Updated: Apr 29, 2020
As this post is being written, we are going through a period of pause. The #COVID19 virus has brought countries and economies to its knees. For some of us, it is a confusing and restless period, filled with anxiety and fear. For others, it provides a moment of optimism, growth and development.
This moment brings with it an opportunity to reflect and take stock of our individual state. A moment to identify where we are now, where we have come from, and more importantly where we are going. International Keynote Speaker, Author and Success Coach #LesBrown says it best when he poses the 3 questions that each one of us should be reflecting on.
'Why am I here', 'Where have I been', and 'Where am I going?' - Les Brown
The first 2 questions can quite easily be answered. We can quickly locate ourselves in terms of our current state of affairs, and also reflect on our past. The third is somewhat more challenging to answer for most people. Unless there is a definite and intentional focus applied, trying to clarify 'where we are going' can be rather vague. Like walking through a thick fog, you may only be able to see as far as your hand can reach, and nothing further. It can be quite an uncomfortable and scary situation to be in. However, if there was a light in the distance, clear and apparent like a lighthouse, the situation seems less daunting. You may feel less anxious and comforted to the fact that there is something up ahead guiding you. If we take the notion of the fog as the confusion that we may have in our life, one which only offers visibility on a day to day basis, we can also compare the guiding light up ahead as a Goal which has the potential to guide us out of the 'fog' towards a fixed and clear destination.
There's a lot of debate as to whether Goals, or setting a target for oneself, is something worth investing time and effort in. Remember the Goals you've set as your New Year's resolutions? It may be extremely discouraging if you, like many others, have set your own Goals only to see them peter out over the course of the year, or have been abandoned mid way. It is worth noting that Goals without Strategic Action reduces the Goal into merely an idea which never sees the light of day. Strategic Action is required to begin the journey into realizing the Goal.
For many, having Goals is not even part of their mental psyche, or 'radar'.
Research finds that 97% of Americans don't have clearly written goals, and 99% don't revisit or rewrite them from time to time.
Read the last sentence again. With that kind of statistic, let's have a look at our own Goals. Do we have any? And if so, have we clearly defined what they are? Are they written down somewhere? And if they are, are we re-visiting them daily to see if they still hold true or need re-calibrating?
Now you may be asking why is all of this important? How can Goal setting improve our lives? Hopefully the following article can shed some light onto the significance of having Goals and its role on our personal development.
Reason #1 Goals Set Destinations
In the late 90s, there was a Glaswegian band who made it big with songs like 'Why Does It Always Rain On Me' and 'Sing'. If you were around at the time, you'll know that I'm talking about Travis. The band enjoyed much success, albeit for a while, only after their second album, 'The Man Who', was released. In fact, they had been at it, playing and performing, for about 10 years before they really shot to stardom. Although Travis were known for the titles mentioned, a song which really resonated with me, and still does, is 'Driftwood'. The lyrics, although might seem obvious yet confusing, essentially illustrates how Life moves on and takes it pre-determined course. The cycles of seasons and natural laws carry on, with or without us. It just does. Within the song, it talks about a 'driftwood' that just, well, drifts. Just as a piece of wood which can be found floating aimlessly in a body of water like a river or sea, a driftwood does not navigate its course. Rather, it goes where the current flows. Carried along, sometimes above and at other times under, water. It's a daily reminder of the fact that Life will move on, with or without you. Unless we understand the true value which Life gives us, we will eventually, unknowingly, become 'driftwood'.
So, what is all this talk about 'driftwood' got to do with Goals? The answer is simple. Without Goals, our lives may turn out to be 'driftwood'. That's it. Why am I boldly saying this? It's because my own life was, at one point, moving aimlessly like a 'driftwood'. Now the concept of 'driftwood' doesn't necessarily mean purely sitting or hanging around watching your life go by. This is one form. However, we can still be actively engaged in society (having a job, paying the bills, paying taxes etc.), and still develop the concept of 'driftwood'. For some, days, months and even years go by, and they may find themselves doing the same thing over and over again, almost like groundhog day, with no real intention and just drifting. You may still hold a job, but possibly one which you are disengaged with or have no real heart in but you do it anyway to pay the bills. Before you know it, days turn into months and months into years. As I mentioned, this was me at one point. I had not set myself any clear Goals, and so I just drifted.
