“So let’s talk about that call,” my boss said.
He’d been sitting next to me for about half an hour, doing his due diligence to ensure that I receive proper coaching and supervision about my work, and he hadn’t had any significant comments until this moment. I wasn’t worried, but I wasn’t surprised. After all, the call I’d wrapped up hadn’t been my best work. The representative on the other end had gotten the information he’d needed, but I’d been a little… scattershot, I guess. “How could that have been better?” he asked.
I already knew the answer, of course. I’d realized it well in advance. “I should have started on a higher level,” I said. “Asked what the participant was trying to accomplish, rather than just jumping into the calculations.”
He just sat there, using the silence to force me to fill in the gaps. Making me teach myself, before he gave any feedback.
“I got too caught up in the stated question,” I added. “I should have taken a higher-level look at things first. Made sure I really understood what was going on, so I could help the representative understand as well.” He nodded, and then we started talking strategy and methods.
This conversation stuck with me for the rest of the day, because I realized it applied to more than just my own supervisory work. It applied, I realized, to any sort of problem solving I needed to do. Including setting and achieving goals. Including my health goals.
Here it is in a nutshell: before you start, you need to know what you are trying to do. In detail. Only then, after you have a specific objective in mind, can you actually start creating the steps that will get you to that objective. To narrow that objective down, you have to ask questions. And you want to narrow the objective down, because the more focused and specific you get the easier it is to see what you need to do.
Here’s an example. In broad strokes, here’s how I set up my weight loss goals. I started with the following statement: “I need to lose weight.” Simple, right? But it lacked focus. So, here was the first question I asked: “How much?” Well, that was straight forward enough. “200 pounds.” Awesome, right? Time to get started.
But wait! There’s more. “Why?” I asked myself. “What will make this time different?” Well, I had an answer for that. “Because I don’t want to get diabetes and go blind,” I answered myself. “And because I don’t want to have high blood pressure.” But the answers didn’t stop there – my brain pulled the same sort of silence trick my boss pulled. “And because I want to get old with my wife. And I want to see my son grow up, and spoil my grandkids.”
Good, my brain said. Now, how do you do it?
And that, in a nutshell, was it. Simple sounding, right? Well, it is. The tricky part is keeping up with it. And that’s the other reason you want to have your concrete goal in place before you start: it reminds you of exactly what you’re doing, and why. Which is incredibly important, when you’re six months in and it feels like you’re grinding your wheels and you’re tired of counting calories and exercising. It reminds you of why you’re doing it. Exactly why you’re doing it, and what you stand to gain by getting back up and doing it again.
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But nothing worth doing ever is.