Is your goal the destination or the trip and does it matter?

Goals, whether personal or organizational, are either focused on a specific outcome, the destination, or they are focused on creating processes that will lead to different outcomes, the trip.  Let’s look at weight loss as an example.  A destination goal might be to lose 30 pounds or to wear a size 6 dress.  A weight loss trip goal may be to walk 30 minutes every morning or to try a new healthy recipe every Sunday.

The problem with destination goals is that once you reach a destination, motivation tends to decline and people tend to stop doing those actions that let them achieve their destination in the first place.  My wife and I went out to eat with another couple.  The wife was lathering about an inch of butter on her third roll before we even placed our order while she told us how terrible a certain national chain’s diet was.  Her logic was that once she got off the plan, she put back on all of the weight she lost and more.  She had reached her destination but immediately when back to her old ways.

Trip goals, on the other hand, typically don’t have an end date.  A person also typically needs to have several trip goals to accomplish the desired outcome.  Another nice feature is that trip goals, properly formed, will give you daily ability to track your progress.  It is pretty easy to measure whether you did or did not read 30 minutes, go for a walk or call ten customers.

You will likely need a number of trip goals to reach your destination.  Doubling your business may have trip goals like: call ten new customers a day, answer all customer emails each day and post three blog posts each week.  Losing weight may have trip goals like: exercising 30 minutes a day four days a week, taking the stairs at work, tracking calories and packing a healthy lunch four days a week.

Another advantage about trip goals is that they tend to be positive and action oriented.  The human brain is wired to create action and respond to triggers.  It is much more difficult to stop doing a habit than it is to start doing a positive habit.  Our brain tends to convert these trip goals into habits, which helps power positive change even after we reach our first destination.

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