Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Goal setting - the element of risk and reward

So as I rambled in my catchup post, my goals are missing the risk and reward element. This element is supposed to add extra motivation for achieving one's stated, published goals.

This rant was triggered by this post about habits, and especially the part about accountability.

The problem is, I can't think of an appropriate forfeit, or if it's even an appropriate motivational strategy.

Money based ones don't work, because it's not my money I'm spending. Commitment based ones don't work, because I can't really commit to anything because I have the irritating tendency to either not sleep or sleep too much. The same goes for doing stuff forfeits.

The only one that's occurred to me is cutting my hair - and LIKE HELL THAT WILL EVER HAPPEN. It's not a forfeit I'd follow through on. Even a centimetre for each goal not met - well, it's just plain disproportionate, is what it is. The Grow The Hair Project is 4 years old so far, and has another 6 years to go. And I don't have a hairdresser I trust, either. Still - given a hairdresser I trusted with my hair, a long enough timespan, and a few other things, it's about the only idea I've had so far that makes any kind of sense. Actually, the more I think about it, the more it sounds like a good idea.

Except, should I forfeit due to things I can't control, It also raises for me the question of the value of a forfeit in my circumstance. Due to things utterly beyond my control, I may not reach my goals in the time set. In the previous six weeks, for instance, I lost three weeks: one to travel and injury, one and a half to hypersomnia and recovery, and half a week to a cold.

Without either the injury or the hypersomnia I would have had a chance. Combining the two, and I was dead in the water. Throw in travel and a cold and well, it's a good thing I'd nearly achieved my goals by week 3, because I haven't been able to work out since.

I did a lot of walking and photographing on my trip to Kirkland, true. So I stayed active and doing things - but it wasn't directly related with the goals I'd set myself. Well, except the photography for giving me fodder for a post I didn't get around to doing yet. Still - I did my best, given I couldn't run or lift weights because of my injuries (although I did bring along workout gear in case I got better enough, soon enough to use the workout facilities where we were staying). So, I did my best given I couldn't do much.

It does seem easy to me, however, to say 'well I did my best but it's not my fault, really!' as a means to get out of actually doing my best. On the one hand ... there's definitely been days where I've been tempted to use it as an excuse. On the other hand, there was a week where I woke to eat, sleep, pee, and shower occasionally. Followed by one where I walked around the house in a daze, only awake by courtesy. The first week I couldn't avoid, even if I'd had my meds available. That's simply what happens when I push myself for a week. The following week was potentially avoidable, if I'd called up prior to the trip, got a doctor's appointment, and got my meds in a timely fashion. Except - I called as soon as I got back, expecting that, as usual, I'd be able to get an appointment within a week, and got told the next available appointment was four weeks away. Even so, I could have in theory walked down that day to request a new prescription sans appointment - but it was right before the weekend, and not only a weekend, but the Queen's Jubilee weekend. That meant that it would be at least a week before my script would be ready, since it takes two working days, it was a Friday afternoon, and the next working day was the Wednesday. I was still exhausted, and decided to put the request in on Wednesday. That didn't happen, at which point the next day I could get my script was the following Tuesday (if I put it in Thursday) and between coming down with a cold and everything else, I only finally got to the practice yesterday.

Which reminds me. I forgot to call the pharmacy. Which means I can get about half my prescription filled tomorrow, and have to pick up the rest on Thursday, most likely. Great. They say the medication is too expensive to keep much in stock, so they only order in two boxes. As a result, every single time I go down there, they say 'come back for the rest of it tomorrow'. I did ask them nicely to start ordering an extra box, since my script isn't going down and I'm not going anyway, and they said 'just call us the day before you come to collect your medication'. As if it's that easy, sigh.

Right, so with that rather longwinded ramble above, I can see how setting forfeits might work - and then might make me feel like I'd just rolled a series of ones for my saving throws, and had about as much control over the outcome. That is, it's chance, not skill, that determines success or failure.

That's unsatisfactory, to me.

What's also an option is shifting the goalposts. I mean, I had half the challenge wiped out - but I got further (sometimes MUCH further) than halfway on my goals. Still - I'd give myself brownie points for getting better than halfway, rather than successes for getting halfway, if that makes sense. It feels too much like cheating, or gaming the system (Kobiyashi Maru, anyone?).

As motivation, rewards appeal more to me. They're easier to figure out what to do for them (I still want lots of things), and it's a lot easier to say 'I didn't meet the goal, so I don't get x'. I either met my goal or I didn't; being monkeywrenched just means I miss out on a shiny, not that I have to give something up. Being lazy means I don't get the shiny either. There is no way to get the shiny except by excelling.

I already have a list of things I can reward myself with. New corset, new thinkgeek or threadless tees, new earrings from Etsy, something like that. Something meaningful, that I'll use and think of frequently, worth about £60 or so for achieving all my goals. Not so much something like new camera kit - that's too expensive for a 6 week turnaround. Well, until I can work or have an income, anyhow.

The flaw here is that I am tempted to set my goals too low. 

A solution exists, in the form of Extra Credit and Make It Up goals (kudos to Serenity of Nerd Fitness for this idea). Extra Credit goals are the stretch beyond your set goalpoint. Make It Up goals are that 10% you fell short by due to poor circumstance, but made up by substituting similar goals that are still achievable. Extra credit goals let me set goals that I will need to stretch for, without the guilt of falling short if I get monkeywrenched. Make It Up goals let me still attain goals if the bad things happen. Together, they allow me to set a framework up within which I think I can succeed. It's a lot more work than my usual goalsets, and I'll have some hard thinking and self-analysis to do.

So after all that rambling - with this upcoming round of goals, I won't be using a forfeit framework for motivation. I'll be using a reward framework, and a goals framework which includes substitution options for when I'm ill, and extra credit options for when I'm not. This will allow me to both not panic about falling short of my goals, as well as pushing me to reach for my limits.

That's the plan, at any rate. I'll see how it goes, both motivation wise and whether or not I actually improved sufficiently during the period with all things taken into account.