The great thing about goals is that that they focus the mind. Lewis Carroll captured the essence of this phenomenon when the Cheshire Cat tells Alice it doesn’t matter which road she chooses as long as she doesn’t care about where she is headed.
A well-formed goal answers the question ‘what do you want?’, albeit within a certain context. Knowing what you want seems to come more easily to some people, and at different times. Unfortunately, for many people being asked what they want feels like a skewering and really uncomfortable question. FYI when that happens, looking a bit deeper into what motivates a person can really help – but that’s a different topic!
Sometimes we’re so busy with the things we feel we must achieve, we may feel we have no choice. While I’d suggest we pretty much always have some choice, imposed ‘must-do’ type goals can feel like the reality for many of us, much of the time. However, one of the problems with such goals is they encourage us to do the bare minimum just to ‘tick the box’ which is rarely a great place to be in terms of our capacity to achieve and grow.
That’s why goals are best if they genuinely appeal to you and where you have a good degree of wilful choice regarding their pursuit. Such goals will develop you and your business and often lead to exceeding expectations.
In coaching we often talk about 3 types of goals: Visionary, Performance & Session.
A good example of a visionary goal is JFK’s 1961 speech about putting a man on the moon and bringing him home safely by the end of that decade. Such goals can be truly inspirational and lift people out of constrained current ways of thinking. However, they can also be frustrating for those individuals and groups who have only very limited control over actually achieving the goal. Somewhat surprisingly, visionary goals crop up a great deal when people are compiling their goals which is why people are frequently disappointed when a goal isn’t achieved. So, when preparing goals ask yourself ‘how much control do you have over achieving each one?’ and if it is relatively low chances are you’re looking at a visionary goal, so be aware.
Performance goals are focused on the performance of the individual or team and critically they are things over which they have a high degree of control. Performance goals might involve doing specific activities or embracing certain attitudes – the key is the level of influence and control. Well-formed Performance goals and their pursuit promotes awareness of issues, the taking of personal responsibility and the building of self-confidence as progress unfolds.
While in reality we sometimes need to get away from things, say that are too risky or are just damaging for us or our businesses e.g. bad business relationships, performance goals are usually best expressed in clear, positive terms aimed into the future rather than away from the past or the present. The well-known acronym SMART helps here in writing effective performance goals with Appeal placed at the heart:
- Be Specific. What is it you want? Be as precise and explicit as is appropriate.
- Define your Measure. How will you know when the goal is achieved? If you’re being too vague, adjust your measure to be more tangible & practical.
- Make sure its Appealing. Ensure your goals really appeal to you, and if they don’t tweak them until they do otherwise question whether you really want this thing to be a goal.
- Keep it Real – there’s no point setting yourself up for failure! If realism seems low, remember you could be looking at a visionary goal, so again make some changes to turn it into a performance goal.
- Goals need an appropriate sense of urgency and momentum. Set timeframes and milestone dates that engender commitment and action.
At the time of writing this, there were already less than 20 working days until January 1st. Merry Christmas and happy goal setting for the New Year.