Goals and how to work with them

It's New Year and all the talk at the moment seems to be around sports. Why this should be I have no idea! I am no real sports fan, but it seems to me that success in sport relies on very quick and obvious feedback:

  • you either get the ball into / over the net or you don’t

  • you are faster than everyone else or not

  • you can lift more or execute moves better

  • you get more points than your opponents

even the post activity talk is fairly clear cut about what happened.

I wonder if this simplicity is what makes it so popular? A bit like blockbuster films Bond, Batman, Superman, Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc. the ultimate objective is clear, it’s agreed upon by the characters involved and it’s easy to measure. The hero wins and evil is defeated.

Life, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more complex and perhaps less obvious.

We tend to grow up with an often conflicting set of goals, a wide variety of incompatible objectives, a Team or set of characters around us that are likely to disagree - if and when they talk at all - and most of all no clear set of measures by which we can say “Yes, I have a good life. I am happy.”

This leaves us with a choice. We can say well that’s our lot and we just have to put up with it or we could set out to define our own objectives and goals. Much more importantly we can define the evidence that would let us know that we have achieved our happiness. A tall order? Well, yes if your objectives are defined by other people with their own prejudices. If your goals are totally unattainable and if you decline to take responsibility for your own decisions your life is not yours to own.

It's about taking your own power.

Here is a quick process to see if your goals are your own or if you are trying to please other people by living by their ideas and objectives. Take a piece of paper and write down as many things that you want to have achieved sometime in the next five years.

By September 2021 I want to have:







and so on..........

These might be;

  • done something

  • have been somewhere

  • earned a specific amount of money

  • achieved some promotion

  • found a partner

  • created a family

  • finished with depression

  • stopped drinking or taking drugs

  • be happy

Whatever is missing from your life today and you want to have it, write it down. Now from that list pick the five (5) that are most important to you. The procrastinators amongst you will know that to be successful at failure you have to have too many choices. A list that has so many wants that you’ll never ever fulfil them is ideal as recipe for successful failure.

Assuming that you are reading this because you want a greater degree of success then for each of those five, and only five, goals there are 7 guidelines that define a successful goal.

The seven guidelines or keys for success are:

Write them in a positive way

If you have written down something that you want to stop doing, get away from, loose, not have then ask yourself what you will achieve by this. What will you be when you are not smoking, taking drugs, having unsafe sex, poor? What is it that you really want? Write this down as your new goal.

What is the context for your goal?

Where, with whom and by when do you want this goal? Be specific in these answers i.e. dates, people’s names, place names.

Describe how you will feel when you get there

This is quite simple in that we are building the evidence base for knowing when you will have the goal. The best way to do this is to fantasise that you have already achieved it. As you explore this fantasy of achievement what are you; hearing, seeing, feeling (and where are you feeling it) smelling and tasting around you and within you? Write all these down for each goal.

Are your goals started and kept up by yourself?

This is where you need to be in the place to influence the world to get your goals or to be able to move to that place. How much of your goal(s) is dependent on other people? You may need to refine your goal or come at it from a different angle. You need to be in charge of the changes that will be needed to achieve this. Maybe there are some other changes that need to happen first. What might they be?

What's good about your life that you want to keep?

Do you think that you will lose anything by achieving this goal? Does this matter? For example it’s important that any goal builds upon your skills, experience, your capacity for love etc. and that in the process you gain something that moves you forward. This is part of the motivating force. This means you will need to write down what’s good about your life at the moment.

Is your goal worthwhile?

Here we are looking at the cost of achieving this goal as well as the cost of not achieving it. In simple terms – is it worth it? If it isn’t then what is the point in bothering? How different will you be when you achieve this goal? How is this difference an expression of who you are and who you want to be? If it’s not, then what would be?

What are the positive results of your goal?

Ask yourself just how will all aspects of your life change when you achieve this goal. Could you really live in this new world? What will the differences be? Is this what you really want?

Now, what do you notice about either your thoughts or what you have written down? How has your goal(s) changed? Often this is a process of refinement that may take a few days. For instance if you leave this article and come back to it in a few days you may find that your thoughts and ideas have changed and they may be more focussed. Try it.

Those of you who have worked with me or who have been on any kind of NLP or life training will recognise these steps and I hope will have experienced the success of working through them. The interesting thing is that if you ask someone who is successful in their line work they will be familiar with this line of reasoning. It may be an unconscious process with them and yet they will no doubt be able to recognise how they went through some of those questions.

They might even be a little surprised that things so obvious need to be asked in the first place.

I wonder how many athletes, actors, business people go through anything like the process described above. For some people success can bring on depression when they believe that achievement actually means the end of a life. That's when we need new challenges and new goals.

What happens to our sense of identity when we achieve all those goals?

As we move to success how do we create new goals that take into account these changes and help us to define ourselves anew yet maintain our sense of self? Maybe our goal for this 21st century is to define a new way of life as both individuals and communities.

Try the exercise above and write to me and let me know how you get on.

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