• The Why, The What, The How.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting goal setting can’t work, only that it doesn’t much of the time. I’m also not suggesting we should ditch goal setting. I’m not convinced we could, even if we wanted to.

    As humans, the process of setting goals is almost unavoidable.

    The much-missed  Lou Tice, in his book Personal Coaching for Results opens with this: “Deeply rooted within our heart of hearts is the longing to grow and bloom, to express our creative, life-affirming innermost nature…”

    Later in his book, Lou goes on to describe human beings as teleological. (This is a word I love, and ever since I learned it I’ve been sprinkling it into conversations regularly just because it rolls so nicely off the tongue.) Lou goes on to define ‘teleological’ by saying “We think in terms of purpose and we’re naturally goal oriented. Having a teleological nature means that in order for us to change and grow, we need something tugging at us from the future, something to – quite literally – look forward to.”

    Ah, that tugging. So familiar.  Especially for those of us who are also multipreneurs. As such, we know the seductive pull of new ideas, opportunities and possibilities. It is irresistibly delicious. Also – good to know – part of our human nature. Thanks, Lou.


    The Big Prize

    So having said this, why do I say that goalsetting doesn’t work?  If it is so important to us and an intrinsic part of our human nature what makes it so difficult?

    Part of it has to do with getting started. This can be tough, because if we’re not moving forward, we lack momentum and our systems begin to shut down. The law of inertia comes into play. You know, the one where an object at rest tends to stay at rest. But what keeps us resting?

    Most goalsetting fails because we don’t accurately identify our ‘why’. In order for us to get traction on goals, they have to matter.  We must answer the question: Why is this important to achieve?

    Goals can’t just matter on the surface. We need goals that offer a compelling vision of the future – a Big Prize.  We need to identify what it is we are truly after. What is the big difference you’re trying to make in the world?  Or for that matter, what difference are you making in your workplace, family life or business? This is identifying the why.

    The why should give you goosebumps. It should lay in your heart of hearts in that deeply rooted longing Lou refers to. When you get into that territory, you are starting to get into the territory of goals that matter.

    This is important, because this vision is what will motivate you to move and carry you forward. You will have trouble getting started. Once you do get started, you will run into obstacles. You will get tired, you will want to change direction, you will see something shiny and bright on the horizon that you want to chase. Being clear about the Big Prize will keep you on track.

    Space to Dream

    Goalsetting also requires time. In order to connect to our deeper longing, we must give ourselves space to dream.  Before we can manifest what we want in consensus reality, we must devote time to dreaming.

    I spent a recent weekend with flipcharts and markers covering the office walls with yellow sticky notes. I’m pretty clear about my ‘why’, so the next step was dreaming up all of the possibilities for the ‘what’.  What does the business need to do in the upcoming year to reach the Big Prize?

    The process was exhilarating, and also a little overwhelming. As mentioned, multiprenuers have no shortage of ideas and I’m fairly classic in this regard. Once I captured all the ideas and possibilities and corralled them into categories, I sat back to reflect. As I reflected, panic set in.

    This brings me to the second reason why goalsetting fails. We get overwhelmed. And we don’t prioritize. While I felt excited and goosebumpy about all the possibilities prettily arrayed on yellow sticky notes on my wall, I was also terrified. How could I possibly accomplish all this?

    With so much looming, it is waaaay easier to do nothing than to try to figure out which of the multitude of ‘somethings’ to attack. Sound familiar?

    At this point, the typical approach is to begin setting priorities. Decide what you really want to do and then cross the other things off the list – (not this year, bub) – tear down the stickies, and get rigorous and strategic about what is going to move you the farthest the fastest.

    This method can work, and it’s an important part of the process, BUT, and this is a very big but, it’s another way that goalsetting can fail. Why?

    It doesn’t take into account our very human tendency to spend time primarily on those things we really want to do. Intellectually, you might think you really want to set and achieve big audacious goals for yourself but if the ‘doing’ of it doesn’t give you pleasure, if you’re not being who you want to be while you’re in the process of implementing the goal, you’re simply not going to take action.

