December 6, 2021

Goal Setting: Forget Formulas, It’s a Highly Personal Journey

Goal Setting

Faced with a difficult choice, a student approached her favorite teacher to ask for help in making a decision. Surprisingly, the teacher handed the student an egg and said to open it without breaking the yolk.

Confused, the student held the egg gingerly to avoid breaking it. The egg slipped from her grasp and broke apart when it hit the floor. The teacher handed the student a second egg, which she grasped too tightly and crushed. As more eggs were handed over, the pattern continued until finally, the student concluded there was no solution.

The teacher replied that problems are like eggs. Hold them too tightly and they will make a mess. Hold them too loosely and they can spill beyond your control. With patience, he said, you can achieve your goals by letting the egg hatch so the yolk will not break.

Goal setting works this way too. Set your sights too narrow and rigid and you may miss opportunities. Set them too broadly or loose and they can slip away. By setting the right goals and nurturing them until the right time, however, you can hatch remarkable results.

Goal setting is a major component of both individual and team success. It’s become even more complex over the past few years with people working remotely with less direct supervision. As such, goal setting has become highly personal. If you’re looking for the seven steps to success, this isn’t it. If you want to make the changes you need to set and achieve your goals, though, read on. And hold on to your eggs.

Goal Setting Can Be Complex

Think about setting goals in your life. We all have personal goals that we want to achieve. However, you need to understand there are trade-offs. If there’s one goal you’re focused on, it may come at the expense of other goals.

Let’s say you are focused on work success and you need to work long hours and weekends to make it happen. That might come at the expense of exercising and eating healthily. You might be trading off work for family time.

So, it’s all about setting goals, evaluating the tradeoffs you have to make, and deciding what’s important to you.

Often, goals are conflicting and the choices are difficult. When you add in self-esteem issues, mental toughness, and passion (or lack of passion) for some goals, there’s a huge complexity in goal setting and it’s not so easy to say there are rules.

Many Methods Fall Short

There are plenty of books out there and articles online about goal setting. If you do steps 1-5, they say, it will work for you. In reality, it may work for some people, but these methods fall short for many of us. They may work in a clinical sense, but they often fail to account for emotions and we’re all emotional beings.

Goal setting is not really about technique or a book, it’s more about the ability to control a complex environment of needs, resources, and expectations. And, managing the trade-offs.

If it really was that simple, why would we need so many books about it? Some of these models have been around for decades, but we still struggle to set and achieve goals. Why? Why do so many people search for answers in bible readings and come up with different interpretations? Because, for each one of us, it can mean something different.

Personalizing Your Goal Setting

This is what we do with Impro. We personalize goal setting for each person in a unique way. Goals are personalized to each person’s needs, time frame, and natural abilities.

It can be a one-on-one process, since everyone has different goals and is at a different place in their lives. After coaching thousands of people for years and conducting thousands of sessions with people, we see the complexities firsthand.

The first part might be acknowledging the complexities and then focusing in on one specific goal to start the process. For example, we might decide to focus on time management. It sounds simple and setting time management as a priority should be easy to achieve. But it doesn’t always work that way.

What looks on the surface to be a very simple model fails to account for the complexities. To be effective at setting and achieving goals, you need to manage life’s complexities.

If one model doesn’t work for you, maybe another will. It’s all about finding what motivates you to focus on your goals and put in the time to achieve them. To do that, you have to find the underlying reasons to fuel your passions. Are you working those 14-hour days so you can take your family on fabulous vacations or retire at 55? Are you willing to give up all those life moments with your children that you can never recapture to do it? And if so, is there a way to provide more balance in your life and accomplish both?

The answers will be different for different people. The goals they choose, the motivations to move forward, and the pathway they pursue to achieve these goals are different, too.

Timeframe and Skills

There are two other important parts of this equation that make goal setting and achievement personal: timeframe and skills. Not everybody has the same skill set when they go into the goal-setting process, so why would we expect everyone to attain their goals in the same way?

It may take one person longer to accomplish their goals because they must first obtain the skills to do so. Others may already have the skills and they just need to prioritize their efforts.

And, as we’ve said, there are often conflicts. Your boss might have expectations and goals for you to become a great leader, manage your time well, and put in the hours it takes to achieve it. Your family has expectations about what they want and need from you, too. And, there are probably things you want in life. Sorting through these complex interactions and deciding which approach to managing conflicting priorities would work best for you is a highly personal journey.

So, if you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, forget it. It doesn’t work that way. Every person’s journey is as unique as they are.

That doesn’t mean there’s no solution. There are steps you can take to personalize the journey and achieve your goals. It takes active planning, evaluation, and a fair amount of introspection.

A Framework for Goal Setting

As you outline your goals and set your priorities, you do need to establish a goal-setting criteria framework to filter your approach. Whatever focus you choose, your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

The more specific you can be about what you are trying to accomplish, the better you will be able to focus on your efforts. You also need to have an objective way to measure your progress.

Goals need to be achievable and often require short-term goals along the way to get you to your longer-term goals. While relevancy is subjective, your goals need to be personally relevant to you in order to fuel your motivation.

Your goals also need to have a timetable. While each person’s time frame might be different, you do need to say I will accomplish this by this date to create some urgency. Then, you need to itemize each of the interim steps it takes to get there.

While the SMART approach to goal setting is not new, by personalizing your application of it as we have mentioned, you will finally set yourself up for success in achieving your goals.

Impro Can Help

If you’d like to learn more about setting and achieving your goals, we can help to find and nurture your eggs, so you can hatch significant results. At Impro, we guide people to think more creatively about reaching their goals, engage more fully and take greater initiative to solve complex problems, and find a higher level of fulfillment in their jobs.

We’ve taken lifetimes of knowledge from one-on-one coaching and created an online platform that helps people personalize and achieve. In just five minutes a day, you can unlock your and/or your team members core abilities to perform at the highest level.

Learn more about Impro on our website today. We’d love to hear what you think.

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