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Do You Really Know the Goal?

Okay, so how did you do last year, did you achieve your goals? When I ask people this question I notice often they wander off and change the subject. Then they talk about their “resolutions” for 2013 and avoid talking about last year. I wonder why?

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Okay, so how did you do last year, did you achieve your goals? When I ask people this question I notice often they wander off and change the subject. Then they talk about their “resolutions” for 2013 and avoid talking about last year. I wonder why?

Maybe it’s because they didn’t have any goals. Perhaps they didn’t write them down or can’t remember them. Or maybe what they did accomplish somehow disappoints them now. It is possible they really don’t care; they just take it day by day (I really do envy these folks!)

Whatever the reason, if someone wants to achieve more in their personal and professional life, I suggest they focus on the goal.

Resolutions and Goals. I’m always curious why many New Year’s “resolutions” sound like the same resolutions folks had last year. Someone (allegedly Einstein) once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Many New Year’s resolutions fall into this category. So are we insane if we do this?

No, but I think if we don’t understand and commit to the “goal” behind the resolution, we will surely fail to achieve it.

A simple example. Many people make a “resolution” to exercise regularly. Then they either join a health club or begin walking, which are both positive actions. My health club right now in early January, is really busy. But by February, I’ll begin to see only the regulars every day. The volume of people goes down. I suspect that all those folks who had aggressive “resolutions” are slowly slipping back into their old habits. Why? Because they don’t have a clear goal they can commit to behind the resolution. A “resolution” without a goal is just a resolution. It even sounds non-committal.

An example of a goal that supports the exercise resolution is something many of my colleagues do – they commit to train so they can run in a specific length of race on a given date. They may also commit to run in a certain number of races of different lengths. These are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time-bound.) This definitely supports an “exercise more regularly” resolution doesn’t it?

And behind this short-term goal is an overarching goal they are each committed to – maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle.

Effective Goal-Setting. Whether you are goal-setting for yourself, your team or organization, you must learn to identify the right goal – the goal you can commit to – if you want to be successful. Until you do this you may create what you think are goals, but learn later they are not really having an impact. You have designed the wrong goal.

In his book The Goal, Eliyahu Goldratt writes a fictional tale about a plant manager, and a company, who didn’t understand what the real goal was. They had created all kinds of productivity initiatives, but shipments were still late, labor costs were unchanged, and inventory was increasing. What they didn’t talk about was the real goal – to increase their profit. Once everyone understood this goal and committed themselves to it, things changed significantly.

At the heart of every successful goal is motivation. If a goal doesn’t motivate you and others, it is doomed. What is “it” that will push me or my team to achieve it? Individuals, who have the same personal vision for maintaining a healthy body, can have different goals this year that motivate. One person might have a goal to complete a triathlon, for another the goal might be to do 400 exercise sessions (me), or for another to run 1,000 miles (not me). A group of people could have a goal to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

What do Your Goals Say About You? When I have new students begin one of my courses, I go around the room and ask them what their goals are for the course. Invariably at least one student says, “to just finish the course so I can get my degree.” I know right then that they have a different level of motivation, are likely to under-perform in their groups and frustrate their teammates. Asking people what their goals are gives you insight into who they are as performers – what do your goals say about you?

When you develop your resolutions for 2013, I suggest you connect a goal to each resolution and dig deeply to find what motivates you. As George Elliot once said, “It’s never too late to become the person you might have been.”

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