Thursday, 10 April 2014

Why I Disagree with Science

Okay, I think I need a disclaimer: I don't disagree with science in general (far from it!), but there is one scientifically proven piece of information that I must rally against. Evolution? The big bang? Gravity? Um, no. The theory in question is that it's better to have just one goal at a time.

Sorry if that was an anti-climax, but I'm fed up with reading that I should be limiting myself to a single goal at any given time. Here are my reasons:

1. Pursuing different goals means at least one is bound to be going well
Instead of feeling down about not progressing quickly enough in one of your endeavours, you can get a confidence boost from reminding yourself that other goals are on track  or even ahead of time.

2. Goals can be complementary
This is the case even when goals seem unrelated. Running has improved my writing. Well, not so much my writing skill, but it's given me more energy to write and the motivation to submit my work. When I was learning to drive, it helped me to focus and stay (relatively) calm when tackling my university studies. Some of the benefits of pursuing 2 goals at once are obvious, but others are surprising and may only be realised in retrospect.

3. Time is short
I'm not saying you should overload yourself with goals, but aiming to do things 'someday' often means they never get done. If a goal is important to you (which it should be), it's worth doing now  or at least in the near future. 

4. Not all goals fall into discrete categories
Sure, if your goal is to run a marathon, it is either 'done' or 'not done', but many goals are about improving your situation and are best assessed using a continuum. Mini-goals along the way may be specific enough to categorise, but they don't, in themselves, represent your actual goal.

Example: I want to earn a living from writing. Because it is a continuous goal, I will need to achieve it again and again. There are thousands of mini-goals that I need to achieve to stand a chance of achieving this goal. If I focused on just one of these goals at a time, I would never get anything else done. 

I find this type of goal easier to stick to than what I call ultimatum goals, like saying 'I'll never eat chocolate again' instead of 'I will eat more healthily'. Some goals need your total attention, but others are best tackled in conjunction with other goals and/or just generally living your life.

5. Priorities change
My approach is flexible: I'm working on all of my goals, but 2 or 3 are usually prioritised at any given time. Flexibility is important to me, because as my plans change and life gets in the way, my priorities change. My goals also need to change and adapt.

Over the past few weeks, for example, my running goals have been on the backburner due to my getting massive blisters. My career goals, though always a priority, came to the fore and I spent more time on them. In a month or two, I want to prioritise goals that involve improving my social confidence, in preparation for one of my closest friend's wedding in June.

6. Making changes inspires you to make more changes
Getting fitter makes me want to eat more healthily. Learning that spreadsheets are nothing to be scared of has given me the motivation to improve my skills in other areas that intimidate me. Improving my mental health so that I feel less depressed means I want to work on my anxiety and get out more. 

Small changes accumulate and lead to you achieving more goals and creating new ones  with relatively little effort. Limiting yourself to one goal also limits your ability to take advantage of this momentum.

7. It can be fun
Maybe I'm just weird and this is my perfectionist streak talking, but I enjoy pursuing a variety of goals. Several years ago, I was too depressed to even make goals. For the first time in my life, I like myself and I'm proud of my achievements. That's a major buzz!

Working on multiple goals works for me, but I know this approach doesn't suit everyone. Experiment and see what works for you, whether or not it's endorsed by science. I wrote about achieving your goals last week, which details the strategies that work for me  most of which have been scientifically proven to work!


  1. You go for it, Hayley! I could never stick to only one thing at a time and I'm much more motivated when busy with a few projects on the go.

  2. I like having lots on the go as well. Occasionally I trim it all back a bit to give myself more of a chance to complete one or two tasks, but I'm soon happily piling it all up again. As Rosemary wisely says, go for it!

    1. Thanks, Joanna. It occurs to me that maybe I feel so strongly about this because I'm impatient... I want to change everything ASAP!