Hello everybody, welcome to episode 94 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Glad to have you here today, everyone. We’re going to be having a great talk about setting goals today, but more specifically, how to set goals when we’re constantly faced with distractions. Our distractions can be more telling to us than we might think, and we’ll explore that today. So without further ado, here’s today’s question…
QUESTION: “Hi Greg! Love the podcast! My question is: How do you set and achieve goals longterm/short term/weekly/daily goals when you feel scatterbrained and distracted with everything going on in the world? I feel like I never have enough time in the day and can’t seem to get items off of my to-do list done.”
How Are You Spending Your Time Right Now?
All right! Thank you, thank you. Good question, I appreciate you sending this one in. It is so true that the world’s many distractions are slowly but surely preventing a lot of us from even setting goals, let alone living through them. I think there are two things here that are important to address; one being the setting of goals and another being how you’re spending your time right now and what it says about the goals in question. And I think it’s probably best to start with how you’re spending your time right now.
So you say that your distractions have become so extensive that not only are they preventing you from check items off of your to-do list, but they’re also preventing you from setting goals to work towards. I think you need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself a few things. The first question to ask would be, “What are my distractions?”
This is an important question to start with because not all distractions are bad. Many of them are, but some of them can be very illuminating.
You have to identify what the distractions are and what they mean to you, because what they mean to you will ultimately be a window to your goals.
What Are Your Distractions?
Let’s break this down by using social media as a popular example of a distraction:
Say you’re spending 3 hours a day on social media. A lot of people are, and for a lot of those people, it’s a waste of time of epic proportions. How do you know this? If you’re spending most of the time scrolling, taking selfies with your lunches from Denny’s and arguing with people about things you’re completely uneducated in, it’s generally a waste of life.
If, however, you find yourself spending your time on Facebook watching endless videos of whales and checking out the pages of cool whale conservation groups, then it’s not about Facebook. It’s about whales. And what’s easy to deem as a “distraction” is, in reality, something that’s pointing you towards a passion.
So as you look into the things that are distracting you, what are they? And what meaning, if any, do they have? If you can correctly identify them as being meaningless wastes of your time, then you’re only shooting yourself in the foot, and you’re the one developing these distractions from something I don’t know enough about you to identify. It’s not that the world is preventing you from developing goals, it’s you.
And that’s okay, we’ve all been there. We lean on distractions so we don’t have to confront the unpleasant things or things we’re uncertain of. It’s totally normal. It’s not healthy and it’s something we should all seek to change, but it’s not uncommon.
And changing it isn’t that hard. You simply enforce restrictions on yourself and your distractions, and don’t indulge in them as much. Doing that is kind of a different discussion and we don’t want to go too off course here. But if you fall into this category, feel free to send in another question about that specifically or maybe check out one of our many episodes on habits. I just mentioned it recently, but episode 1 is great for that.
Which Distractions Are Meaningful To You?
Meanwhile, while you’re flushing out the useless distractions, the question remains, what of the distractions you actually found meaning in? AKA whatever your version of Facebook whales is. These are the types of things you should be setting goals around. Much of the reason a lot of us fail to efficiently set and hit goals is because we base them around the wrong things, and this could very well be the case with you.
Say you want to be a lawyer. It’s a tough path and there are a lot of stops (or goals) along the way. It’s really tough to study for the bar when you’re only doing it because your parents want you do, and you can’t help but to daydream about your whales all day long. So a part of successfully setting and hitting goals of any length is to make sure you’re setting goals based on things that actually mean something to you – things that make you feel good about who you are.
Because at the end of the day, the best goals are really more about the types of people we want to be rather than the statuses we want to achieve.
Dream Big and Act Small
So once you’ve made yourself certain of what’s meaningful enough for you to set your goals on and determine the type of person you want to be, I say dream big and act small. Typically, I’d advise those who choose to set goals for themselves to start by thinking long-term and by thinking fantastical, then dialing it in more and more.
Try coming up with a vision of your life in five years. Spent a while on this, maybe twenty concentrated minutes or so. Really fine tune it and think about great details. It can be whatever you want, and it doesn’t have to be realistic, necessarily. This part is just for getting in touch with desire. Once you’ve done that. Consider what you want your life to look like in one year, and try to make it a bit more realistic.
After creating the five year vision, you’ll probably start to recognize some steps you can start taking towards who you want to be in one year. You also might find yourself redefining what is and isn’t realistic, and hopefully stretching past some of the boundaries you might have perceived before. The more you can start with ideas in fantasy, the more the wheels start turning and you give yourself a space to think creatively about taking action in your life.
From the one year vision, you keep dialing it back sooner and more realistic, all while adhering to the ideas set forth in the five year vision. What little things can you do today? What very small steps can you take in the right direction today?
Small Steps in the Right Direction
You need not overwhelm yourself by trying to make humongous changes all at once, but you can incorporate very small steps in the right direction with the time you’ve hopefully cleared for yourself that used to be occupied by useless distractions. Even if you’re having a hard time shaking some of them, I’m talking about starting so small that you can do them alongside things you’re currently doing. Want to be a powerlifter in 5 years? Be the type of person who does squats while brushing their teeth and push-ups during commercial breaks on TV.
If you can take small action on things that mean something to you, which can be done around any schedule, you start proving to yourself that you’re the type of person who does these things, not just someone who dreams about them. The pride drawn from this helps you gain momentum, build upon these actions, and have less natural inclination to distract yourself with meaningless things anyway.
Thank you so much to the girl who sent this one. I hope I was able to help a little bit, and I know the idea of setting goals and working towards them can seem like a lot, but again, if you can start with smart, bite-sized chunks, committing to that is the hardest part and once you’re doing it, it’s easier for momentum to build. So good luck to you.
Everyone else, go ahead and send any questions of your own into us by email. You can send them to our email address which is advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
I’ll look forward to hearing from you there, and I can’t to be back with you guys for the next episode. Until then, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.