Good Goals and Strategy


As you can tell from Kristin’s recent post, we’ve all been thinking about how to set effective goals, due largely to our own internal goal prioritization process. I recently completed a detox diet that happened to coincide with this process, and I realized that it offered some lessons on what makes a good goal and a good strategy.

First, some background. About five years ago, I found myself in an unhealthy cycle of working way too much, eating poorly, and not exercising — the unholy triumvirate! I wanted to do something to break the cycle, and I decided that I’d try a detox diet. I did some research, I talked to a lot of friends, and I finally settled on the following plan:

  • Two weeks
  • No meat
  • No refined carbs
  • No drugs (i.e. caffeine or alcohol)

My goal was to reset my behavior and get back to a more healthy lifestyle. And it worked! Not only did my body feel great during the process, I was surprised to discover how good my brain felt. During those two weeks, I found my mind was exceptionally clear and sharp. Going through the process also shifted my behaviors back to a more healthy lifestyle.

It was not without pitfalls, however. It takes work to eat healthfully. You have to eat, shop, and cook more often. You’re hungry more often, and I get cranky when I’m hungry. The diet also took a toll on my social life, which I realized largely revolves around eating and drinking things that are not that good for you.

So here I was, five years later, embarking on the same diet, much to the same effect. Here are some lessons on strategy and goal-setting from this process:

Strategy and goals are not the same thing. My strategy for getting back to my goal of a more healthy lifestyle was to do a two-week detox. In a lot of ways, my choice of diet was arbitrary. I could have done a more extreme (e.g. vegan) or a less extreme (e.g. pesceterian) version and probably have achieved the same thing. However…

Aspire, but be realistic. I originally thought I’d try the raw food diet, but when I researched it, I realized that it was totally unrealistic for me. Not only would it require more work than I had time for, I probably would have become a hungry, raging lunatic.

Set measurable goals, but don’t overthink the metrics. You should be able to clearly say yes or no to whether or not you achieved a goal, but an overreliance on metrics can actually deter you from accomplishing what you actually want to achieve. I identified some indicators (both objective and subjective) around how I felt during the diet and my lifestyle afterward, but they did not include weight or conditioning targets, because I didn’t feel they were pertinent to my goal. Those types of metrics might have shifted my behavior away from my goal by encouraging me to do things like eat less rather than eat better.

Be open to surprises. I wasn’t sure how I would feel during or after the diet. Although I expected to be healthier, I didn’t know if I would actually feel better. I was surprised by how quickly I felt the impact, and I was awed by the impact on my thinking.