When Goal Setting Misses the Point – Transforming How We Get Things Done
It’s the beginning of a new year, traditionally a time for goal setting and resolutions. Especially in the leadership and coaching world, one of the most common questions being asked right now is, “What are your goals for 2013?” After all, leadership and coaching is about accomplishing things, right? And so we’ve been taught to set worthy goals and then stick with them.
However, there is a much bigger question we need to be asking first, and that is “What is your vision for 2013?”
We talk a lot about goals in our culture and not enough about vision. Vision is the big-picture view. Vision provides a sense of direction. It defines the journey. Inside the vision is a potential waiting to unfold. In fact, the vision actually provides a vehicle through which that larger potential can manifest. Goals are the steps toward the larger vision.
We have a saying in English, “The whole is created by the sum of the parts.” This statement comes out of a transactional paradigm that says if we do the right things, if we take the right steps, we’ll achieve a desired result. The focus is on the parts, assuming that if we take care of all of the parts, the result we want will happen.
However, in a transformational paradigm, we turn that statement around: “The parts are created by the whole.” In a transformational paradigm, a goal is not something you set or choose, but rather something that you discover by following the vision.
Nature gives us a great example of this concept. Living organisms are formed out of a single cell. That single cell contains the DNA, the essence or vision, of the whole organism. In other words, it contains all that is needed to create the parts that will make up the whole. That cell divides, and then those cells divide. The process continues as cells divide and multiply and become differentiated to perform the functions of particular organs and body parts. Creating each of those parts is a steppingstone or goal toward creating a fully functioning organism. Yet every part is inspired and informed by the DNA, the essence, of the completed vision. The whole creates the parts.
When we focus on setting goals before we get clear about a bigger vision, the goals can end up feeling disconnected from the essence of who we are. It’s like creating a bunch of body parts without a vision of what the organism is that they are to serve. The goal may seem very worthy, but if it is not informed and inspired by who we are at our essence and a vision of who we are called to be and what we feel called to do, it is not likely to be sustainable.
However, when we start with the vision and its underlying potential that is waiting to unfold, there is a more powerful life force supporting our efforts. When we tap into that big energy and let it show us the goals that can lead to its manifestation, then each goal is infused with that greater potential.
So what is your vision for 2013? Who do you feel called to be? What do you feel called to do? If your vision is a vehicle for a larger potential to emerge, what might that potential be? Take some time to sit with those questions.
As the potential becomes clear, stand and imagine in front of you a future version of yourself who is fully living that potential. Feel the energy of this future version of you. Ask your future self what advice he or she has for you. Ask what was easier than your future self had expected. Ask what was more challenging. And ask how your future self got past those challenges. Take your time. Don’t rush the process. The key is to ask these questions of your future self, not of your present-day self. Your future self has much more information than your present-day self does.
When you are ready, step forward into your future self and become that person. Notice how your energy shifts as you step into your future self. Become an embodiment of the full potential of your vision. Take your time. Take it all in.
As you stand in that energy, ask to be shown a 6-month goal toward fully manifesting your vision. Then ask to be shown a 3-month goal, a one-month goal, and finally the goal for the next week. As you are shown these goals, what becomes clear to you now about your first steps in the coming days?
Your vision has just created your goals for you. Write them down. You may want to take a few more minutes to journal about what you are discovering. Having completed this process, how does this visioning approach feel different than going straight to goal setting for the year?
Our world is changing rapidly. This new transformational paradigm of leadership and coaching can help us ride the waves of change and flow with what wants to happen as a part of a greater evolutionary unfolding. Our job as transformation agents is to remain focused on the vision and its potential, listen to it, let it show us the way, and then follow.
P.S. If you have a copy of my latest book, Create A World That Works, you can learn more about working with potential and how the whole creates the parts on pages 175 – 176. If you don’t have the book, you can order it here.
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