A Ninja Goal-Setting Secret that Works for People Like Us - Christine Kane

My friend Joy said that, of all the people she knows, I’m the one who should not get a smart watch.

After all, I lead a fairly high-pressure life. I run a business. My days are full. I train hard at the gym. I’m writing a book.

Joy worried I’d go OCD with tracking my steps, and that it’d be one more thing to create pressure in my world.

She had a point. The potential exists.

I mean, just consider your own goals, your own tendencies. In fact, think right now to a big goal you set at new years this year. Like, write your entire book, lose some ungodly amount of weight, hire the next five people on your team.

How’s it going? And if you’re behind, do you secretly shame yourself?

Well, take heart.

From energy work to acupuncture to breathwork to a plethora of productivity tools, I’ve learned a lot about how to accomplish things. (And yes, how to sabotage them too.)

It has a lot to do with your brain. And dopamine. And something I call “the energy of completion.”

When I got my smartwatch – the Garmin Fenix 5, not the ubiquitous Apple watch – I did the opposite of, well, everyone.

(And this is my secret ninja trick.)

I set the bar really, really low.

In a world where 10,000 steps is the average goal of step-counters, I set my goal for just 6000 steps a day.

Which means that, in my first months with my watch, my wrist vibrated with a mini fireworks display, sometimes very early in the day…every single day.

Did I go over – sometimes WAY over – 6000 steps? Sure.

But my personal secret to success is this:

Always set the bar where you can actually get over it. That way you experience the energy of completion on a regular basis.

I call it “Dopamine Snacks.” It’s how my brain has learned to perform, even as the usual committee drones on and on in my head about my inevitable failures.

It’s also how I’ve learned to trust myself.

Dopamine snacks look like this:

  • When I was a musician, I recorded and released 7 CD’s and a DVD by writing in 90 minute blocks.
  • I meditate now for 40 minutes to an hour a day. I started with 5 minute sessions.
  • I can do a boatload of unassisted pull-ups now because I started just by lowering my body 3 times from the top of the bar every time I was at the gym.
  • As I’m writing this, I got a text from my literary agent. We just signed a book deal. I started out by writing one hour a day. The manuscript is due in two months.

I’ve even taught my team here at Uplevel You the Dopamine Snacks method.
At Uplevel, we set three different goals for every project.

The first goal is what we call the “Do-it-in-our-sleep” goal. We can hit that one pretty easily…but at least we cross one bar. We get the dopamine.

Our second goal is the one we REALLY want to reach.

And the third goal is called our “Over the Moon” goal. That one keeps us stretching and expanding.

So when it comes to momentum, great habits, productivity, self-love, and overall peace, know this:

If you set the bar so high over your head you never get to celebrate? Then you kill your own spirit from the get-go.

Completion beats perfection any day.

So share with me some small bar that you’re going to set really low for the rest of the year!

26 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Silvia r.

    Thanks for the excellent article. I will use your tips.

  • Regina Mize

    Thank you so much for this! I love how you have your team set three separate goals for each project! As someone who needs those little wins to keep me motivated and on track, I think this strategy will be a huge help for me!

    I love “tools” that help me remain in a positive mindset and in momentum. I’m going to begin putting this into practice immediately as I am in the beginning of my transition from employee to business owner and I have to admit that it feels a little overwhelming. I am trying to handle that emotion by just focusing on my next step, however small or big it is, and that helps me feel less stressed and more on track!

  • Heather Harbaugh

    I sighed with relief after reading this post. I’ve been setting high goals that I can’t teach in a day. Thank you so much.

    Jokingly I said to myself my doable goal is get up and drink tea every morning. And then I said it for real and tears start to well up. It is a real accomplishment for me to get up some days and I haven’t ever stopped to say thank you to me for reaching deep.

  • Sher Owen

    I set my step goal to 3500. I am 70 years old, sit most of the day, and just had 2 surgeries in the last 2 months. It’s still fun to see the fireworks displayed on my Fitbit Charge 2 when I reach that goal. I can usually hit 5000-6700 and I always feel better because I exceeded my light goal. But on days I can’t do it, I can push just a little to get to 3500 and reach it before bedtime.

  • Nicola DaviesCooke

    Love this, so much after my own heart! I recently did the same with my step counter – set to 6000 steps, I love reaching my goal 🤸‍♀️👌

  • JJ

    Good morning, Christine. Thank you for your email. Always look forward to them. I am on day 7 of a 21-day water fast for various reasons. The main one is health rejuvenation and weight loss. Your wisdom will definitely come in handy, especially over next two weeks. Hope you are well.

