I’m a big believer in goal setting. In fact, I started this website around New Year’s so that I could open with a series on goal setting (“Honesty: Mastering Your Health Resolutions“). Through the year, we’ve had check-ins to make sure we’re keeping on track of achieving our goals (“Time to Assess: Resolutions” and “Are You Keeping Your Resolutions?“). To spend so much time talking with you about goals shows how important I believe them to be.
However, I think I’ve found something better–path setting! When my husband suggested that I write about the difference between goal setting and path setting, I had no idea what he was talking about. Path setting? I had never heard of that. The name seems simple enough. However, as I have come to realize in life, it’s the simple things that are often the most challenging.
I asked my husband to steer me in the right direction, and he sent me over to the Minimalists. Every so often I read posts from this site. Mostly, it’s because my husband sends me a link of something he’s come across. He loves to send me links with helpful information about how to declutter or let go of objects.
This time, though, he helped me find several great articles about one of the writer’s experiences as he traded his usual goal setting for path setting. To read more about Josh’s journey, I suggest “When Goals Are Important and When They Are Not” and “100 Days with No Goals.”
Goal Setting vs. Path Setting
Let’s say that you set a New Year’s resolution to lose 10 pounds. You work out, eat right, drink water, and sleep well–you do everything a healthy person should and, at some point in time, you lose the weight. What now? It’s this point in time, this what now moment that determines whether you initially set a goal or a path.
You see, a goal is a stopping point. Once you’ve lost your 10 pounds, you’re free to celebrate and move on. Maybe you’ll keep some of your new habits, but maybe you won’t.
This is how some people seem to always have a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. You make good decisions, lose your weight, and, once your goal is achieved, you lose sight of what you need to maintain your success.
A path is different, though. With path setting, there is no foreseeable end in sight. If you want to lose weight, you workout, eat well, drink water, and sleep well. When you make these changes, you do them with the idea that they are permanent. They are now part of your lifestyle.
That being said, path setting can lack the intensity of goal setting. As you begin making changes, you do so with the idea that these changes are for the rest of your life. That time frame impacts your decisions. All of a sudden, your I’m gonna quit eating grains right now! voice might be more of a Let’s quit eating sandwich bread voice. Path setting automatically forces us to stop, evaluate, and make choices to set us up for success.
In my opinion, path setting is like a marathon and goal setting is like a 100 yard dash. You have nothing but the future ahead of you and all the time you need to get there. Take your time. Set your path. Then, slow down and enjoy the process.
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Are you already incorporating path setting? Let us know what you’re doing in the comments below.