Why set goals – I’ve done OK – why the fuss? Do goals really make all that difference? Well, how far are you from where you want to be in your life’s work?
Most of us would agree that setting goals is a key part of any successful outcome, wouldn’t we? Why is it then that so few people actually do? Is it perhaps much easier to be in the 95% that know how, where we don’t have to worry about this? Surely not?
Why set goals – don’t New Year’s Resolutions work?
The closest many of us get to setting goals is usually at the beginning of the year where we might make some new year’s resolutions. We seem to let ourselves fall into this trap year after year. In the euphoric moment of the clock striking midnight, the music, the fireworks and the festive atmosphere take ahold of us. We make grand resolutions in an emotional (dare I also say inebriated) state, that nobody could possibly achieve, don’t we? And if you are anything like me, how often do they actually last beyond Easter before they fade away into obscurity with some rationalised dismissal? (By the way, I have heard the term rationalize be defined as: “telling ourselves rational lies”).
And so it is probably fitting that this blog is about setting and reaching goals. Because of its significance, I will spread it over a few separate articles, this first one focused on the why, the next on the how and maybe final one on the now (or wow).
I have learned that anything worthwhile has always started with an idea or a dream or a goal, and if a definition of success is: “the progressive realization of some worthwhile dreams” then a goal to me is simply: “a dream with a date on it”.
So why are goals talked about so much and yet shied away from using and applying one of the most success bearing tools around? Why are we so afraid to set proper goals?
If it doesn’t matter – why set goals?
Most of you will have read “Alice in Wonderland” (or have had it read to you) and you might remember when Alice arrives at the fork in the road that she asks the Cat “which of these paths should I take?” to which the cat says: “that depends a lot on where you want to go”. Do you recall her response? “I don’t really mind where I go” prompting the Cat to reply: “well then it really doesn’t matter which one you take, does it?”
And so it is with goals as well. If you don’t mind where you are going, then you don’t need goals. Like a yacht on the ocean without a rudder is completely at the mercy of the tides and the wind. Directionless.
Now please just check in with yourself: Is this really what you want?
Are you drifting or driving?
Yet this is what most people do: they get on with their life and work in a passive manner, reacting to whatever comes along. Being busy. Doing stuff. It often appears to me that as long as we are busy, our need for significance and importance seems to be fulfilled. And if we are employed, it’s quite easy to do, isn’t it? At the end of the month we will be paid anyway. And unless something dramatic like an acquisition happens, we will get to the end of the year and each month will have passed some way or the other – anyway. And we will have “got by” again – anyway, right? Perhaps commenting on how quickly another year has flown by – anyway.
Yet we actually have choices and if we want to achieve different results in the New Year ahead, we will need to do some things differently. Like choosing to “drive our own bus” and setting some direction to where we would like to find ourselves at the end of the year ahead.
Targets or Budgets
Why is it that (most) companies set a budget for the new financial year? So that they have defined a target they want to have achieved in 12 months time. With roadmap for them to follow each month so that they can measure how they are tracking. And if they are behind one month, they put initiatives in place to assure that they are back on track again in the following month, or certainly by the end of the year. Budgets, plans, targets, goals: just different words for essentially the same thing: setting some parameters to what you want to achieve and defining some targets, so that you know what you are shooting for.
So what is so different to when this applies to us in our personal lives? How many households or families actually have a budget? Why is it that we can apply the necessary discipline in a work sense but so often fail in the same disciplines at home and in our lives? Surely it can’t be because there is a “scorekeeper” or “the boss” at work that ensures adherence to tracking to budget?
Perhaps it’s a matter of reflecting on a few of the different thoughts we have covered in the last 6 months of blogging? Like: Cause and Effect or Managing Your State or Who is driving your bus? or Moving Away versus Moving Toward or Pro-active, Positive and Responsible or The 5% that know WHY or The Price and the Prize.
What do all of these have in common? That if we work our life “at cause” then we choose to take responsibility for ourselves, to make decisions and to take action to help us achieve the outcomes we want. That we don’t leave things to chance or to “just happen”. We choose rather to “just do it”. And what I’m suggesting is that you follow some simple rules and techniques all successful people follow: starting with setting some goals.
So what next?
So if this is not already your standard practice, why not start this New Year with a new approach? Why not find a quiet time and a quiet place with a pen and a paper, and start writing down some things that you would like to have achieved by the end of next year? I wouldn’t worry too much about the internal sarcastic or unresourceful mind chatter that might accompany such an activity – trying to “keep you safe so you don’t have a go and fail”. I would also not worry too much at this stage about whether the goals you write down might be some you’ve set and abandoned in the past, or that they might seem unrealistic. Just get them down on paper.
Next week we will look at the “how to set good goals” and you may then find some useful pointers or ideas by which you can fine-tune these. Go on – have a go. What have you got to lose?
Click here for the other blogs in this trilogy: