Goals are great. They provide us a way of knowing if we are succeeding or not. The most influential people in the world set them and use them. However, the vast majority of our goals – even if we achieve them – often leave us feeling like we are still coming up short.
Don’t believe me? Name one goal you set for yourself (knowingly or unknowingly) that once you accomplished it you became fully satisfied without a need for “more.” Maybe it’s a job that you obtained that you thought would be the end all be all, a relationship or a certain status or position within your circle of influence. Also, there are plenty of people who are chasing goals who can’t enjoy life because they haven’t achieved their goal.
Frustrated by our goals
As Neil Anderson points out, anger often signals a blocked goal, anxiety signals an uncertain or unclear goal and depression signals an unrealistic or unachievable goal. When this happens we have to figure out if the problem is the strategy we are using to reach our goal or the goal itself.
I often propose clients establish a primary goal of personal growth. Why? because you can set all types of goals, achieve some of them, and at the end of the day you may or may not have grown personally, positively. What you accomplished through heroic effort doesn’t mean much if it almost killed you, cost you important relationships and you can’t sustain it. Additionally, since it is highly likely that an unrealized goal unchecked will result in anxiety, anger, or depression, your personal performance, influence and well-being are at risk.
If growth is your focus and you establish a process of taking steps to grow daily, you will quickly become the type of the person who is able to accomplish the very types of goals you desire. Additionally, a goal of growth is highly resistant to being blocked, unclear or undoable. At a minimum, we always have control of how we respond to our circumstances. This is a key component of growth.
What does this look like practically?
It looks like creating a routine of growth-focused activity. This means it shows up on your calendar in advance. For me, I mark it as an accomplishment if I learned something new, do something scary or adjust my attitude in response to frustration. This also requires a time of reflection to observe and write down how I am growing. It doesn’t matter if I got the business deal or not that day. When my goals is growth I can still mark a “win.” I then get to start the next day from a place of victory, not defeat.
Improving relational impact
Prioritizing a goal of growth can also improve our professional and personal relationships.
Frequently, the people around us seemingly block our goals. We have goals for how we want our coworkers to think and approach circumstances. We have goals for how we think our spouse or family members should respond to us.
Again, if my goal is growth, I can now look at these instances as opportunities to grow personally. I can be excited that every one of these occurrences is an opportunity for me grow in my ability to respond to others more effectively, improving my relationships.
After all, I cannot control the people around me, I can only control how I respond to the people around me. Understanding this takes significant weight off our shoulders.
When I make the mental shift from needing to be in control of the outcomes related the people around me to a focus on personal growth, I am now free to succeed in reaching my goal because I actually do have the ability to improve the effectiveness of how I treat others. It’s “wins” all around.
What are your goals? How are they serving you?