The Trouble With Goal Setting

It’s all fun and games until there’s roses to smell

goal setting planning small business the chesire cat

Confusions about Planning and Goal setting

I am confused.

I am confused about Planning and Goal setting. I don’t know anymore what’s right and wrong about Planning and Goal Setting. The more I read and the more experience I gain developing Goals and Plans with clients and for myself, the less convinced I am about them.

Goal Setting and Planning

Big Hairy Audacious Goal

I talk to my clients about Big Hairy Audacious Goals and I say to them: A Business without a Plan achieves everything in it, and I tell them that business plans must be ‘live’ documents and that we must forever be Planning, because Planning is a verb. I quote the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, who says to Alice: “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will do”. And I explain that we must have a direction or we won’t know what decisions to make. And I have written articles stating that life is about journeys in which our goals are like our compass course and hence, without clear goals we’re doomed to sail around in circles on those journeys.

And until not long ago I also had myself one of them Big Hairy Audacious Goals myself, yessiree, and I felt I was “Walking the Talk”.

Now before I tell you about my BHAG and what happened with it, I have to give you a bit of the back story.

Getting from here to there

About 12 years ago, I started learning about coaching. At it’s most basic, coaching is the profession of helping people get from where they are now to where they’d like to be.

Typically, the process involves setting a Goal for where the client would like to be by a certain date and then developing a plan for getting there.

A simple but powerful process.

And over the past 12 years, I’ve of course set various Goals for myself. I practice what I preach after all. But none of the Goals I set ever really hit the mark and none of them ever really engaged me at a deep level, and consequently I never really achieved any of those actual Goals.

But 2 years ago, I hit upon a Goal that I thought ticked all the boxes.

I’d turned 5goal setting and planning5 by then and I’d published my third book, about Fun in Business and I decided that I wanted to get the ideas in the book to a wider audience; I wanted to step onto a bigger stage.
And so, I set a Goal to be delivering a TED-Talk about Fun in Business on an international stage before I turned 65.

Here finally was a goal I could get my teeth into. It met all the criteria for effective and engaging goals. It was big, scary, measurable, personal, time framed, inspiring… It ticked all the boxes.

Singing a solo in my choir

And for a while, maybe a year and a half, I started doing all the stuff I needed to do to make the BHAG come true in 10 years’ time. I joined Toastmasters and engaged a speaking coach. I started looking for opportunities to speak more and practice the craft. I took singing lessons and I put up my hand to sing a solo in my choir.

And it was fun, I stepped out of my comfort zone (especially that solo), I learned a lot, I became a better speaker, I honed my message and that’s all been good.

But now, two years later? I’ve lost all interest in becoming a speaker on global stages. It’s simply not important for me anymore. It was a great Goal for a while, but now I’ve let it go.

Other things have become more important.

There are those who read this and know me, who will be quite confused to hear me say I dropped the TED-Talk-Goal. They’ll wonder if I’m ok, if I’m depressed maybe, they’ll wonder if maybe I am afraid of failure, or they’ll wonder that maybe I don’t have what it takes to achieve big Goals.

I feeeeel good (cue James Brown)

To those I’d like to say: Don’t worry, I feel really good about dropping my Goal.

Setting the BHAG was useful for me two years ago. It got me out of a funk and got me moving. It meant I engaged with my business and my life in new ways. It renewed my enthusiasm. It meant I started having more Fun in Business again (boom boom… I couldn’t resist that one).

But now I have no need for that it anymore.

Things that are important to me at the moment (in no particular order) are:

  • My relationship with my wife
  • My grandkids (the girls… They are adorable… Honestly)
  • Doing great work with my clients
  • Being part of my communities
  • Developing my friendships
  • My family in Australia
  • My family in Holland
  • My sourdough starter (it’s my ‘preciousssss’)

So I am without BHAG at the moment. I have smaller goals such as baking a sourdough with more air bubbles in it, and getting my house in Holland ready for AirBnB, having the grandkids stay overnight at our place in the new year, and to ensure that I continue to have Fun in the work I do with my clients. But I really don’t feel the need to achieve anything Big and Hairy in the foreseeable future.

goal setting and planningThe TED-Talk-Goal got me moving a few years ago, when I needed to get moving. But once I got moving, I suddenly noticed the roses along the way and I started smelling them. Who wants to focus on Big Hairy Audacious things if you can smell some roses instead?

Getting off your ass

I think this is what Goal setting should be about.

Goals are meant to be about getting inspired to get off your ass, and about directions to get off your ass into. Goals are not destinations to be reached (well the airholes in my sourdough are pretty important, but other goals? Not so much).

I get it now, achieving a Goal is not the Point, the Point is smelling the roses.

And that gets us back to the beginning of this article and my confusion.

I’m a business coach, I make my living from helping business owners achieve their Goals. It’s quite challenging to tell potential customers to: “Hire me, pay me lots of money and we’ll wonder off into the woods and smell some roses”.

Something tells me that isn’t going to be my most effective marketing strategy yet.

I don’t know exactly where these thoughts are going to lead me. But what I do know is that asking the question is important for me right now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts too. How do you think about Goals? Have you set big Goals, and actually achieved them? And then what? Is life about moving from one Goal to the next?

Thanks for tuning in to my confusion, and I’ll let you know how my sourdough develops from time to time.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

 

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