Self-employment doesn’t seem to remove post-holiday blues. In a state of sluggishness last Thursday, I turned to setting goals for the year. Something that I find energising and useful. After completing my reflection process for last year I was eager to look at the year ahead.
A few minutes into the goal setting process, I started to bump into some familiar problems. These are well documented in the Harvard Business School article: Goals Gone Wild. I recommend prioritising time to read this article… please!
Goals provide focus. Sometimes that focus is too narrow and we miss other important matters. Goals can diminish our ability to adapt to the dynamic nature of our complex work environments.
Goals provide us with something to achieve and, with it, a sense of progress. But the temptation can be to prioritise what is achievable over what is valuable. An exercise in looking and feeling good, not in doing good.
Goals are motivating… right? Yes, but a lower quality of motivation. They become external driving forces that put the focus on the reward of achievement. Engaging in a task for its own sake (intrinsic motivation) is what leads to sustained motivation.
These are just a few of the red flags when it comes to goals.
So, should we throw goals out the window?
No. But there is some ground work to do first.
Before we set goals consider your trajectory for the year. A principled and purposeful trajectory. The way we want to go about work (or life in general) before specific achievements.
I started with what I value. Deeper connection with family, friends and colleagues. Being fully present in each situation. Learning as much as I can from every encounter. Being professional and delivering true value to clients. I made a list of 20 ‘I want…’ statements to capture my intent for the year. Example: I want to do interesting and challenging work with interesting people around the world.
The next step is to formulate practices to maintain our trajectory. Individual habits and group rituals (especially if you lead a team). The focus is on the practices. The sense of achievement comes from frequent reflection on the impact of the practices. One new habit I’ve formed is to read my ‘I want’ statements each day. I also continue my practice from last year of journaling each day.
We can then set goals, being cautious of the pitfalls, that align with our trajectory. I feel that if I need to adapt to unforeseen changes, I do so from the solid base of my trajectory.
Do you need to take a moment to clarify your trajectory? Grab half an hour and answer the five questions below.
- What contribution do I want to make and where will I get a sense of belonging?
- What/who do I want to become?
- What areas do I want to learn and develop in?
- What choices do I have (in the way I go about my work)?
- What are daily, weekly or monthly practices that will move me along my desired trajectory? *don’t forget to keep and build on helpful practices you already have in place.
To talk through this process and bounce your ideas off me, contact me to book a time. Here’s to an outstanding year on an energising and inspiring trajectory.
Doug Maarschalk guides workplace teams to become more ‘human’ by growing a culture of contribution, learning and empowerment. He is a facilitator, consultant and coach who helps teams get clear on their strategy and change their thinking to become high performing. He’s worked with clients in the horticulture, banking, logistics and manufacture sectors along with local government. Read more about the Services Doug provides and the Clients he has worked with.