Act Smart!: The magic of interlocking goals

Part II of getting more out of the year ahead is about choosing goals that build on each other.

As I said in last month’s column, one of the most powerful ways to move yourself forward faster is to focus like a laser beam on ONE THING you want to accomplish. I believe this with all my heart, and aspire to reach this zen-master level of distraction-free concentration.

In the meantime, however, I am greedy. I want many things, not just one! Plus, as it has been pointed out to me by several loved ones and medical professionals, the secret to living a long and happy life is probably not to choose work over everything else, every year.

So I do the next best thing: anywhere I can, I look for goals that complement and reinforce each other. And believe it or not, so do you.

Walking and talking

Have you ever made a pact with a friend to be an exercise buddy, maybe especially a walking buddy? Congratulations! You were actually accomplishing two interlocking goals: first, your goal to be healthier; second, your goal to be a better friend by offering your support. You can even break the friendship goal down into smaller interlocking goals: you’re supporting a friend, and you’re increasing your own life satisfaction by hanging out with your friend and making a boring thing more fun. It’s just that most likely, you weren’t consciously thinking of your friendship in goal-related terms, it was an unconscious goal.

Packing more punch per goal

Once you bring your awareness to this this process, it becomes much easier to find goals that fit together and sort of buttress each other. It can even become a game, figuring out how to accomplish the most things with a “single” action.

For example, if you had a goal to get fit, a goal to save money and a goal to read more books, you’d have three goals, each of which might take you quite a bit of time . But if you brainstorm a little, you might find yourself back with our walking example. Only instead of buddying up, you decided that once or twice per week, you will walk to the grocery store to do your shopping. You’ll get your exercise. The walking will save you money on gas, and wear and tear on your car (not to mention peace of mind). And if you listen to an audiobook while you walk, you’ll get more “reading” done. (Or learn a language, or catch up on industry podcasts, etc.)

And you can keep tweaking your goals and habits to squeeze more juice from them: check that audiobook out from the library, and you’ll save money. Walk to a farmer’s market (pretty easy to do for many Hollywood residents) and you’ll likely get healthier food, possibly for less money, which will aid your fitness. And so on.

Hacking interlocking goals

As with all practices, you get better at doing this as you have more experience with it. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you get started, to ensure the maximum bang for buck (and minimal crazy-making in the process):

1. Get super-clear on your overarching goals first

Or, as I like to say since discovering the unsurpassed-in-goal-setting-effectiveness of Your Best Year Yet, make sure your goals are values-centered. This means being really, really clear on what is really, really important to you. Not what you think is important. Definitely not what your family and friends think is important. But what you know is the deepest truth in your heart of hearts. This will either make perfect sense or have you shaking your head at its hopeless, squishy “woowoo”-ness. Trust me: this is the foundation. It will take longer to work this way, but if it’s not in place, it’s much harder to achieve anything.

2. If you err on one side, make it be the idea-generating one

In other words, come up with a crazy slew of things you want to do, then edit, edit, edit. (Again, Your Best Year Yet is great for this.)

3. Brainstorming and mind-mapping are great tools for dealing with #2

Any kind of scribbling helps, but some variation on the mind-mapping technique, a free-association exercise that liberates ideas from the remote corners of your consciousness, and helps you to see connections between them, is especially useful here. There are books you can buy or get from the library (and plenty of resources on the World Wide You-Know-What, via Google) that explain it. But one of the best explanations comes in a free PDF from writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant. You can get it by signing up for her newsletter. (Which, if you’re a writer, will be a terrific ongoing resource for you. And if you’re an actor, you darned well better be some kind of writer!)

And do let me know if you have any particularly interesting previous experiences with interlocking goals. I love hearing how people move themselves forward faster!

4 comments

  1. I gathered my family to pick apples and make applesauce: family togetherness, getting a bit of food into the freezer and breathing that glorious Colorado air.

    Although I gotta admit, I’m not sure the kids appreciated this interlocking goal approach as much as I did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s