    The big question here is: What are your terms?


    Setting your Terms:

    Setting your terms means identifying all the criteria required in order for you to say a wholehearted YES to a project or activity I use the word wholehearted here very deliberately. Wholeheartedness is what will give you the energy needed to be able to fully engage in moving your goals forward.

    Wholeheartedness is the state that creates magic.

    When you say a wholehearted yes to a goal, project or plan, the doing becomes simple, because you are being who you want to be while doing it. This is all about enjoying the process.

    An example of my terms for the year include:

    • Honours my creativity
    • Honours my experience and knowledge
    • Creates an opportunity for shared learning and growth
    • Builds/serves community
    • Includes clear intentions and expectations
    • Is within my full integrity
    • Is fully supported
    • Is fun
    • Allows space to dream and rest

    Remember, typically we’re building our new goals onto the already existing structure of plans, activities and priorities in our lives. We’re creating a roadmap for some kind of change and we need to be fully intentional about how we want to be on the trip.

    The terms are the framework for how we travel from here to the desired future and become a guide as we sort through and identify priorities.

    The questions become quite simple: Do the goals meet my terms?

    Prioritize the dreaming based on the wholehearted yes. Meet your terms.

    Know what you want, and more importantly why you want it. Set the terms for how you will be in the process and the good news is that even if you don’t achieve all the goals you set, you’ll have a good time trying.

    What is one goal that lays on your heart for the upcoming year? Post it here. I’d love to dream with you. 


    I’ll even go first: To build/sustain two-three great collaborations in 2015


    Thank you for this! My first one is to learn to set manageable goals that don't freak me out...so your information here will help with that. Another one is to grow through sharing my passions, also through collaborative ventures.


    Thanks Tracey - not sure if you are familiar with the SMART goals framework: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely -- its a great framework once you start diving into the details.


    Came up with some good material at the Soulsetting workshop, but it needs more work before it fits. Great article for digging in and mucking about in the juicy bits.


    Thanks Shel - definitely important to be reflective when crafting our goals - a good goal in itself! We’ll be picking up in the January workshop where we left off in the November workshop - as you put it - getting into the ‘juicy bits’ - where the magic happens....


    I am 'YES' 'YES' for the word 'wholeheartedly'. Yup that is it. Or as I like to describe it in my thoughts, words and deeds as being 'all in'. my way & means....
    Once I committed myself to my pastime, my projects, my work (modern quilting, learning, workshops, and my guild) with an 'ALL IN' attitude. It went beyond what words could express - I have simply been able to tie all my important bits together. And it all has great meaning for me, most importantly that it is a way and means of attaining ..... whatever .... I can't put it into words.


    Thanks Darlene - this is it I think - the attainment or *being* of that elusive something. Danielle Laporte’s work talks about Core Desired Feelings - building the goals, dreams on those. My experience is that when we get very close to our souls’s longing or purpose the naming becomes very difficult. Being wholehearted gets us there and also increases our everyday happiness. We get in the zone or flow of who we truly are.


    Thanks for this post, Vicki. It's both timely and inspiring. Speaking of timing, one of my goals for 2015 is to up my concentration when I'm writing. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Flow suggests timing your work in 20 minute segments, (I use a kitchen timer with a ding) then take a break. This lessens the 'overwhelm' factor and breaks down the large goals into achievable segments.


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    Thanks Annette - so happy that the post resonated for you, and I am a big fan of ‘Flow'. It sits beside my desk in fact! I love what you describe as a strategy for dealing with overwhelm - here’s to achievable!


    Great article, Vicki. I have heard for years, if you don't do ALL your goals in the beginning of the year, you will have failure. So I end up never making goals, or jumping into the human conditioning of big goals and then ending up not enjoying myself, and then loose enthusiasm. What I have found is when I just get in quiet and listen to my soul, the next step comes with ease, most of the time. You are right in 'setting one's terms'. I agree. Who ever said our life was supposed to be on others terms. Who made the word 'goal' up anyways. I like to use another word 'insights'. What are the insights I am witnessing for my future. Happy New Year oxox