Goals act like 'hooks'. We cast them into the future with intent, and they draw us forward towards them.
Setting a Goal sets you on a path to achieve fulfillment in the things that matter to you. Contrary to a driftwood, a Goal allows you to navigate and steer towards a definite target which is that of your own. As the saying goes, 'If you don't have a plan, you will most likely be part of someone else's'. And that's true. For many of us, not having a clear Goal will mean that we may fall under someone else's plan, for example an organization that does not have your best interest to progress your career, but one that may be using your talents to fulfill their own. Having a Goal allows you to steer clear of things which may not be aligned with your targets, which means that you can focus your energy into the ones that do. For example, to set a Goal for your dream job, or a house, or car, or something you want to achieve in your relationship. Anything for that matter requires an intentional destination and desired result. Being intentional means that you are in charge of your destiny and this is important if achieving a Goal is something that you want to do in Life. It avoids you falling into the situation of drifting along someone else's course. Once set, the course begins to be paved to get you there.
Reason #2 Goals Give us a GPS
Having a Goal is like having a GPS. Take Google Maps for example. In order for it to function, it first needs to know where you are currently located. Then it will need to know where you want to go. Once it has these two variables, it will work out for you a number of permutations, or ways to get to your destination. In this respect, having Goals is similar to having a GPS. It sets a clear and firm destination of where you would like to go. The words 'clear' and 'firm' have been highlighted for a reason. Clarity in your Goal will determine how accurately you arrive at your destination. The clearer you are with the Goal, the more likely you are to get there. At the same time, a focused destination will give you a strong 'beacon' that is unwavering under any circumstance. Once you've set the destination, the GPS will then work out for you the different ways to get there. However, if you are unable to determine where you would like to go in the first place, the GPS will not be able to provide you the routes or paths to get there.
'When is the best time to start? When it is finished (in the mind)' - Jim Rohn
In essence, having a Goal places an anchor for you similar to a GPS, which without, risks you drifting through Life. By having an end point in mind, then only can you start on your journey. Jim Rohn, renowned American speaker and author, reminds us of this simple fact. In order for us to achieve our ambitions, we need to have a plan that takes us there. And in order to have that plan laid out for us, we need to have it finished in our mind. Then only can you begin to embark on the journey. Thus, having a Goal will allow you to plan the path you need to get there.
One key part to note is that you may find as you go along your journey, and as you gain more clarity, you may need to re-calibrate your Goals. There's no harm in that. In fact, it shows a great deal of self-awareness that you re-visit your Goals from time to time and assess whether they need adjusting. Changing or calibrating your Goals, if needed, is part of the process of your growth and personal development.
Reason #3 Goals Give us Forward Focus
Want more free time and energy? Then set a Goal. This is one of the best ways to free yourself up for more time and energy as we go through Life. 'How is this possible?', you might ask? 'Surely it works in the opposite way?'... ''Surely having a Goal to work towards will take up more time and expect more energy from me?'...'I have enough on my plate as it is, and I'm spent each day working my 9-5. How can having a Goal give me more time and energy?!'.
'Where focus goes, energy flows' - Tony Robbins
The answer is simply that Goals allow us to consolidate our focus and energy on the things which we actually want to make happen in our Life. Not having one can zap our time and energy as we continue to scurry and run around, sometimes like headless chickens, day in and day out, with no clear aim. We may be creating movement but not really progress. Herein lies the difference. You may be spending a lot of time and energy on something, but without a Goal, your movement is similar to a hamster running on its wheel. No progress is made. Even if there was any, it is probably not aligned with your own Goal, but someone else's.
Don't mistake movement for progress.
Having a Goal helps consolidate our time and energy working towards our own cause. We all have the same 24 hours a day. No more, no less. What differentiates people when it comes to appearing to have more time than others is how and where they use their time. By focusing our energy and time into the activities which support our Goals, we gain m