, (that)________________.
The first blank represents the existing structural element. The second blank represents a specific and easy-to-incorporate alternative that will move you toward your goal. The thinking framework forces us to consider both what we want and what will have to change on the road to getting what we want.
Goal: Lose 15 pounds by summertime
Instead of This, That
Instead of grabbing an unhealthy snack, I’ll pause to ask myself whether I’m hungry or just bored.
Instead of buying a six pack of sodas when I go to the grocery story, I’ll buy a two-liter bottle of soda so I can better control portions.
Goal: Increase input from my team during meetings
Instead of This, That
Instead of starting a discussion by stating my opinion, I’ll ask others what they think and thank them for sharing their perspectives.
Instead of asking for comments, I’ll pose a more specific question like, “if we adopt this proposal, what will it mean for each of your teams?”
Depending on the goal and your timeline, you might want to imagine a single, high-impact replacement behavior or several. Even just considering the structural elements you will need to drop or alter, will improve your chances of getting unstuck so you can achieve your goals and stick to your resolutions.
Jay G. Cone is the author of The Surprising Power of Not Knowing What to Do; Discovering Creativity and Compassion in a Time of Chaos. He is the co-founder of Unstuck Minds.