Why I Don’t Believe in Goal-Setting
Change and the safety of the harbour
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At some stage in your life as a business owner, I imagine you would have been told by a business adviser or guru of some kind, that to get ahead in business you must set Goals, right? Of course you have, it is one of the foundations of the personal and business development world. Most gurus and coaches will tell you so.
But I don’t. I don’t believe in Goal setting anymore, at least not in the way we normally think of goals.
This is what I believe about Goals:
Goal-setting is about setting a course on a Journey of Change; Goals are never about actual places to get to.
You see, I work with people who want change in their business and their life. Change is a topic I am passionate about.
Of course, most of us want change at different stages in our lives, but most of us would actually prefer to go shopping for change. We’d much prefer if we could just hand over some cash to someone and simply buy a new business and a new life.
We buy the fancy slick business development programs from the fancy slick marketing companies that promise to change our businesses and our lives. $10,000; $20,000; $50,000; Who cares? It’s cheap at any price if it buys you a new business and a new life.
But here’s my issue with that approach to change:
“If you want something you’ve never had before… You’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before”
That means that you personally have to change before anything else can ever change.
And so… If you want your business and your life to be something different, you can not go out and buy it, any more than you can go out and buy a new “YOU”. You have to go and find a new “You”
And the only place to find a new “You” is on a Journey. Journeys are where we change ourselves and create change around us in the process
And Goals are really important on the journeys of change, but only to help us set the direction on our journey.
A new client
A new client told me the other day that he’d lost his enthusiasm in his business. Some years ago he’d set himself a Goal to pay off his home, but the day after he paid it off, he found that life just continued.
So he thought he should make his next Goal to buy an investment property. And the day after paying it off, he found that life just continued. And so my client wondered: What Next?
I think it was Robert Johnson, the poet, who said when asked about life: “All I know about life is 3 words: It Goes On”
Life does just “Go On”, that’s the Journey and that’s the adventure; the Journey is where you’ll find the new “You” and where you create the Change.
Skydiving and ships
It’s a bit like skydiving. Skydiving is not about getting to the ground. It’s about the journey from the plane to the ground. When you get on the ground, it’s all over, it’s all a memory.
Memories are fun but they don’t change you. “You” are changed on the way down.
(Unless your parachute doesn’t open of course. In which case you will experience radical personal transformation right at the point of landing)
I’m an old romantic at heart and I always like to think about ships, harbours and ocean voyages. You can be nice and safe on a ship in the harbour, but change won’t ever happen in the safety of the harbour. Nothing will happen until you push off, out of the safety of the harbour. Until you get out onto the ocean, set a course and start rowing for the horizon.
And that, incidentally is where Goals come in. Your Goal is your compass course: You’re heading East North East, until you come upon a reef and then you adjust your course to continue the voyage.
Will it get uncomfortable out on the ocean?
Of course it does, from time to time.
I’ve actually been on a few ocean voyages myself and it always gets uncomfortable and it always gets a little scary and there is always something unexpected that happens. And when it does you have to adjust your course to be able to continue the journey.
Sniff the change
And the journey must always continue if we want to be excited, nourished and rewarded by our careers, our businesses, our relationships, and our lives. Sadly though, we often feel stuck in our life, because we spend too much of it in the harbour.
We might poke our nose out the Heads every now and then on a sunny, calm sunday morning. It feels exciting out the Heads and we get a sniff of what’s out there and we can see the horizon and we imagine what it might be like to keep going, but most of the time we just turn back after lunch.
We live too much of our lives in the safety of the harbour, and change is mostly something we dream about.
It doesn’t have to be like that though.
There is a simple trick that will make it so much easier for you to push off and so much easier for you to stay the course.
It’s an ancient secret, lost in the mists of time and it’s called: Asking for help.
Find someone you trust and who has your best interest at heart and ask them to help you to get out there and stay out there.
Not because you need help to push off or to row; you can to do that perfectly well yourself.
You want someone beside you:
- Who can help you set a powerful course.
- Who can recognise the danger signs, the building storms, the submerged reefs… adjust the course and keep the ship safe.
- Who will make sure you don’t row around in circles and that you don’t row back to shore.
- Who can tell you when to row and row hard and when to let the wind push you for a while.
(By the way: Those are the most important roles I perform for my clients every day as a business coach, but a trusted friend, or mentor can step into the same role for you as well.)
And then, what’s at the end of the journey? Will you achieve your Goals?
Remember: The Goal is just a direction, the next harbour is just another stage in the journey and nothing will change in that harbour either.
It Goes On … It’s really important to recognise that… It Goes On… It doesn’t arrive in a nice package, with a price tag and shiny wrapping. You can not buy it.
So if you’d like your life to be different than it has been until now:
Sit down with someone you trust and explore with him or her if you are ready to get out there and if they’re prepared to come on the adventure with you….
Push off from the shore, get out onto the ocean set a course and start rowing.
And above all
There is no other way… I promise you
Oh… and don’t forget…be sure to offer to help someone else on their journey too, of course.