Year end is a time when many of us think about setting goals for the new year. In that spirit, I wanted to share with you three questions on the subject of goal setting that I was recently asked to comment on.
What do you say to people who come to you with a goal that is too big?
I do not believe that any goal is ‘too big’. What is more important when goal setting is a willingness to wholeheartedly and fully immerse oneself in the process of working towards that goal. A goal is certainly useful as a vision, it is something to aim for. But if we become too focused on the result of achieving the goal rather than the process involved, this can in fact hinder us from moving towards our goal.
My experiences of working with virtuoso musicians, kung fu masters and other experts in their fields have shown me that it is a passion for their work, rather than a focus on the end that got them to where they are.
“Your skill is only as great as your passion”
— Phil Best, virtuoso pianist
What is most important is cultivating a sense of curiosity and interest in the process involved. Paradoxically, the goal is achieved when it is not the focus!
What are some of the reasons you see that derail people from achieving their goals?
I see two common reasons, which appear time and time again when goal setting and that could be considered endemic in modern society:
(i) People do not wholeheartedly identify with the goal, meaning they do not truly believe in it. If I want to learn to play the guitar, for example, it must be because I love music and want to express myself, not because I want to look cool in front of my friends. WHY we have chosen to make something our goal has a profound impact on how much we are willing to dedicate ourselves to it.
(ii) Overthinking and being too focused on results. If our minds get in the way by being critically analytical all the time, this can lead to too much thinking. Too much thought can derail the process of doing. Mastery of anything requires immersion in it with an almost childlike curiosity and zest — a sense of ‘play‘. Patience is also important here, along with a recognition that progress is not linear. People can often leap forwards after periods of seemingly little progress.
How important is having support from your partner / friends / family when it comes to achieving goals?
This is extremely important. Having someone who understands what you want to do and believes in you is incredibly powerful. This is particularly true if your goal is generally seen by others as something that is ‘too difficult’ or ‘unachievable’.
Without support, we can easily get into negative thinking patterns that we might get stuck in. A supportive and trustworthy confidante can help you break these negative thinking patterns by reminding you of how passionate you are about what you do and why you have chosen to do it. They can often help you regain perspective when you have lost it. This is also one of the reasons that I believe in the power of coaching.
Goal setting and subsequently working towards them can sometimes feel like a chore. And if it does, this means that we are in fundamentally the wrong zone. However ‘big’ or ‘small’ your goal may be, what is crucial is how passionate you are about it. It is then about immersing yourself wholeheartedly in the process, rather than simply striving towards an end.
Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas and joy and contentment in the new year!