4. SETTING OBJECTIVES FOR YOURSELF CAN BE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE
Introduction: why set objectives?
Setting objectives for yourself can be a stimulating exercise. Getting somewhere where you actually want to go is very motivating. Especially if it is unlikely that you will reach your goal without directing your energies in a specific way. But the objectives need to be the right ones otherwise we will only succeed in creating frustration, when no objective will ever be set again (the new year situation for many people)!
The reason why we come to set objectives for ourselves has to do with being unhappy with some aspect of our life. Unless we are (a little) dissatisfied we will always be able to convince ourselves that we can live with the status quo. Just as important is that our environment (home and business) shares this dissatisfaction, or need, and will support any move to improve the situation. So the process can be deeply psychological!
As you get older it tends to get harder to subject yourself to objectives, which confirms the dissatisfaction point. Why should you now change after living with your current self for such a long time. Your environment is usually even less happy with change because, if it wasn’t, then action would already have been taken! But, nonetheless, older people could still benefit (delaying dementia, for example) from continuing to work towards new things.
Vision and method: practical ways to start
Goals always require a mental picture first and only later will they be given a more physical appearance in ‘flesh and blood’ so to speak. You need to see yourself, as clearly as possible in your new situation. There are two ways you could start.
Draw up a mindmap
Mindmaps were created by Tony Buzan, a Canadian, who wrote several books on the subject. They can take a very simple form but usually start with an image created in the middle of a clean sheet of paper. Maybe the image is of a dissatisfied you or, alternatively, a vision of you in your ‘new place’. Draw lines from this centre, each reflecting a real need (what?) such as wanting more money, a better education, a sporting achievement, a new job, a partner etc. You should allow your imagination to do its work by only writing things down when they come to mind and after you have had time to toss them around. Once the main branches have been constructed, and as many as possible, should you start with the smaller sub-branches, using them to define the why? and the how? The who? was already at the centre! One of the advantages of mindmaps is that, in the beginning, no search for an overall order is necessary. This can be left until later.
Construct a balanced scorecard
Two Americans, Kaplan and Norton tackled the subject of finding suitable objectives for businesses. But the method can be just as easily applied to individuals. The model consists of four adjacent squares, making a bigger square, each designed to create a separate focus for financial, personal, commercial and service activities. The balance refers to achieving a spread across different areas by filling in objectives, with as much specification as possible, in each of the squares. A more or less equal number of objectives per square is the aim.
Criteria which apply to objectives: take a relaxed approach
Much has been written about the criteria which objectives should satisfy such as being SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and timed). But there are many more: for example PURE (positive, understood, relevant and ethical and CLEAR (challenging, legal, environmentally sound, appropriate and recorded). However, I am in favour of a more relaxed approach otherwise we may never get started.
You might like to bear the following in mind:
Goals sometimes need to be set within a range (high, low) to encourage both response to the challenge but also to increase attainability.
Goals which are too narrowly focused on performance can diminish how much we are willing to risk in the service of learning.
Objectives should be pursued in a fulfilling manner. The journey is often just as important as reaching the destination. ‘Work’ and ‘personal’ objectives can often be met at the same time.
Get the balance right between rigidly determining the route to the goal and leaving room for flexibility.
Believe in yourself and that you, by reaching your objectives, can make a difference to the world (even if this has not been required of you).
When planning to reach objectives spend just as much attention on not doing the things which could ultimately prove to be obstacles, except if you are a politician!
And don’t hesitate to change your objectives if they do not fit the bill anymore or are even just no longer attainable.
To conclude with Suzy Welch and an exercise
Suzy Welch uses a 10-10-10 method which is actually quite handy when (re)appraising your objectives. How do your aims look in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years, the emphasis being placed on the latter. But you have to take the first two also into account, because this is what others notice first. This can be a major obstacle, also because you often need their help and their patience. Long- term objectives have to survive short-term problems. Short-term objectives can turn out to be the wrong route to the longer term. This is where vision, judgement, wisdom and conviction begin to play a role.
I would encourage you to draw up some objectives for yourself. Then use a mindmap to give each of your chosen objectives more body, or help you to discover if you have made sensible choices