It’s goal setting season. High achievers are looking forward to the new year and creating new goals that they want to accomplish.
How do you know if the goal that you’re setting is the goal that you should be working toward or if it might actually be holding you back?
The big picture is this: just because your goal is an increase to whatever you’re doing now doesn’t mean it’s not holding you back.
Here’s how to tell if the goal you have is driving you to what you really want or undermining your dreams.
Align with your future vision
A client that I work with has a big vision. To achieve that vision it will require them to do something new in a business they are not doing now.
This fact is sneaky… if they do more, earn more money in their current position, it can help them in their dream endeavor. So, it can make sense to really focus on increasing their current business.
However, their future vision is bigger. Often our biggest dreams require us to do things completely different than we do now. It takes risks. And, frankly, we’re never “ready.” We just have to jump.
Take a look at your goals and ask, is this goal the most direct path to the preferred future in my biggest vision?
Here’s the cool reality, at least for my client. For them to nail the first step on the direct journey in their preferred future, it will likely require them to do more, earn more in their current business. This brings us to our second point…
Focus on what you want
The thing about goals is that they are currently out of our reach. Meaning we don’t currently have whatever it is therefore we must do something to get it. What we do is informed by our goal. Wrong goal = wrong action = wrong result (even if the result is good… it’s not what you really want)
Research shows that our executive mental functions are the key to doing novel (meaning we’ve not done it) tasks. In other words , tasks that require thought. This happens consciously. We must direct our conscious attention where we want to grow, because we’ll inevitably grow in the direction in which we focus.
Elliot T. Berkman, researcher at University of Oregon writes in Consulting Psychology Journal that “Extensive cognitive processes and neural resources are dedicated to gating which information enjoys the focus of attention and which must be ignored. In this way, executive function generally, and attention specifically, play a key role in how open or closed we are to new ideas and perspectives during goal setting and goal striving.”
If you have a goal of adding more people to your business, this research says that you need to focus on that. If you focus on having more business sales, you’re not committing the mental resources to achieve the goal you really want.
The magic in this scenario is often that in order to add more people to the business, it’s warranted only by increasing sales. So it’s a 2-for-1. The question is, though, where is your focus to ensure that you hit your number 1 priority.
Make you “goal” your actual goal
If I were to ask you what you want from your business in the coming year, you’d likely give me some numbers or calculations.
Sales number, income amount, profit number, head count, client list are figures. Number of vacation days is a calculation. Even an esoteric goal (which are not good, because they lack specificity) like growth, is a comparison of where you are now.
The real question to ask yourself is “why do I want whatever it is I want?” And “what will I feel when I achieve the goal?”
Humans desire to experience positive emotions that are aligned with a feeling of “flourishing.”
Depending on culture & background, specific feelings will vary, yet we are wired to survive and advance. The best way to do that is to flourish.
Therefore, the feeling that you get… whatever feeling lets you know that you are flourishing… is your goal beneath the goal. Earning a million dollars or winning the championship or getting whatever thing is what we believe will help us achieve the flourishing feeling.
The good news is that the feeling that your goal is chasing is actually available anytime. You don’t have to win to feel satisfied. You don’t have to earn to feel happy. In fact, your ability to feel that feeling on our journey toward the goal is a huge indicator of your likelihood of achieving the goal.
Get the feeling, get the goal. Not the other way around.
Narrow your goals
A big aspect of coaching or leadership is understanding the goals of the people that you work with. I ask everyone what their goal is.
Inevitably, I get a list of goals that they have. All the things that they want. In my experience with high achievers, the goal list contains reasonable accomplishments.
The problem is that with many goals, you have competing priorities. Remember that our ability to focus on what we want streamlines our cognitive functions that allows us to do the new actions it takes. As such, too many goals can limit our ability to get the goal we really want.
I ask my clients to focus on 1 main goal. We make sure that it’s aligned with their future vision of who they want to be. We also make sure that the achievement of that one goal will ensure that other metrics of importance are taken care of in that pursuit.
Winning the championship requires the completion of so many achievements along the way.
Review the goals that you set for the next year. Are they the direct path to the future you want? Is it what you really want? What desired feelings can you get now that will help you achieve the goal? What is your singular focus?
The right goal will set you up for the success that you want and drive you forward.