  • Heidi McCurdy

    Oh my, this is such a good hack for me. It’s easy for me to start swimming in overwhelm. I have generally felt that making tiny goals would not accomplish much, but as being someone who is generally short on dopamine, I GET IT NOW! Thank you. But as I’m trying to come up with an answer to your question, I am noticing a ton of resistance. Setting a lower bar for one of my main goals right now feels like giving up on the big vision. Yet, if that’s what it takes to keep moving forward, and also setting a really achievable goal that is realistic, it makes sense. So, my low-bar goal for my music for the rest of the year is to record and polish 2 more songs that I am really happy with (I have 2 that are nearly done demos but need a bit more work), and 2 simple videos. I will also look into releasing singles before a full album. I am (was?) hoping to have a full album ready for release in January but I am working on so many other things that it might be too much. I cried when I realized that if I let that one go for now, it will free me up to focus on the other things I am doing which are all in the name of restructuring my business and life so I have more freedom to work on my music. I feel sad but somewhat more empowered. Is this common?! Ha ha. Sorry for the essay – this is a huge deal for me.

    • Christine Kane

      Go Heidi! And to answer your question… I would bring it back to YOU. If you’ve been doing it your way for a long time and haven’t made progress, see what happens if you try a new way and watch how it works. If you’ve always set the goal too high (my new CD will be done by September!) and haven’t reached it, then try – “I will have written 3 new songs by September 21!” and see the difference. Everyone has a different style. This particular way works for ME. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be your way. Try it, adapt it, and see how you do! Keep me posted!

  • Carla

    Than kks for that. I will be using it!😊
    My goal is to have a solo exhibition of my paintings in November In London, not so low but each Saturday I review my progress.

  • jackie cleary

    Hi Christine, Thank you and your team for all you are doing. I am glad I found you! I love your message on setting the bar low. As a therapist , I work with lots of people and teach the same thing BUT… don’t do so well with myself.. of course , I have several small goals but I believe Ill focus on launching 1 vision Board retreat by October 1
    Bring in M club, there are many to dos but I believe I can do this in that time period!

    • Christine Kane

      You totally can Jackie! Use your accountability buddy – and also, the energy of our retreat in September!

  • Traci O’Very Covey

    Thanks so much for this Christine! I love it! I realize that feeling a sense of completion is a challenge for me unless I have a client deadline. Goals I set for myself often get put off. Recently I’ve created some big mural projects but haven’t been to my art studio in quite awhile. My low bar goal is to go there and create for 90 minutes a week (I used to be there M-F for 4-6 hours). Thank you for the empowering advice and encouragement!

  • Patrice A Federspiel

    My meditation habit has been slipping, so my easy goal is to put it back into play, a minimum of five minutes a day. I will also use my foam roller for three minutes a day.

    Thanks for the gentle nudge and a great way to get that dopamine drip going again!

  • Dana

    This may sound a bit selfish to some but, I’ve spent a lifetime attending to everyone else’s needs but my own. So, my mini goal is to spend 10 minutes everyday doing something for ME! Whether that be reading a book, meditating, sitting in the quiet (which I never get)😊 or listening to my music.

    • Dorothy

      This is like most women, put you first so you are “available” for assisting others.

    • Christine Kane

      Not selfish even a little bit, Dana! I’d challenge you to go for 15. 🙂

  • Christy Kane

    I have spent years trying to organize my home with very little luck due to having trouble staying focused and on task. Yesterday I had a professional organizer come in and we managed to get a large portion of my belongings categorized. Now I need to go through each item and give it a home, shred or trash. I will tackle it one box at a time at least 1 hour a day.

  • Keri Lemon

    I will begin and end each day with the Lord…. Mornings for firing up with strenghth from His Word and prayer. Evenings to recap and recognize His promised involvement in my day….Our Day!
    Falling asleep with His praise and adoration on my lips and my heart bursting with joy and thanksgiving !

  • Karen Richareds

    My low bar is meditating for 10 minutes everyday. So far I’m 4 days in and feeling like this is the start of something big like baby steps. Each day I finish a session I feel more and more committed. And accomplished. Thanks for this reminder to celebrate even the smallest victories to fuel the fire of progress.

  • Rachel Claret

    When I used to teach people organizing skills & habits, the first assignment after we’d set up a new system was to TOUCH one file folder every day.

  • Olivia

    This is gold! Thank you so much for sharing this. While making lists works great for me (keeps me focused, plus getting things down on paper allows for space in my brain–and I love the satisfaction of crossing things off when completed), there’s been something missing. This post solves it.
    I’m going to start dividing my daily list into the 3 bar heights you listed: “do it in my sleep”, “Really want” and “over the moon”. I’ve been expecting myself to accomplish all 3 categories every day, and will now be more realistic.
    Thanks for all you do and share, Christine. You and your team make a rippling effect of positive difference on the planet.

  • Lisa Schuh

    Love it! My low bar goal is to walk every day for the rest of the year

  • Karen S

    Excellent! I am encouraged to add cardio back to my life. 3x a week. Doesn’t need to be over the top running…. it can be fast walking to my favorite music!

  • Debra D Allison

    Christine,
    As a direct sales person my 1st goal will be to call 5 new names everyday. 2nd goal is to have 2 bookings with $200 sales daily. 3rd goal is to have 2 interviews daily!Have a blessed day!
    Debra

  • Rachel

    Read and pray at least15 minutes every morning alongside praying all throughout my thoughts and day