Posted: Wed 19th Feb 2020
Goals give you clarity and focus. At least, that's the theory. It's likely that you've created goals in the past that you haven't achieved or forgot about, or perhaps working on the goal led you to feeling stressed, exhausted or even burnt out.
I have been in both of these situations. I used to be fascinated by goal-setting, looking for all kinds of ways to set and achieve goals. This left me chasing something better and bigger, feeling unsatisfied and exhausted from pushing myself too hard.
If goal setting is so effective in helping us get what we want, how come there's so many instances where it fails to work and isn't kind to our wellbeing?
In looking for different ways to set goals, I realised that most methods fall into two extremely different approaches.
I called it "avocado" because it's about "smashing" your goals. All the advice that talks about setting frighteningly ambitious goals, being laser-focused, pushing hard, being disciplined and never giving up fall into this category. It's all about action.
Benefits: If you do stick to this strategy, you are almost guaranteed to reach the goals you set for yourself. You will have a sense of accomplishment and feel proud of yourself for being someone who can do what they set out to do and overcome any obstacles.
Limitations: This approach relies heavily on willpower. If you're more focused on the outcome than on enjoying the journey, you won't be very happy and that means you're more likely to give up.
On the other hand, if you're being hard on yourself, you may get stressed and overworked. If you still can't reach your target, this can lead to more negative emotions. And, finally, you may be so focused on your desired outcome that you miss out on unexpected opportunities.
The other approach seems to be just the opposite. It focuses on your way of being rather than doing. It's about "radiating" the right energy through setting intentions, repeating affirmations and creating vision boards. It relies on the law of attraction and trust in the universe or another form of higher power to provide what we need.
Benefits: It's a very kind and gentle approach, so if something doesn't work out you don't have to beat yourself up because; it wasn't meant to be - you can take the lessons from the experience and move on.
You are very open and notice opportunities that can help you and experience serendipity.
Limitations: Since you are not fully in control of the result, you also don't know if it will happen or not. It's more about trying and hoping it will happen, than making it happen because you are determined.
There are business owners who fall in both categories and are happy and successful. Perhaps you can see yourself in one of them and it works for you - if so, great! Keep going. If neither looks appealing, I'd like to offer an alternative. Let's call it an 'aviator' approach as it's in between "avocado" and "radiator".
The aviator approach is about setting goals that are aligned with your bigger purpose and values; allowing space for serendipity (those unexpected opportunities), but also having a plan and showing up to do the work.
It's about enjoying the journey, not just the destination, and asking for help when it gets hard. It also lets you change course or quit without feeling guilty, as long as the decision isn't based on fear but looking after yourself.
To set an aviator-style goal, first choose a business area to work on. Then spend some time answering the following questions in your notebook (writing is much more effective than just thinking about it):
How do you want to feel about this area?
What is the specific goal that will create this feeling?
Why is this goal important to you?
What routines and habits will take you there?
What might get in the way and how will you address it?
How could you enjoy the journey even more?
How could you make a commitment to this goal?
If you give yourself the time to think about these questions, you'll have a goal that you feel emotionally connected with and committed to, which is a great start to achieving it.
Enjoy the journey and look after your wellbeing!