Are You Uncomfortable Setting Goals for Yourself?

I used to be. I hated it. I ran from it like you run from an over due bill! I was one of those Ready, Shoot, Aim people. I used set my goals on the run.

An eighty percent success rate used to be good enough for me.

Every self improvement class I took or talk I heard always began with the exhortation that you will not land in the pantheon of the great and powerful without setting goals.

“So let’s begin by writing your goal for this course….”

“I don’t have one. I was hoping you’d give me a bit of guidance. If I knew what I needed to do why in the hell would I waste invest my time being here!”

That just seemed way to overwhelming especially for a recovering perfectionist! I mean, the goal had to be absitiley and posilutley perfect right from the get go or it didn’t have meaning to me.

It was maddening.

Do you know many of us stumble right out of the gate?

It’s why gym’s and fitness clubs are a great business to invest in. We agree to pay for a year, show up for maybe three weeks, and the owner vacations in Cabo San Lucas while we are trying to figure out what went wrong. We arrive, very quickly I might add, at the conclusion that we are failures and being skinny, healthy, happy and buff ain’t for us. Sigh.

Can I share something? It’s not us. Really it ain’t.

It’s our perception of things.

I walk into the gym and here is what I see:

People who resemble the Incredible Hulk doing all sorts of things that would cause me to rupture and hemorrhage to death if I even thought of trying them. Sweating, grunting, high fiving each other. Of course, they all just jumped off the pages of Vanity Fair or GQ and wear designer work out gear.

I take a quick look at me

Flabby, bald, overweight, old, straight from the cover of Mad Magazine

Okay I’ll stop. I’m depressing myself.

Wanna know something else?

Neither one of those scenarios are 100% accurate.

It’s a mindset issue. I set a goal of being healthy and happy and full of activity for the upcoming year and here I am – I’ve been there for ten minutes and I’m already contemplating my exit strategy.

But here’s the thing. Most of the time we set a goal that shoots way above what we can accomplish in the time frame we set and we fall short because we’re don’t know what living in that neck of the woods means, or feels or how we’re supposed to act once we get there. Besides we have our dear friend the internet, convincing us that the click of a mouse or pointer will send us on our way to sensual Nirvana, all for twelve easy payments of $397 dollars!

But then, like magic,after stubbing my toe and bumping my head more often then I care to admit I saw the problem.

When I was a production supervisor I was given the task of managing a department that was under performing. One of the first laws of production management is to reach a set standard. That means you paid the bills. Anything above it is profit. Anything below it is, well it’s not good, lol. Standard is often defined as 70% of maximum capacity. My department was running roughly at 50%. Every morning we were told to walk around with the previous days production report and advise our machine operators whether they made the standard or not. This wasn’t a lot of fun because I can tell you that if you suggest I’m incapable of doing my job every day of the week, I’m going to give you all sorts of reasons as to why it ain’t my fault.

Know what I mean Vern?

I came up with a plan. I took a huge risk.

Remember that the obstacle to reaching our goals is a matter of perception. I started generating a report that took the operation towards the desired standard in incremental steps. If you currently operated at 55% of standard I’d ask you to reach 60% in a months time. I’d ask you how you could do that. I’d ask you to involve other people. In other words I made it a goal you could see and reach and personalize.

Each step of the way, I’d sit down with you and review each weeks performance. If you didn’t hit your target we’d talk about why. It might have been a material problem or a mechanical problem and after putting this practice into place for a couple months my machine operators opened up and added a “I had a bad week. It will be better this week.”

(I think that’s called being human.)

In a years time most of the operators were making standard consistently. Here’s why:

  • I involved them in setting a reachable goal. A goal they felt comfortable with.
  • I removed some of the pressure. Raising the standard slightly each month made the machine operator relax and be more attentive to obstacles. They felt a sense of accomplishment as they saw positive progress.
  • I allowed them responsibility for reaching the goal. I let them be their own advocate for correcting problems that prevented them from reaching the goal.

I could go on and on…………..

But the coolest thing was they started working together, communicating and listening. Those 40 or so people taught me a valuable lesson. They taught me to listen before I reacted. They taught me to break things down in chunks I could handle at the time. They taught me to live in the here and now and look what I could do to effect small changes that added up to a large change over time.

They taught me to look at progress and not perfection.

That, believe it or not, was in 1984. Since then I have a pretty good track record of reaching my goals. (There are a few that kinda sorta fell of the rails but that’s another story for another time.) I am confident that when I set a goal I’ll reach it because here is the first question I ask myself when I decide to set a goals.

What has to happen tomorrow today for me to begin the journey towards reaching my goal?”

One of my favorite movies of all time is What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus. Dreyfus is a therapist who wrote a book called Baby Steps.

I’ve embraced that practice of taking baby steps in my life and my business. It’s all about progress not perfection. It’s about sitting down and deciding that the here and now is the here and now and running full tilt into the obstacle in front of me is only going to give me a concussion.

Baby steps, Baby steps.

******************************************************************************

Check out last weeks blog. It was a segway into what I wrote this week. It’s called Living In The Here and Now

See you next week.

Namaste

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