What makes having goals important at all? Why should we do it when it seems that there is so little over which we have control?
Well, research from as far back as 1968 (Locke) shows that conscious ideas guide our actions - and the act of clearly articulating our goals translates them into conscious ideas. Perhaps you are aware of the quotation from William Hutchinson Murray who said "Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
We may have different types of goals:
- Career goals
- Life goals
- Team or department goals
- Business goals
- Material goals
- Your values: goals that are a manifestation of our clear values are worthy. Any goal that serves your values is worthwhile. If you value Excellence, and you have set yourself the goal to win an excellence award, then that is worthy. If you value Relationships, and you have set yourself the goal of having a fulfilling and happy marriage that, too, is worthwhile. If there is clear line of sight between your values and your goals, you can be sure that you are living in alignment.
- Contribution: goals that contribute to something larger than ourselves are worthy. It is my belief that our purpose in this life is to make a contribution - and that will be different things for different people. If, by working towards the achievement of your goal, you are making a contribution to the lives of other people or the quality of life on this planet (no matter how small that contribution may be) that is worthy.
- Relationships: we are social creatures and the quality of our lives is dependent on the quality and richness of our relationships. If your goals improve the quality of your relationships, you are expending effort and energy on something worthwhile.
- Ambition and success: there is nothing wrong with being ambitious and pursuing success in whatever form that may take for you. I believe the only problem with these pursuits is the abuse of power. Being ambitious and pursuing career success is definitely worthwhile. The more successful you are, the more you can do in the world and the greater the impact you can have - provided it is not at the expense of worthy values, contribution and relationships.
What is the impact of having clear goals?
- they clarify behaviour - everything you do or don't do moves you towards or away from the achievement of your goals;
- they allow for feedback - in terms of how you are progressing and whether you are doing in pursuit of your goals is or is not working;
- they promote happiness - having a sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed every day contributes to our personal happiness, and happy people are more effective in their pursuits, generally;
- they encourage the use of your strengths - and when we use our strengths we feel effective and impactful.
So here are some questions for you?
- What are your goals for this year?
- Which of the characteristics of worthiness do they satisfy?
- If you could only achieve one of your goals this year, which one must it be?