About fifteen years ago, Casey Treat spoke at our church about goal setting. He explained that a lot of people set a goal of reaching a certain weight and he said the problem with that occurs when you reach that weight.
He explained that when you reach that weight the only way to reach the goal again is for your weight to change and this is often what happens and it becomes a cycle.
He suggested that any goal set should be less about specifics and more about long term. Using the weight example, he proposed that the goal should be to reach and stay at a healthy weight. This is both achievable and sustainable.
Similarly, having a goal to run a marathon is a one off goal. Having a goal to run a certain amount at a certain frequency is again both achievable and sustainable.
This sounds very similar to something called the "arrival fallacy". This is the mistaken believe that “When I achieve this goal, then I will be happy.”. There is an element of truth to it in that you will be happy for a short time but numerous studies show that this will only be short lived. There is a lot more detail on this in an article by Ness Labs (see links below).
They also highlight that over estimation of our resulting happiness can have an impact on our decision making:
The impact bias leads to an overestimation of the duration and intensity of the positive emotions you may feel as a result of an event. We overestimate the positive impact the accomplishment of a goal will have, and we underestimate how other events or feelings may influence the way we feel.
The article suggests that we should change the focus on the process of achieving the goal as much as the result. This includes:
- Avoid tying happiness just to reaching the goal
- Focus on experiencing joy at each step on the journey
- Celebrate the small wins
So from this, maybe the way forward is that we should focus on JAS goals - the enjoy the journey to the goal and make sure the goal is achievable and sustainable.