The Why, The What, The How.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting goal setting can’t work, only that it doesn’t much of the time. I’m also not suggesting we should ditch goal setting. I’m not convinced we could, even if we wanted to. As humans, the process of setting goals is almost unavoidable.
The late Lou Tice, in his book Personal Coaching for Results opens with this: “Deeply rooted within our heart of hearts is the longing to grow and bloom, to express our creative, life-affirming innermost nature…”
Later in his book, Lou goes on to describe human beings as teleological. (This is a word I love, and ever since I learned it I’ve been sprinkling it into conversations regularly just because it rolls so nicely off the tongue.) Lou goes on to define ‘teleological’ by saying “We think in terms of purpose and we’re naturally goal oriented. Having a teleological nature means that in order for us to change and grow, we need something tugging at us from the future, something to – quite literally – look forward to.”
Ah, that tugging. So familiar. Especially for those of us who are enrepreners. As such, we know the seductive pull of new ideas, opportunities and possibilities. It is irresistibly delicious. Also – good to know – part of our human nature. Thanks, Lou.
The Big Prize
So having said this, why do I say that goal setting doesn’t work? If it is so important to us and an intrinsic part of our human nature what makes it so difficult?
Part of it has to do with getting started. This can be tough, because if we’re not moving forward, we lack momentum and our systems begin to shut down. The law of inertia comes into play. You know, the one where an object at rest tends to stay at rest. But what keeps us resting?
Most goal setting fails because we don’t accurately identify our ‘why’. In order for us to get traction on goals, they have to matter. We must answer the question: Why is this important to achieve?
Goals can’t just matter on the surface. We need goals that offer a compelling vision of the future – a Big Prize. We need to identify what it is we are truly after. What is the big difference you’re trying to make in the world? Or for that matter, what difference, large or small, are you making in your workplace, family life or business? This is identifying the why.
The why should give you goosebumps. It should lay in your heart of hearts in that deeply rooted longing Lou refers to. When you get into that territory, you are starting to get into the territory of goals that matter.
This is important, because this vision is what will motivate you to move and carry you forward. You will have trouble getting started. Once you do get started, you will run into obstacles. You will get tired, you will want to change direction, you will see something shiny and bright on the horizon that you want to chase. Being clear about the Big Prize will keep you on track.
Space to Dream
Goal setting also requires time. In order to connect to our deeper longing, we must give ourselves space to dream. Before we can manifest what we want in consensus reality, we must devote time to dreaming.
I usually plan with flipcharts and markers, covering the office walls with yellow sticky notes. I’m pretty clear about my ‘why’, so dreaming for me are the possibilities for the ‘what’. What does the business need to do at this stage to reach the Big Prize?
The process is exhilarating, and it can be overwhelming. As mentioned, entrepreneurs have no shortage of ideas and I’m fairly classic in this regard. Once I capture all the ideas and possibilities and corral them into categories, I generally sit back to reflect. And sometimes, during reflection, panic can set in.
This brings me to the second reason why goal setting fails. We get overwhelmed. And we don’t prioritize. While I feel excited and goosebumpy about all the possibilities prettily arrayed on yellow sticky notes on my wall, I can also be terrified. How can I possibly accomplish all this?
With so much looming, it is waaaay easier to do nothing than to try to figure out which of the multitude of ‘somethings’ to attack. Sound familiar?
At this point, the typical approach is to begin setting priorities. Decide what you really want to do and then cross the other things off the list – (not at this time, bub) – tear down the stickies, and get rigorous and strategic about what is going to move you the farthest the fastest.
This method can work, and it’s an important part of the process, BUT, and this is a very big but, it’s another way that goal setting can fail. Why?
It doesn’t take into account our very human tendency to spend time primarily on those things we really want to do. Intellectually, you might think you really want to set and achieve big audacious goals for yourself but if the ‘doing’ of it doesn’t give you pleasure, if you’re not being who you want to be while you’re in the process of implementing the goal, you’re simply not going to take action.
The big question here is: What are your terms?
Setting your Terms:
Setting your terms means identifying all the criteria required in order for you to say a wholehearted YES to a project or activity. I use the word wholehearted here very deliberately. Wholeheartedness is what will give you the energy needed to be able to fully engage in moving your goals forward.
Wholeheartedness is the state that creates magic.
When you say a wholehearted yes to a goal, project or plan, the doing becomes simple, because you are being who you want to be while doing it. This is all about enjoying the process.
An example of my terms for yes include:
Remember, typically we’re building our new goals onto the already existing structure of plans, activities and priorities in our lives. We’re creating a roadmap for some kind of change and we need to be fully intentional about how we want to be on the trip.
The terms are the framework for how we travel from here to the desired future and become a guide as we sort through and identify priorities.
The questions become quite simple: Do the goals meet my terms?
Prioritize the dreaming based on the wholehearted yes. Meet your terms.
Know what you want, and more importantly why you want it. Set the terms for how you will be in the process and the good news is that even if you don’t achieve all the goals you set, you’ll have a good time trying.
What is one goal that lays on your heart for the future? Post it here. I’d love to dream with you.