Thinking through our goals

Many of us don’t do what I call a “360” when we goal plan.  Doing a “360” means that you examine the goal from all possible angles.  You think through the goal you want to achieve before you actually start working towards it.  In essence, you walk all the way around the goal, examining every aspect of it.

To successfully set and achieve a goal, it’s important that we think through these things:

  • WHY (Why do I want change/improvement in this particular area?)
  • BENEFITS (In what way will my life change when I realize this goal? Is there anyone else who will be affected by my achievement – if so, how?)
  • HOW and by WHEN (How and by When do I plan to accomplish this change/improvement?)
  • WHAT (What resources – people, equipment, etc- will I need to accomplish this change/improvement?)
  • WHICH (Which obstacles might I be faced with while I’m working towards my goal?)
  • WHAT IF (What will I do IF I am faced with one of the obstacles I defined)
  • HOW WILL I KNOW (How will I know if I’ve attained my goal?  What are the measurements by which I’ll know it’s been reached?)
  • RELEVANCE and REWARD (How important is this goal to me and how will I reward myself once I’ve successfully achieved it?)

This week, let’s focus on the “WHY” we want to achieve our goal.  When we focus on the “WHY,” we have to find out from where the desire to change or improve is coming.   When it’s a desire that comes from outside sources or one that is imposed on us by others (social influence), we tend to fail in our attempts to reach the goal (or change the behavior).  If we do succeed initially with the goal or change in behavior, we lack sustainability.  Sometimes we may even resent the very thing we’ve changed.

Moreover, embracing a goal because it’s what others think should be our goal can actually keep us from focusing on things that would produce positive change/growth in our lives.  In other words, things like losing weight or quitting smoking (or exercising, or eating healthier – etc,…) can be useful and helpful things to do, but unless we each perceive the value in those things as it relates to our individual lives and our personal desires, our results will not be lasting.

When we examine the “WHY,” we may need to modify the original goal or even discard it entirely.  That’s not all bad.  That’s how we drill down and focus on the goals that are truly important to us – the ones that WILL change our lives for the better and the ones that will have LASTING positive impact.

Let me speak for a moment from experience.  While I was growing up, our home was spotless.  In fact, it looked like it could be in a magazine.  Everything was always in its place and our home was in pristine condition just in case anyone stopped by unannounced to visit.  This meant that my mother, bless her heart, was constantly cleaning, dusting and vacuuming.  I mean every single day those things were done.  At times, I’m sure you could even have eaten off the floor and been fine (no 5 second rule needed).

Now, let’s fast forward to my adulthood.  While working unbelievable work week hours at the peak of my corporate career, I carried with me the goal that I had to have my own home as spotless as my parent’s home was when I was growing up.  In order to reach that goal, that meant I would have to spend my weekend – Saturday to be exact – cleaning my home.   My home, you see, was really a 1000 square foot apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  To clean it the way I felt was required to hit my “goal” meant that I would need to spend 4 hours cleaning every Saturday.  Needless to say, I was exhausted when Sunday rolled around.  That didn’t leave much time for “fun” on the weekend, much less time to rest before my grueling work week started over again.

The other notable factor was that while my home place was indeed clean, I was not progressing forward in building a gratifying social life.  When I met my husband, I realized that I wanted to spend time on the weekend with him instead of with my head stuck in a toilet or tub.  Granted, the clean toilet and tub were rewarding, but not nearly in the same way as having a mutually gratifying relationship with another human being.

Humor aside, I had to think about why I willingly embraced a goal that was actually holding me hostage.  I realized, after pondering the WHY for awhile, that the goal belonged to my mother and not me.  That was HER goal, not mine.  I had accidentally packed it when I left home and I needed to return it as soon as possible – or at least a part of it.  So I did.  What a freeing experience it was to rethink that goal.  Cleanliness was and is important to me, but to make it workable in my world in the form of a personal goal, I needed to realize its relevancy.  How important was that goal to ME?

Once I decided that, then I could modify that original goal with parameters that worked for me.  I redefined what level of “clean” was acceptable for me.  Then I redefined what “filth” meant in my world. Ultimately, I decided what was acceptable to me in both of those categories. With that done,  I was free to put into motion some time management practices that allowed me to work on a far more important goal – spending time with the man that I love and building a lasting relationship.  That goal was more important than the dust on my coffee table that had accumulated during the work week.  After all, I felt like the dust would wait on me.

Next week: Realizing and visualizing the benefits of achieving your goal.