Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Goal Setting Is Personal

I have a little secret that I rarely talk about, except with friends, because it is so apt to be misinterpreted:

I dislike setting goals.

There, I said it.

But sometimes I teach concrete goal setting models to youth. Is that hypocritical?

For me, I am fine teaching things that hold potential value for others, even if the thing does not work for me. Teaching from a place of "Let's explore this and see if it works for you" is a delightful place to live and gets good results, in my experience.

I want to be clear that I am not unproductive. I consider myself efficient and happy with my efforts the majority of the time. I just don't feel a connection to writing down specific accomplishments in a concrete way; it has not worked for me in any sustainable fashion. Benchmark thinking has always felt false for how I interpret the world.

I'm not saying that goal setting does not work for many people, but to throw concrete goal-setting and "writing it down" at people as an answer to leading a productive and lovely, successful life of achievement? Barf-o-rama.

For me, personal efficacy entails:
  1. What is my direction? (in my work, relationships, endeavor 'x')
  2. What values do I want to embody? 
  3. What is my moral code? 
I apply these qualities to my interests and have been very happy with the results. It is a less concrete, more open-ended formula (if I can call it a formula at all) that matches my thinking styles to my approach. The most meaningful things in my life have been ongoing processes or personal growth, and I haven't thought of those experiences in terms of achievements, but rather emotions of satisfaction and meaningfulness.

All I can do is give my best effort. Where I end up is not always up to me.

It would surprise me if there were not others who shared similar ideas about goal setting, but I have only met one person who has expressed this to me. Honestly, I don't go around sharing this model too often, so I haven't opened many doors for conversation on the matter. Perhaps this is because my way of goal-thinking can feel more nebulous, or I have not found the right way to explain it effectively.

Maybe I'll set a goal to figure out how to do that.


Kelly Pozzoli said...

I'm with you to some extent. I find that even if I do write something down, I rarely ever refer back to it, and when I stumble upon it later on, it's usually a 'oh yeah, that's a good idea' kind of moment (and that's where it ends). I, too, have a general idea of where I'm going or what I'm working toward, but I'm always open to a change of direction to allow my "goals" to grow and change as I do. As for facilitating goal setting (or anything else for that matter) with young people, I try to present it as an option and be as honest as I can while maintaining enough ambiguity, if necessary, to truly leave the option in their hands.
Thanks for sharing! Always enjoy reading your stuff. :D

James Trepanier said...

Awesome read Steve. Always love when you shift an SC paradigm.

Ian Jackson said...

I'm with you, Steve, although I don't think I have verbalized it in these terms before. After all, "life is a journey, not a destination", right? I often find that I want to tweak my destination slightly along the way.