Most of us are good at making things more difficult for ourselves. We set wildly optimistic goals, then feel despondent when we don’t achieve them. Our perceived failure is simply evidence that we should never have tried in the first place. Many clients tell me they’re just “bad with money”. Unsurprisingly, they then take actions consistent with that identity – yet more evidence to prove that change is impossible.
In SuperBetter, Jane McGonigal proposes that we become more gameful with our goals. By employing techniques from the gaming world, we can become stronger, more resourceful, and happier. McGonigal identifies three types of goal:
Difficult goal – this is the familiar one. We try to achieve something very big and specific, e.g. “I want to pay off my credit card in a year.” Although the goal is clearly defined, this is high stakes. We’ll feel stressed if an unexpected bill thwarts our efforts one month and berate ourselves for succumbing to the occasional extravagance. There’s a significant risk of failure, which ends up being demotivating.
Do-your-best goal – here we’re making an effort, but there’s no clear aim or structure. “I’ll just spend a bit less this month.” Maybe it’ll work, although we’re unlikely to see big results. A do-your-best goal is easy to ignore.
Strategy goals – this means “being determined to discover and master strategies that will help you be successful”. Rather than paying off our credit card by the end of the year, we instead seek different ways of saving money. If we pursue one money-saving idea every week, after six months, we’ll have 26 ideas. And if we manage to implement them all, too, it’s quite likely that credit debt will start melting away. Even if our debt isn’t completely cleared, we’ll have made huge progress. As McGonigal writes, “You’re successful as long as you’re learning and improving.”
Strategy goals also fit neatly with James Clear’s idea that we should take actions that are consistent with our desired identity. A series of small but intentional actions are much more sustainable than pursuing a hefty goal.
Let’s make things easier for ourselves this year.
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