Setting meaningful goals

The day before yesterday I found a new way of looking at goal achievement. It’s a perspective shift that makes prioritising the journey to the goal over the achievement of the goal a lot easier. This is kinda cool (horray for new ways of looking at things!), so let’s do a compare-and-contrast of the normal mindset (desire achievement) and the new mindset (strength building).

Method 1: Desire achievement

This is the stock-standard way of thinking about setting and achieving goals. How does it go? You tune in to a desire, define the outcome you want, then try to achieve it. Maybe you succeed and you get what you want (yay!) or maybe you fail and fall on your face (doh).

If you’re doing it this way, your happiness depends on your success or failure. Enjoying the journey doesn’t really come into it. You might try to make your goals fun to work on, but mostly you’re trying to get the enjoyment that comes from achieving the goal.

Method 2: Strength building

A new perspective! With this one, you can discard the contents of the goal as unimportant. Doesn’t matter. Instead, shift your focus from producing external changes (“This is this thing I want to make happen”) to producing internal development (“I want to become stronger”).

This time we don’t even start with an external goal. Instead, we start with an internal characteristic that we’d like to develop and then pick a fun goal that will help us to do so. The contents of the goal is almost meaningless. It doesn’t matter. Just pick something fun (it’s more fun that way ;) ).

This is like weightlifting. You don’t care about the result (the weight is lifted), you care about the muscle growth. But in the same way that you can get just as fit going for a run outside as you can running on a treadmill, some times there is a more fun way to go about it. ;)

What I’m doing

I’m going to experiment with using the strength building method of setting and pursuing goals. The main thing that’s been messing up my business attempts over the past few years is a lack of persistence, so that’s where I’ll start. I’m aiming to build my persistence by tackling progressively longer goals, starting with just an hour’s work per day on a project for a period of 7 days. My focus (doing many hours of uninterrupted work in a day) also sucks, as does my decisiveness (making and sticking to decisions), so I’ll be working on those at some point too. In, of course, the most enjoyable way I can come up with. :)

What about contribution?

With this mindset, contribution (helping others through the achievement of your goals) is one way to make the process of achieving the goal more fun and meaningful. Contribution isn’t the primary aim of the goal setting and achievement exercise.

I’ve previously held this attitude and I found it disempowering. I got caught up in feeling obligated to contribute and had difficulty setting goals that I enjoyed. As a consequence, I didn’t follow through with them. No contribution, and I wouldn’t even achieve the goal for myself.

Contribution does fit into this model. I suspect that if you keep setting and pursuing goals this way contribution will become a major part of every goal you set, simply because it’s fun to do it that way, not because you feel you have to.

Where does this way of thinking come from?

The mindset of strength building through goal achievement comes from thinking of reality as a training ground. A safe playground in which we can practice developing these things (non-physical attributes) without fear of permanently messing anything up. Physical reality is impermanent, so although we’ll get negative feedback if we stuff up, it won’t last, things will change, and we’ll get another chance (unless you die, but some would argue that you’ll still get a second chance ;) ).

The stuff we do in physical reality (manifesting our desires) is play. The important part is happening behind the scenes, as we become stronger in the process.

High-five to Steve Pavlina, who I’m sure somewhere along the way planted the seeds that lead to this post.

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One Response to “Setting meaningful goals”

  1. James | Dancing Geek
    24 April 2009 at 09:27

    Thank you! This is a great way of switching goals around from pass or fail, to win-win.

    I like SteveP’s idea that a goal is about making your more motivated in the now, if it doesn’t do that then it’s worthless. I can see how that fits in with this as well. The goal is about making it more fun to do the growing/learning.

    I’m going to have a think about whether I can make any useful goals from this.

    James | Dancing Geek’s last blog post..Too fast to write about it

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