What Is The Biggest Problem With Goals?
Right next to our home is a gym that we patronize. This morning, there are lines to get in and all of this riff-raff is standing in the way of the exercise equipment. When will they be gone?
I bet you know the answer.
We find that the context in how goals are established and used are so diverse and slippery that it is difficult to tell when someone is serious or not.
There is a moment during the Inspired Work Program that always gives me a big quiet chuckle. By the end of the first day, many of our participants have defined a detailed and compelling new vision. Each one is unique and has come together as a result of their rigorous work and the safety we provide to answer some of life’s most important questions. By now, there is a deep sense of rapport within the group.
The question is,
“How would you like to get rid of goals?”
The expressions on everyone’s faces are wonderful.
But, before you block the thought with your best cynicism and contempt, shall I qualify my expertise in working with goal programs?
Before launching Inspired Work in 1990, I was a staffing executive at two multinational firms and one large independent firm in Los Angeles. For twelve years, I was responsible for running the annual, bi-annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goal programs. Additionally, I ran goal programs for corporate, regional, branch, and individual contributors. As time went on, it became clear that something was askew with goal programs.
Regardless of the setting, it turned out that 5-10% of our sales professionals generated 90% of the revenue. Surprisingly, our top producers did not have time to discuss goals. They were closing deals, running to meetings, or taking a call they had been pursuing for months. Many of them simply suggested that I get lost. The remaining salespeople always had carefully crafted goals and projections.
Let me be clear. Properly used, goal programs can really helpful towards realizing our ambitions. But, all too often, the effectiveness of these programs fails because we are fixating on the future. How many of the new people at the gym made New Year’s resolutions that sounded like,
“By the beginning of summer, I will fit into the swimming suit I haven’t worn since I was 22?”
How many snacks, cookies, missed workouts are available when we depend on a future that is over 100 days away?
I am actually engaged in a physical fitness program. The only one that ever worked before was called Body for Life. When my gym signed us up, we were instructed to come back wearing the smallest swimsuit possible. Mine was under the post-holiday caftan. Then, I was ordered to disrobe and stand in front of a photographer. They instructed me to do serious bodybuilder poses from the front, side, and rear. I had just renamed that portion of my anatomy, “Sunblock.” Next, these images were to be pasted on the door of our refrigerator. There were many times where I awoke in the middle of the night, craving a snack. But, when I switched on the kitchen lights, there I was, looking like it was my first day at Overeater’s Anonymous, except with no clothes.
The only way I have ever been successful with anything that requires behavioral change and discomfort is, to be honest, and keep everything related to the change in a 24-hour period. Go beyond that and there is just too much misbehavior that can be swept under the carpet with six-months to finish the outcome.
When I began questioning goal programs, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the hottest real estate marketing we had ever seen in Los Angeles. Values were skyrocketing and the Platinum Triangle, which included such markets as Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Malibu was producing 20% increases in one month. The Times story was all about the biggest producers in the early 90s such as Jeff Hyland, Gail Wilson, Mike Glickman, Jon Douglas, and Rick Hilton. They were making fortunes. But, there it was the seedy truth. Wedged in a little corner of the story, the average income for real estate agents was disclosed. The average in the Platinum Triangle was $18,000/a-year.
When we distinguish the differences between goals and commitment, we send everyone home with a “take the self-exam” exercise. We simply want them to return with their most important commitment in the morning.
Most everyone accomplishes what they bring back.
Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a client and she was wondering if she ought to go back to school before making a big and exciting life as well as a career transition. I explored her thoughts and all of it was anxiety-based rather than using hardcore truth. So, I told her my own story. When I realized that Inspired Work would become my life’s work, I started telling members of my tribe. There was one friend, in particular, who became very aggressive about my going back to school to get the right degree. As I progressed, the number of calls and admonishments grew until one day, I stopped her and said, “The need for what I am doing is right here and right now. Every day, people suffer because they cannot find the means to elevate themselves from mediocre to extraordinary relationships with their work.” At first, I felt like a fraud. But, I find that most everyone who changes their life feels that way for a bit. When we are committed, we include discomfort and recognize that if the commitment is that important we are probably going to experience fear. When someone has a commitment and sets it aside because they want to get rid of fear first, this is just one of many ways we keep ourselves from accomplishing what we really want.
Returning to my client, I pointed out that she had achieved executive leadership with some of the country’s most prestigious organizations and that her resume is filled with mind-boggling accomplishments. I brought up the fear of presenting her new vision to others and the discomfort that would come with it, especially in gathering enough attention and support from the world around her to become successful. We came to the conclusion that was exactly the greatest area of discomfort.
We can work through this!
Goals can occupy page after page of entries. Most people can only manage 2-3 commitments at a time.
If you want to truly change your life or to grow in unexpected and surprising ways, pick something that is so perfectly in alignment with you and that is so important that you would live as if your hair is on fire.
Go there and you will find the right people want to help you.
Show up and be willing to deal with the feelings.
Wake-up and take action rather than walling action away by substituting it with comfort.
Every year, I am gifted with becoming close to gifted business and community leaders, artists and craftsmen, scientists, authors, new entrepreneurs, and people who need help with scaling the growth in their business. I work with people who have finally realized it is time to stop reacting to external change and to sign up for changing their own lives.
Some people have told me that if they try this, their lives could be turned upside down. To this, we reply, “Well perhaps it is time to turn your life upside down.”
We are living in one of the most remarkable times in history. For the first time, we are finding that technology is releasing us from mind-numbing and monotonous forms of work. There has never been a time that demands more from us and gives more back. Some of us need a little time and love to recover from decades of tasks. But, the biggest prize of all is to find and become successful in the work that we love, the work that speaks to our hearts.
In the past few years, my purpose has changed as well. We are preparing for changes that will put everything that we’ve done and all that I have done on the line. We believe that much of our turmoil is due to underemployment and from too many people at a loss in how they will make a great living in the arriving future of work.
When this began, a client called me. She had made enormous changes in her life and work. She has always displayed a brand of gratitude towards us that only makes us more grateful for her. She asked me, “Would you live to have Kathryn Graham’s desk from the Washington Post?” My client was aware that Kathryn is one of my courage role models. Here is someone whose husband ran the paper and when he committed suicide in their home, she found the courage to step forward and place the entire family business on the line for the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. She didn’t wait for comfort. She did what was right for her, her family, their employees, and for our country.
Step forward and find your best purpose. Perhaps it is time to define what you were born to do. The answer might stop the games we often play on ourselves, the waste of time we give to work that doesn’t grow anything at all and wake up to a world that needs everything that we have got.
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