When Awesome Goal Setting Habits Destroy Growth – And How Minecraft Can Help

Every year, in the days after Christmas and leading up to the New Year, I start writing out a list of all my goals for the next 12-months. I usually end up with about 10 goals, which vary from personal to professional. Then I set to work paring those 10 goals down to a more manageable list, usually 2-3; one big business goal, one big personal goal, and maybe something small and strictly for myself.

I am definitely a creature of habit. Perhaps that’s why I am so successful when I am practicing good ones and so damn destructive when I’m not. For the last few years my brother-in-law Robb has come to stay with our family for the holidays, arriving a few days before Christmas and leaving on New Year’s Day. Robb and I really look forward to these trips. For both of us they’ve become a solid week of reflection and goal setting. But this year my Grandma got a little sick, so I wanted to take the family to California to be with her for Christmas. This meant Robb wouldn’t be coming to Colorado and I’d be breaking the years’ long habit of spending a week setting goals with him. Being the creature of habit that I am, the absence of this time together sent me down a swirling drain of existential crisis. Being the destructive fool I remain, I decided that because I hadn’t set one real goal for the coming year, I wasn’t going to pay much attention to anything else going on in my life or my business until I got around to it.

Finally, this week (the second week of January) I bought some index cards and started laying out everything that was rattling around my angst filled mind. I looked at goals from the last few years and started jotting down ideas for 2016. Now, this blog post is not about a goal setting methodology. There are plenty of those available. I use several dependent upon how much I think I am about to bite off. That being said, this year the outcome of my goal setting process seemed eerily familiar. That is because I had basically written down the same three goals as I did the year before, and the year before that, and maybe even the year before that. My goal setting had become a redundant habit of its own which always produced the same results:

  • Set some new revenue goal for my companies.
  • Set some physical health goal for my body.
  • Finish any one of the four books I’ve started writing for my legacy.

If goal setting is about growth, I think this year I realize I’m choking out the sun. Growth requires diversity. Growth requires that you break old habits and replace them with better ones. For the last three years I met neither of those growth requirements through my own goal setting process. Rather, in my process, my outcome has been to tell myself, “Yes! Get out there and try to do more of what you always do!” If you are just doing 12-months more of what you always do then you’re not growing.

This year I realized I was not growing. I don’t mean that in a revenue sense. I mean it in an experiential sense – in that I haven’t added any new challenges, people, or angles to my life over the last four years. I know that’s what I need to grow, but I made a habit of excluding them. Those types of “out-of-the-box” goals never even made it onto my notecards. They are completely eliminated as possibilities before I even start. Because of that I have probably slowed growth and missed out on some amazing opportunities.

For 2016, I continue to understand that goal setting is an awesome and necessary function for a productive life, but I’m so thankful for the unexpected break in my old goal setting habit. It allowed for the important realization that it’s time for a change. I need to replace an old habit with a better one, and include genuinely new challenges as I think about what I want from the next 12-months of my life. I need to commit to move closer to what makes me uncomfortable and further away from where I am. To this end, I have created the following two goals:

  • Find a creative way to be of better value to the entrepreneurial community.
  • Do something big and totally for myself without care for health or revenue.

After more consideration and reflection, the outcome of that process was the “Travis Luther Travis Luther” audio/video podcast (http://www.facebook.com/travisscottluther). Explaining the reasoning and expectations for the podcast is not the point of this post (all of that is available in Episode One, if you’d like to have a listen). The point of this post is to remind you that having awesome goal setting habits can sometimes destroy growth – if you’re not willing to truly diversify your goals and get out of your comfort zone. Doing more of the same thing makes a taller pile, but it’s still the same old dirt. So, in the spirit of my boys and their relentless Minecraft play, perhaps it’s time we change direction and start mining for something else. This year I resolve to create a pile of something new right next to the pile of what I’ve got. I’ll be able to do that because I’ve set vastly different goals than the ones that have come before. This year I will become richer, I’ll look over piles stretched wider, and I’ll stop worrying about getting more of what I already have.

RIP David Bowie.