As a professional goal setter and expert list maker, I've perfected the art of deluding myself that I was serious about accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. I've come to realize that each year, as the year ends and I turn my eyes toward new beginnings, I have to get real about this goal-setting process if I want it to result in positive outcomes. Following is my personal framework, recorded here, not only for those who go through this exercise each year, but to serve as a reminder for myself as well; a "gut-level, get real guide to goal setting":
- Don't B.S. yourself: you do what you want to do. Period. You don't have time for it because you won't make time for it. There is only one person keeping you from doing what you want to do: you.
- To do something new (to write that book, to lose weight, to start that business, to complete that project) you have got to do one of two things: either give up something or lose sleep.
- If your input exceeds your output your upkeep will be your downfall. Try (try!) to create as much (or more) than you consume. If you are not careful, you'll be a consumer 98% of the time and a creator 2% of the time. Be offensive about your time: write, draw, speak, sell, whatever you do, make sure you don't get sucked into the life drain of constant consumption.
- For years we battled cancer with two of our children. Think I gave a
rip about personal development? I had one goal: help them survive. It was far more than I could handle. Sometimes, your goal setting is set for you and it's the only goal you need to concentrate on.
- Check your pulse. Put two fingers on your wrist and pray (it's the best prayer posture I know). Thank God that you can still accomplish what you want to accomplish. Stop whining about your life and get to work.
- Screw balance: I've never met a balanced person in my life, or if I did, they were the most boring human beings I've ever known. Study the masters in any field and you'll realize they were almost all off-kilter. Stop trying to be all things to everyone, there's no such thing as a balanced life. The sooner you'll realize this, the better off you'll be. Be imbalanced. Be so passionate about one thing that people think you are nuts.
- You don't need inspiration, you need perspiration. Edison quoted his famous personal motto in three different ways. We're familiar with "genius is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration", he also said "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration", but my favorite was his retort: "Bah! Genius is not inspired. Inspiration is perspiration."
- Don't like goal setting? Drop it. Don't set goals. Goal setting is too often a practice for losers who think they are accomplishing something by talking. Goal setting can be to the individual what meetings are to the corporate world: while your busy talking about it, others are out doing it. Cultivate passion, forget the list.
- If you insist on a list, create a stop doing list - make a list of things you'll stop doing so you can make room for things you need to do.
- Learn to let disappointment do its work. Disappointment can be a refining fire. Use it to your advantage. Let it do its mental work. Sometimes it will take you to the brink of despair. Recognize where that line of despair is so you'll know not to cross it. At times, your project will suck. You won't fulfill all your goals. You will doubt your sanity. You will, eventually, get it right between the eyes. You won't see it coming. Learn to duck and weave and if you're not agile enough, be a resilient fool who stands back up for more. Recognize that you're going to screw up. You are going to fall off the wagon. You are going to abandon your goals. You are going to get easily distracted. Get back on the horse ... again ... and again ... and again ... and again ... and again ... and again ... and again ...
- Lower your standard. I serve on a committee that inherited goals from the previous committee. The goals looked good on paper but were lofty and unrealistic; as you might expect, nothing got done. We set the bar low because we actually wanted to accomplish something. What we wanted to accomplish superceded a perfunctory meeting about goal setting. The goals don't look as good but we'll actually make something happen.
- Observe through the lens of a framework, not a schedule. This one tripped me up for years. Ever told this lie to yourself? "I'm going to get up every morning at --:-- AM". I have. Just did it a few months ago (again - need therapy). One full week at 4:30 AM. Got a lot done. Crashed the following week. Decided to still get a lot done despite the "failure" of getting up at 4:30 AM. Live "in the moment" better in 2010, work within the given framework of living.
- Only certain people matter. In a world filled with disingenuous connections, i.e., "friending" and other loosely defined relationships, it's easy to overlook the opinions of the most important people in your life. It's not that I'm opposed to what's happening in social media (you should already know I'm a big fan of social networking), it's just too easy to get sidetracked by the opinions of people who don't matter and (worse) to not give enough weight to the opinions of people who really do matter. Robert Frost once said,"People who read me seem to be divided into four groups: twenty-five percent like me for the right reasons; twenty-five percent like me for the wrong reasons; twenty-five percent hate me for the wrong reasons; twenty-five percent hate me for the right reasons. It's that last twenty-five percent that worries me." Frost recognized that those in the last twenty-five percent might be right about something ...
- Open your eyes. Look hard at yourself. Sometimes, you don't lack planning, you don't lack motivation, you lack honesty: do you really want to do what you claim you want to do? Most times, when I miss the mark, it is because I lacked desire not focus. Get gut-wrenching critical about your desires.
Seth Godin (and friends) released a free eBook recently that ripped through the social stratosphere faster than a fresh Tiger Woods rumor (well, almost as fast). The eBook was loaded with weblebrities of major importance and had all the earmarks of yet another bloated multi-page doc with tawdry graphics and insipid colloquialisms. The only problem was ... it was neither tawdry nor insipid (and it was for a good cause). It was (indeed) a weighty tome but one that you could easily digest and it was filled with practical advice. It's a great place to start to sit down and think about what you want to accomplish in 2010; the eBook, "What Matters Now" is here.
Here's to your 2010 as a year of realistic expectations - fulfilled.