We are wired towards having goals and more importantly, actually achieving them. The nature of our biochemistry is to set and pursue a target, reach a metric or attain an outcome. I believe the number one reason why people become misaligned with their goals is that they don't make progress towards them.
This may be because of the following reasons:
A) An individual’s sponsoring thoughts or belief and value systems are not in tune with the goal
B) The structure of their goal setting does not provide any incentive. In other words we write down a goal we would like to achieve, but do not setup the 'game plan' to see tangible progress towards it.
Humans are '"teleological beings." In layman’s terms, this simply means we move toward what we see. When we begin to draw a line in the sand and state where we are going specifically and clearly we heighten engagement and boost motivation toward a goal. If the goal seems too far away, is not concise or remains a nice intention over tangible action steps, we don't ignite the ‘chemistry set’, specifically dopamine, responsible for motivation and that feeling of reward and satisfaction. What we must remember is that there is a chemical incentive that acts as that feeling of reward to keep us moving toward our goals when we setup the game plan to goal setting correctly.
Actions That Sabotage Our Game Plan Structure:
- Stating the goal ... with no finish line. This would be like driving with no destination point.
- Setting vague targets. “ I want to lose weight” or “I want to achieve 'more' this year”. This one factor alone will quickly decrease motivation toward any goal we pursue. When we focus on factors that are not tangible or more specifically, not influenceable, we feel powerless towards the goal.
- Keeping the goal in ‘intention mode’ not ‘action mode’. People do this everyday; " we need to organise a meeting to communicate updates around the project" verses " I will write down in my diary to organize a meeting via email today at 3pm and document the new processes in place"
- Not capitalizing on leverage. We can find a million ways to “skin a cat” but what are the 1-2 highly leveraged actions that give you the most bang for your buck. In other words stop picking up the 100’s of pebbles and think about the few key rocks that make the most difference.
- No accountability or reward for hitting the daily, monthly or weekly activities towards the bigger picture. Having a coach or making time for training implementation days actually causes you to lift your standards. And by celebrating your small wins, this helps keep that feeling of ‘winning’ along the journey that can so often carry fruitless days.
- We don't chunk. When we take our vague intention and turn it into clear-cut finish lines, we instantly raise engagement towards any goal. We can see the end in mind. One of the biggest mistakes I see teams and individuals make is that they don't chunk small enough. If the vision or goal is 10 years, we need to get clear on top priorities for this year alone, chunk into 4 quarters and then map out into 12 weekly action plans. This is the power of chunking. Chunking keeps the inspiration of the grandiose by maintaining the focus and execution in what needs to be done today and therefore keeps the wheels spinning in the direction of the future outcomes.
There will always be more goals and vision than there is time to execute them all and too many people make the mistake of not separating the important from the urgent.
The secret to answering this for you personally can be thought of like this:
There are 100's of planes flying in and out of the air everyday, so which plane are air traffic controllers most responsible for in a given airspace? The planes that need to take off or land right now. The secret to “delivering” your most important goals is to focus all your energy and efforts on singular themes for each area of your life. Then ask amongst all the competing goals for each, which one am I most responsible for right now, and requires all of my effort and focus to make happen? Yes, there will be other goals ‘hovering’ about in the air and on the ground, worthy of attention, but like a good air traffic controller, remain composed amidst the whirlwind of distraction and deliver one plane at a time with excellence. Never line up 3,4,5 goals on one runaway and stay disciplined to not get caught up with competing agendas in a given period of time. That’s where complexity and chaos meet.