ome people tell me: “I’m just not an ambitious person.” Or ask me, "how do you manage to do all you do and more?" No one is born with ambition or predefined goals. Ambition is a conscious decision to pursue growth in life, through experience or achievement. Even if you have a purpose, without goals, your life is still aimless because your destiny can seem so far away or intangible. We set goals because we can’t just sit around and hope that something good will happen to us. ‘Hope’ is not a strategy. Hope is for people who have high expectations but are not willing to do anything to make their dreams happen.
I’m a big planner. I like to think of all the things I want to do - this month, this year, eventually - and figure out how to make them happen. For a while, most of those things didn’t actually happen, though. (I guess you could say I was more of a dreamer than a planner.) But as I learned more about effective goal setting - the whole S.M.A.R.T. goal thing, in particular - more and more of those plans came to fruition. But not all of them. While I was able to hit my goal of “paying off credit card debt,” I was never able to hit my goal of “getting better at personal finances.” You may say, “that’s because your finances goal wasn’t specific!” You’re right, it wasn’t. But that’s not the only reason I failed.
I did some research into effective goal setting, and it’s a lot more nuanced than just setting specific, measurable goals. In fact, I stumbled upon many unintended consequences of goal setting - particularly in a professional context, though the principles can be carried over elsewhere.
1) Make a step-by-step plan. Breaking up a big goal into smaller, manageable chunks makes your plan more achievable. It also gives you little bursts of confidence as you knock things off the list, propelling you forward and closer toward achieving your goal.
2) Think about good things that will happen if you achieve your goal. Fair enough. Positive thinking is probably helpful, even if it does feel a bit touchy feely. Don't generate elaborate, unrealistic fantasies here - if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, refrain from taking the mental leap to quitting your job to become a supermodel.
3) Reward yourself when you make progress. Again - use reason. If you lost your first pound, your reward isn’t a pepperoni pizza.
4) Record your progress. Writing things down helps make your goal real, which leads to accountability.
5) Tell other people about your goal. Much like recording your progress, telling other people about it can help make you more accountable to it.
But is this list enough to set good goals and achieve them? Probably not. Studies say that only about 8% of people reach their New Year's goals. I don't say that to initiate any form of doubt, but if you're like me, I want to prove that statistic (and any doubts in my way) wrong.
First, big goals take a long time to achieve - which means the path is fraught with missteps. A lack of feedback could cause people to get diverted somewhere along that path, resulting in disappointment and demotivation such that the goal is never met (or meeting it is significantly delayed). Along the same lines, it’s possible your goals are being sabotaged by someone else. If your goal is indeed group-centric, it’s likely your goal will require a certain dose of teamwork. But as anyone who’s ever worked on a team knows, teamwork can just as often be a poison to progress as it is a support system. In other words, your goals could be hindered because no one is putting the work on the underperformers. In a professional setting, this may come down to forces outside an individual’s control - like management. For personal goals, you could be that underperformer. Which gets us to the other issues at play when considering why people fail to meet their goals - the psychological underpinnings of goal setting. As an avid goal-setter myself, the sentiment resonated. Am I setting these goals at the expense of my happiness? Is it better to be on a constant path of self-improvement, or to be satisfied with where you are?
So. Setting goals. Should you even bother? As with many aspects of performance management and organizational behavior, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach one can adopt. This isn’t to say we should eradicate goals in our lives. Despite the brief existential crisis that sometimes happens when I'm thinking about my goals, I still believe in the merits of setting goals. I also think that doing it correctly can be quite the bother - but a bother nonetheless worth doing. Goal setting has been treated like an over-the-counter medication, when it should really be treated with more care, as a prescription strength medicine.
When you’re an expert in any field, people may regularly ask to “pick your brain,” buy you lunch or some other form of asking for advice. For free, of course. If you feel conflicted at time like these, it makes perfect sense. Your schedule is packed, yet your instinct might still be to jump in and help. In fact, your generosity and desire to make a difference likely played a huge part in you going into business to begin with.Read More
As creatives and as human beings, we all face struggles. It’s a part of life to overcome those struggles and become stronger. Moving on from those battles is something that we want to happen, but what if we embraced those struggles AND took it a step further? What if we used them to shape our brand like a painter uses their art as fuel to connect with people? As professionals, we can.Read More