12/9/21: Make your goals meaningful
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This week's Think Better Newsletter is about setting goals that are meaningful, not just measurable.
We are doing a 2022 goal-setting exercise at work. Many things are in motion so we still don't know what our final goals will be. But the process has highlighted a weakness I see in the way many teams and individuals set goals.
There are three main components of a goal. The target, the timeframe, and the resources you're going to use to achieve it (money, energy, etc). Knowing what your resources are also implicitly tells you what you're not going to do.
We can think of it as a simple formula: Target = Timeframe * Resources
If you fix one of them, you need to find the combination of the other two that make sense. If you fix two of them, you need to adjust the third to make the equation work. If you fix all three...well, you better have the equation figured out.
When you set a goal and fix the timeframe to "2022" or "next season" you are locking two variables. If you aren't willing or able to allocate the resources to achieve it--the time, energy, money or other support--then the target doesn't matter. It's not a goal, it's a mirage.
If your resources are limited (which is the case for most of us), then you need to unfix the timeframe. You need to give yourself the grace to keep improving and to achieve the goal when you can.
But most of all, you need to ask, "Why this target?" A big goal is only as valuable as it is meaningful. People aren't motivated by numbers and times. They are motivated by story, connection, and the opportunities achieving that goal will create.
When I start the process of setting a new goal, I always start from a place of meaning. Does it matter? Does it move me? Does achieving it signify I've crossed a threshold or created a new opportunity?
Sales goals shouldn't be based on big round numbers just because they are big and round. And neither should running goals. Both should be based on the assumption that if you achieve the goal, you will have done something meaningful. Meaningful to you or your team.
I use this example in Make the Leap: Imagine you are a 4:15 miler in high school. You can choose a North Star goal of "being a sub-4 miler" or "winning the Olympic gold medal." Which one is better?
It's a trick question. Neither one is better! Or rather, if one has meaning and motivates you to get out and do the work, then that one is better...for you. The other one may be better for another runner.
Big goals can help you be your best. But it's not how big they are, it's how much they matter to you. Make them meaningful.
Are you setting goals that matter to you as a person (or team)?
Go Be More,
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast
"If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals."
– Lou Holtz
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