What do Sherlock Holmes and Historically-Based Goal Setting Have in Common?

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Today, I wanted to take a deeper dive into something I discussed in the inaugural episode of my TV show, The Brilliance Cafe. 

Haven't seen it yet? Watch here.

As many of us are using this month to review and begin planning for 2022, I wanted to especially focus on goal setting. 

What many of us know as goal setting is actually based on historical performance - what we already know, what we can calculate or measure, and how we have been able to perform in the past. 

In my last article, I discussed how history-based goal setting, and the SMART goal setting tool, can actually be counterproductive when we are trying to achieve something new in the future. 

So let's talk about goal-setting, history, and the self-fulfilling prophecy. 

One of my biggest issues with performance-based goal-setting is that when you base your metrics off past performance - you inadvertently include the past. 

That seems a bit obvious, but let me explain. 

All of the associations you acquired, the experiences you had, both positive and negative, come with it. Let's put this in perspective. Many of us have heard the 4/1 rule, where you say 4 positive things for every 1 negative while you give feedback. Some studies have actually placed it even higher, at a ratio of 9/1. 

That means for every 1 negative experience, you need anywhere from 4 to 9 positive experiences to counteract that negative feedback, association, or experience. 

Friend, that's a lot. 

And don't even get me started on the Type A, self-recrimination, and shame that goes along with every negative.

So, when we put this in perspective of behavior change, which is exactly what goal-setting really is when we base goal setting on history, we bring that ratio into the picture. 

What does that do to your confidence?

Even when you are making these bold goals, in the back of your head, the historical "tape" is already playing - every failure, every missed bar, every mistake is right there, front and center.

This can lead to a very nasty self-fulfilling prophecy. A friend of mine refers to it as Sherlock-ing. 

Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous fictional detective, once said, "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

If your theory, based on the seemingly overwhelming negative "evidence" of your past experiences, is that you will inevitably fail or will otherwise not succeed, you self-sabotage your own success. 

On a daily basis, you are faced with two choices: to choose power or to choose comfort. Our brains' natural inclination is to choose comfort - it is known, it has been experienced, and we're still alive, so, therefore, it's right. 

When we choose power instead, we have to be on guard we do not self-sabotage in an attempt to return to comfort. Even knowing and detesting our past failures, it is still a battle to choose power over comfort. It is, or can be, uncomfortable to choose to examine your successes with the same effort with which you brood on your failures. But, if you twist your facts, and create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, you will end up achieving it. 

The facts are, you're already a high-performer. 

The facts are, you have already achieved noteworthy successes. 

The facts are, you are already a worthy and incredible human being. 

It all depends on what theory, and what data, you choose to use.