Thanks to J.Herbert Bond for inspiring me to write this blog post by opening up a discussion in the Co-Active Coaching Group on LinkedIn.
I totally enjoyed reflecting on the question why people resist setting personal goals, and I did so because for quite some time now I have been intending to share my views on the topic of Goals and Intentions. You will be enjoying “Goals and Intentions” in our next episode :-) While now I am giving you my insights on the topic as specified in the title, with no claim of it to be exhaustive, or in any way right or wrong. You will probably also sense a form of a dialogue going on in between the lines – but don’t you fear or worry, I am completely fine and totally sane, as sane as I can be. It’s just that those voices are so much willing to speak out, that I finally gave them the floor.
Reason #1. The opposite of resistance in the context of goal setting & achieving is ... persistence.
Persistence requires energy, focus, dedication, determination and commitment… all of which are needed also for… setting and achieving goals. – Wow! So many words for such a thing as setting and achieving goals? Are you sure? – Yes, I know it might sound a bit depressing and somehow demanding, and maybe exhausting at first look, but in essence it’s very much simple. It's just a matter of energy. To illustrate what I mean, let me walk you through one of my reflections I had on a related topic, which I've decided to present to you in the form of a Q&A.
Q: Why do many people usually not feel fulfilled in their personal life, and especially so in their romantic relationships?
The answer is simple and we all know it – they take their relationships for granted. As if the relationship will adjust, accommodate and become better on its own “muscles”.
"Believe me, there is no such thing!” – I know, I know, just bear with me for a little while.
Q: But why? How do people get to the point of taking their relationships for granted?
Because they choose to give their attention to other areas of their life, and in doing so, often the winner is… professional growth and development. Thus people put efforts in advancing in their career path, climbing corporate ladders, hitting the company targets, chasing the waterfalls of praise or bonus. In other words, Business/Career form their Wheel of Life tops their priority list. And, naturally, where the focus is – there goes the energy.
Q: But again, why? How do they get there?
The strive for growth is natural for every human being, and human beings – being smart – choose whatever opportunities they are provided with to grow. The corporate world and the workplace in general usually provides a huge amount of such opportunities, which give a sense of growth – there are enough of goals and targets to be achieved, and sophisticated strategies to be executed, and deliverables to be delivered, and KPIs and metrics to be “metered”, you name it.
So, when it comes to goal setting-pursuing-&-accomplishing, if we perceive that we have already “paid our dues” on the professional arena, then how go chasing personal goals? Especially, when in the end of the day what we get is - getting short of space and time, and air, and energy to do, or even to think of doing anything about the other pies in the "Whirl" of Life.
Put in a formula, the above would look something like this:
E professional area = E total – E other areas, where E is Energy.
Q: But then, how to get the balance back?
Hold on, we’ll get there.
Reason #2. Human beings are naturally creative and smart, and tend to unconsciously (or even better, consciously) avoid the should’s and have to’s and... go for the want to’s.
Human beings do not like to be told what to do. They already know. Yes, this also comes naturally. Even though some people might seem to need to be told by others what to do (especially in the workplace), deep in their core they do not want to, and in fact, don’t need to be told! Because they already know the answers!
Goal-setting is very much common in the professional realm, and for those people who are hired to work for “somebody else”, goals bring this flavour of "should-ness” or obligation. -- “We have to double our revenues next year!”, “Our team has to do whatever it takes to hit sales target this month!”, “We have to get this project done by yesterday, if we want to get a new contract signed!” -- Sounds familiar?
Well, this flavour of should-ness gets under your skin and till you know it, it starts buzzing you around, as if there were no other choice, but to actually pursue that goal, act upon it and do it! Well, happy stress-out then! Yes, I do reckon that this is one of the fastest ways to offer ourselves a free dish of splendid stress-generates and welcome the stress, meandering its way gently through our unconscious mind and straight to our body. But! Human beings are naturally creative and smart, remember? So, when things get rough and that flavour gets irritating – you know, becomes too buzzy and too noisy – our amazingly sophisticated system of body and mind starts signalling at us… By following the LIFO-principle – through our body back to (this time) our conscious mind, till we eventually become aware of that noise and take a stand!
The suggestion I’m making here, in the context of why people resist setting personal goals, is that maybe we somehow unconsciously sense that there is a risk that our personal goals might also turn into should’s and thus take all the energy and beauty of our want’s. Hence why do this to ourselves at all? Why burden ourselves with more should’s when we can choose not to? And if to avoid more of the should’s would mean that I should go without the want’s, well, I can live with (rather without) that!
Reason #3. Is this the Saboteur talking or am I having a nightmare in daytime? Oh, there’s even more to it…
Guilt and fear of failure – these are two amazing ingredients that, added to any thought or situation, may prevent us from taking any action and, in our case, from setting personal goals. -- “Why bother setting up goals, which I know I will not pursue, let alone accomplish?“, “Don’t I have enough to chase at work?”, “How do I get the time for this?”, “I always start out things and never finish any. When will I get to focus on one thing only and do it perfectly?” -- Any of this sounds familiar?
But see, no matter how strong our Saboteur’s voice is, the brighter truth is that in the process of achieving goals, we often face situations where two or more of our core values are being challenged and get into a conflict – an internal saga of its own. To name a few of these values, I’d go with the major players in the saga (that usually lead in the process of fulfilling goals) – strive for excellence, responsibility, accomplishing (results/tangible results), aiming big, consistency, sustainability. I’m sure you can continue with the list.
So how do we make it work then? How to get the balance back? And what about setting goals?
What balance? Oh, do mean Work-Life Balance? But hey, isn't work part of life, or am I not getting it right? ;-)
You see, most people tend to put a marker line between their professional and personal life, as if they were two different parts. Some people even act and behave differently in the different “realms”. In such a reality, it is normal that people would tend to choose between rather than choose among.
Instead, if we perceived ourselves as whole, then the question might also change – from “How to get the balance back?” to, let's say, “Where do I want to grow and develop in my life?” ... which would open up a whole new dimension.
So, how to make it work?
Just keep asking yourself the “right” questions. As simple as this. Need some suggestions for a starter? Here they are:
~ What do I want for myself?
~ Where do I want to get in X-time?
~ What resources do I need to get there?
~ What is the very first thing to start with?
~ When will I do it?
You still there? Because there's even more to it – all of the above have to do with one and one thing only. It is the missing dot and at the same time, the binding knot. And it’s called Intention. You’ll read about it in our next episode :-)
Oh, in the meantime, you might wish to use this smart formula on how to set and achieve goals:
Make a wish.
Do what you choose to do.
And let the Universe fill out the rest for you.
Happy Wish-Making! :-)