The existing way of setting goals sets us up for either failure or a lack of fulfilment. Or both.

Goal setting is binary

You either succeed in meeting your goals, or you fail. And even if you meet them, that can lead to a lack of fulfilment. That can come from two sources. Firstly, fulfilment is short lived. Dr Tal Ben-Shahar calls this the arrival fallacy. This is the belief that attaining a particular goal will lead to long term happiness. Examples include becoming wealthy will create happiness, or that happiness comes from finding the perfect relationship, or that more stuff makes you feel more fulfilled. There have been plenty of studies on the lasting benefit of a salary rise. It’s commonly no more than two months before the benefit wears off, because by then the increased salary is perceived by the recipient as the new normal.

Social media success stories

We only share successes on social media, not failures. So, in looking at our Facebook or LinkedIn connections, we measure ourselves against thousands of apparently successful people, and feel that we are coming up short.

We are allowing ourselves to be judged by other people’s perceptions of what we ought to be.

And that in itself, leads to continual frustration as our goals become ever more unattainable. We can’t be happy if we live by other people’s standards.

We can change our view of goals

Living species are goal orientated. We have to accept that. But we can change our relationship with goals and how we manage them and therefore ourselves.

We can start with the language. Goals drives us forward, we set out to achieve goals, or we make progress towards a goal. These are words of orientation and rely on a sense of movement. Whilst this may not be wrong, we may not necessarily be moving in the right direction.

These doing words have power and meaning and are essentially linear. Our self-talk is often the most negative talk we ever experience, and we may have to guard against how we talk to ourselves about what we want and how we go about getting it.

Linear methods

We also must recognise that these linear methods of describing goals are essentially fragile. Any small outside interference can knock you off course, and suddenly you have failed to meet your goals. That is demoralising at best and can be very damaging to our sense of self.

It’s very easy for us to describe things in these linear ways. Worryingly, it doesn’t take much thought. If we took a little more time, we could use better ways of describing what we want which will help us to achieve our goals easier. We have to recognise that life is not linear. We can plan it, we can work out all the workflows and the processes, but we also must accept that unexpected consequences will happen, even with the best of decisions. We need a method that will allow us to move in the general direction that we want to move, without us having to come to a grinding halt, with a sense of failure.

Flexibility is key

When we work with clients particularly on their strategy, we believe in building a strategy model which is agile, flexible and resilient. We know that things will change, and we want a model that can flex with the changes yet keep the overall vector, that is speed and direction.

We do this through a great many questions, picking away at the language to remove self-imposed limitations. We try to find words that are meaningful and understandable for our clients, to help them build flexible solutions.

In essence, we are creating goals which are cyclical. It needs both the will and the way.

“The will” is the motivation, and if we can find solutions which show regular progress without the worry of a crash and burn linear approach, then motivation is maintained. “The way” is the flexible and resilient solution which brings lasting benefits.

Complexity has its uses

We are after all, dealing with complex systems. Not complicated ones. A complicated system is predictable. No matter how many steps there are, if you follow them the same way every time you get the same result. A complex system has added uncertainties. We have to recognise that life is full of uncertainties and find a method of accommodating them.

There is a French word, bricolage. It roughly means making small changes in an attempt to improve. In other words, we try by means of small experiments to see whether our solutions have merit, and we make small changes to either build on the results or find a different experiment.

Regular feedback

It creates a feedback loop, and these are considered the theoretical cornerstone of most modern theories of learning and metacognition. It works with our brains which is a giant perception action cycle with circular information between self and environment, constantly conveying signals that should be amplified, reduced, or stopped.

It seems sensible, even self-evident, to act like we work as human beings, rather than an artificial construct based on last century corporate methods.

Success follows from these small, regular tweaks. The concept of “with one bound I will be free” is great in theory, and that is where it should stay. We don’t have seven league boots. It doesn’t work.

Creating these growth loops, and regularly revisiting what works and what doesn’t, what changes have occurred in the environment that need to be built into the methodology, and which can be removed, leads to more consistent achievement and much greater fulfilment.

How we can help you

We are all about helping you achieve the best life-work (not work-life) balance for you. We do what you need to keep you on the right side of the taxman, answer all your questions, and make helpful suggestions. Always recognising that your business is a tool for you, not an end. We help you plan to live your best life for longer. Freedom and independence are the keys to success, so book a free Business Energizer session with us to find out how to achieve it.