How much time do we spend choosing our New Year’s resolutions? Are they the same ones we’ve had for the last few years? Mine used to be (“I’ll lose 10 lbs this year”) until I realized that choosing my goals is one of the most important decisions I will make each year. Our goals drive our focus and our focus defines who we become. Look at your goals for 2013. Do they really reflect your most important priorities for who you are, who you dream to become, and what will make you happy? As I asked myself that question, I burst out laughing. The sum total of who I wanted to become in 12 months was 10 lbs lighter than who I was. I’m not even sure how this was related to my happiness (other than I know I get grumpy when I am hungry). I have never thought about goal-setting in the same way again.
The record on meeting New Year resolutions is pretty dismal. In this study of 3,000 people, only 12% actually achieved what they had set out to do. The culprit: motivation. So the key to setting and meeting our goals is to understand what truly motivates us. Here are five steps to do that so we can each move toward greater authenticity and personal power in our leadership and our lives.P
A quick personal story. “Lose weight and get healthier” has been a perpetual focus for me since I can remember. In my 20’s I decided that my New Year’s resolution would be to lose 10 lbs by training for and running a marathon. It sounded like a cool challenge. I really admired a good friend who was a regular marathoner, was in super shape, and even agreed to help me train. We were both hard-core P&G brand managers, so we created a weekly training plan, made it S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound). It promptly petered out after Week 5. I had sort of failed to take into account that I didn’t much enjoy long-distance running and had no natural talent in this area. In my 40’s and slightly wiser, I’ve discovered the secret to meeting my health goals. It’s called zumba and I can’t bear to miss even one of my four dance classes a week. It’s taken me 20 years to get this wisdom: It’s easier to meet our goals when we actually want to, and enjoy the process.
What are authentic goals?
I’ve pursued many goals that I thought would make me happy but once I got there, the satisfaction was fleeting. Most of us set goals based on “what sounds cool”, what we’re supposed to do (lose 10 lbs), or what will look good on the resume of life. One of the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. Taking the time to define our personal leadership brand (our legacy) and then using this to set goals that are “true to us” helps us achieve our highest vision of ourselves. We move toward greater authenticity in creating fulfilling careers and lives. Steve Jobs said “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Five Steps for Authentic Goals
To set authentic goals we have to start by knowing who we are, what’s important to us, what motivates us. The process of defining our personal leadership brand is a great place to start (see resources below).
1) Prioritize what’s most important to us – Here are some useful questions to ask ourselves as we review the past year: a) What do I feel most grateful for this year? b) What outcomes did I achieve that were most fulfilling for me? c) What can I look back to in 12 months from now that will feel exciting to have achieved?
My personal experience is that authenticity has to do more with the heart (what makes us feel good) than the head (what we think we “should” do), so asking questions related to what feels most exciting or fulfilling for us connects us more with our inner voice. The words “motivation” and “emotion” share a common Latin root “moveo”, meaning to move. Our emotions have a greater power to move us than any rational thought. As I reviewed what I was most grateful for in the last 12 months, I came up with my health, deeper and stronger relationships with friends and family, the opportunity to do work that makes me come alive, use my talents, and feel purposeful every day. This answers the “WHAT’s MOST IMPORTANT” in defining our life priorities authentically.
2) Understand what factors created success What strengths, leadership practices, or help from others created success? Actively understanding what drove our success builds confidence and energy to keep the momentum going for us. It focuses us on the most important factors that will help us in “HOW WILL WE ACHIEVE” our goals.
3) Understand what energizes and motivates us What were the most joyous moments for me in the last 12 months (related to work and life)? This question helps us understand our motivators so as we set goals we can utilize these motivators as part of the plan to fulfill these goals. For example my greatest moments of joy happen when I am dancing, when I see paradigm shifts occur within my executive coaching clients, when I am writing. Using our energizers to meet our goals creates a virtuous circle of positive energy. This answers the “HOW WILL I KEEP MYSELF GOING” in goals.
4) Understand gaps & learn from failures What was most personally disappointing to me in the last 12 months? Where did I not meet what I expected? Why? What did I learn about myself that keeps me from achieving my goals? Am I willing to let this goal go?
As I did this step, I realized that the area that was personally most disappointing to me this year was the lack of sufficient progress on the book I am writing. I realized that one of my potential derailers is that I take on too many priorities and I didn’t put sufficient focus, time, and attention on the book. I also realized that I am not willing to let this goal go because it is a core part of my contribution, and writing is an energizer for me.
5) Set Authentic Goals Pick the 3-5 areas of greatest priority from Step 1 above. Decide which of these areas will be “maintenance” where your goals are to maintain the momentum you’ve achieved. Create measurable outcomes and remind yourself of the plan you implemented that’s working (Step 2 and 3). Next, pick one area (just one) where you would like to have a significant impact in the next 12 months and set the right measurable outcome in that area. Anticipate (based on Step 4 above) what could derail you and develop the appropriate plan. Lastly (and very importantly for me) look for the few areas that you will dump goals, projects, or delegate to others. These are “time sink” activities that don’t align with goals, priorities, or energizers.
As an example, my BIG goal this coming year is to get my book ready to be published. This will require significant focus so I have noted the rest of my goals as “maintain momentum”. I will continue to track these but focus will be on the BIG one. Finally, I have made a list of “time sink” activities that I plan to delegate and lower my time and attention from.
This may seem a lengthy process, but it is a worthwhile one so that we each arrive at a place of greater authenticity and fewer regrets in our work and in our lives. If you’d like to work with me to create more authentic goals, sign up for an “Ignite The Fire” session.
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For Team Workshop on Personal Brand – The Authentic Brand YOU -
To create your own personal brand: What’s Your Personal Brand
To get more info on goal-setting: What’s your BHAG for 2013?
This article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam