There’s a lot of confusion ‘out there’ about ‘goals’ and ‘goal setting’.
There are big differences about how personal and ‘business’ goals are defined.
There is misunderstanding about the differences between goals, dreams and visions.
And what about ‘targets’ and plans and actions or activities?
And all the ‘how’ questions about setting goals, remembering them, keeping on track, and, most of all, achieving ‘goals’, and realising dreams and visions.
No wonder people give up on the whole idea sometimes!
And lose out on achieving what they desire.
Because lack of clarity about how it all works causes resistance to getting involved, resistance to leaving the ‘comfort zone’, and resistance to making the changes in routine (and that’s all they are really) that are necessary.
Now I know that some people are ‘attached’ to different ‘theories’ and practices about goal setting and the like, and in most cases these methods do work, most of the time.
But often they don’t – so people lose faith and interest in the whole thing and dismiss it all as ‘mumbo-jumbo’ or with the tired old phrase “it doesn’t work”.
Well the thing is that in fact, ‘it’ doesn’t ‘work’
To make it ‘work’, you and I have to do the work.
Despite what some people would have us believe we can’t just set a ‘goal’ or ‘visualise’ an outcome and then sit back and wait for it to ‘happen’.
Unless we, you and I, DO something!
First we have to understand the structure and the framework.
What are they?
A structure is some ‘thing’. It may be tangible or intangible, physical or spiritual. The framework is what ‘holds it together’.
In goal setting, vision creation or ‘dream building’ the ‘structure’ is the ‘dream’ or vision.
It’s a certain lifestyle, a certain relationship, a state of health, a type of knowledge or skill, a financial state, and so on.
But to build a structure you and I need to start with a framework.
There are two ways of creating a framework.
Top down and bottom up.
You can start with the ‘big picture’ of whatever it is you would love to be do and have, or you can start with the individual ‘jigsaw pieces’ that will make up the final result.
Some people write long lists of all the things they want to do, have and be – one small piece at a time.
They tend to call them goals because they are usually achievable and easily identifiable.
Like a certain make or model of car, a visit to a certain country, a certain type of house, losing (or gaining) a certain amount of weight, and so on
Other people start with a ‘general idea’ of their ‘big dream’ or vision and then start to fill in the pieces.
There are problems with both approaches.
I’ve found that those who build from the bottom up usually have a lot of jigsaw pieces that don’t actually fit together, and I’ve found that people who go ‘top down’ often have great difficulty in gaining clarity on all the things they desire or expect and stuff gets left out – so the ‘big picture’ has to be continually repainted.
And then there’s the insistence that you and I have to have ‘absolute clarity’, have to define every little detail, about what we would love before it can possibly come about.
Now I’ve worked on a lot of projects in my time from software engineering to civil engineering and I know that what finally ends up being built is never exactly as originally planned.
Compromises are made, enhancements are added, sometimes you end up with something quite different from the original design – however clear and detailed.
And it’s the same with ‘life’.
So here’s the thing.
You and I must get away from dogmatic ‘goal setting’ and ‘dream building’ methodology and consider what really happens when we set out to achieve something.
What we must do is to split our ‘big picture’ up into areas or domains.
Different people have come up with different ideas as to how many of these there should be, but I prefer to work with four fundamental areas – everything else fits into these:
Self – everything ‘internal’ including health and the body, well-being, learning, faith and spirituality.
People – everything to do with other people, all our relationships, personal, familial, community, society and global. How we relate to all of these.
Expression – what we ‘do’, career and work, creativity, activities, sports, how we occupy our time, how we express ourselves.
Outcome – lifestyle, finances, time freedom, ‘possessions’, where we live, how we interact with everything on the planet other than people, the result (to an extent) of the other three domains.
Most people will define their ‘dream’ as somewhere within that last area, but they will also have ambitions, visions and dreams in the other areas.
Now we can get the jigsaw pieces out and sort them into each of those four areas and we can start to spot inconsistencies between one domain and another.
The jigsaw pieces are our goals – each dream or vision is made up of achievable goals and we just have to make sure that each goal is pertinent to the vision to which it contributes
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Once we have all the goals that we need to achieve the vision, we can ‘forget’ the vision.
But what about the goals?
You and I need to consider the actions that need to be taken to achieve the goals, and the targets related to those actions.
The goal itself is not quantified, it’s the actions that have to be taken by a certain date, it’s the actions that may need to generate a certain amount of income etc.
When the actions are successful, the goal is achieved
And so that can happen, the actions have to form part of a plan or process that defines the order in which the actions need to be taken.
And when the actions are defined and quantified we can ‘forget’ the goal’
We need to forget about the outcome – achievement of the goals and dreams, and focus on the process: the actions and the order in which they are carried out.
There’s one more thing.
It relates to clarity.
Yes, you and I do have to be clear on our ambitions, but we must not be rigid about them.
Being rigid about an ambition, vision or dream may prevent it from happening, or, when we get there we find that it wasn’t quite what we envisaged.
From time to time, as a result of the actions we’re taking and the goals we’re achieving, you and I will want and need to reframe our vision, our dream, to make it different – or better
Revisit your dreams, break them down, identify the process you need to follow to achieve all the actions necessary for your goals and visions to be realised.
And then –
Add to each of your visions and dreams these words:
‘This or something better’
‘Forget’ the visions, ‘forget’ the goals
Focus on the process, take the actions needed.
Then and only then, will your big goals and big visons come about.