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What is a Goal? Really?

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  • What is a Goal? Really?

    This may be a bit GTD off topic for some but I've had an epiphany about setting and achieving goals and wanted some perspective from other GTDers.

    I've been setting goals and making action plans to achieve goals most of my adult life. Some I've achieved in whole or in part while making little progress on others.

    A few months ago I set a goal to lose a certain percentage of weight. For various reasons, my motivation is extremely high to the point where I totally believe that I will achieve the goal, no matter what it takes, and have described the goal to my wife, personal trainer and nutritionist as something I will do no matter what and as being something that is one step beyond a goal-something that I just flat out totally intend to do.

    I'm using the old analogy of an airplane being programmed to fly to a certain destination. If I'm on course, fine, but if I'm off course, I make "adjustments".

    So far, so good-great actually. The plane is on course and may even land ahead of schedule.

    The huge learning for me is that I now believe that many of my prior "goals" have really been wishes or things I would like to have happen in my life, but that my will and/or intention to make them happen has varied widely from a strong motivation to a "wouldn't it be nice if that happened but I'm not going to do anything different".

    Should we even call something a goal if our commitment to achieve the goal is less than total?

    Is this a question of semantics? Is this a ho-hum or have I discovered something very important for myself (even if I'm the last person to get this insight)?

    If we would like to have something happen in our lives, are we better off spending more time on our motivation and self-examination to achieve the goal or on coming up with action plans to make it happen. In my case, the action planning seemed to evolve from the initial commitment.

    I'd be curious to hear from the GTDers who have had similar experiences-experiencing such a totlal commitment to achieving something that it felt like a "super goal" or something qualitatively different.

  • #2
    Originally posted by robfin View Post
    If we would like to have something happen in our lives, are we better off spending more time on our motivation and self-examination to achieve the goal or on coming up with action plans to make it happen. In my case, the action planning seemed to evolve from the initial commitment.
    Peter Drucker said (paraphrasing) is that the difference between a goal and an idea is that resources are committed to a goal.

    In GTD terms, that involves things like checking your progress at your Weekly Review. If the actions related to that project aren't getting done, it's because you haven't committed sufficient resources. That can be because (a) you aren't motivated enough, or because (b) you simply don't have the resources. In case of (a), you can either re-examine the situation or decide that no, you really don't care enough to get it done. For (b), the next action is obviously to figure out how to create the necessary space for the project.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Commitment is definitely a ressource one has to spend on each project. If you want to get it done.

      Regarding semantics: Each GTD-Project has a successfull outcome. This is a goal. Or many goals defined. You can have big goals that span over many projects. If you want, you can make a checklist with those über-goals. How do you call all those things offcourse is just a matter of definition and conventions. There is no physical law stating what a goal is or a project and so on.

      I often had the experience when commiting to one project and letting a bunch of similar one go (or put them into someday/ maybe), that after finishing the one project I didn't want to have the others anymore. Even if they seemed to awesome to not do them at first.

      Many ideas are merely the repercussions from internally processing the stuff that went by.

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      • #4
        Goals

        Thanks for both replies and for tieing the question more closely to a GTD way of thinking. Perhaps our willingness to commit resources to a goal is in part a function of our level of internal commitment in the case of an individual or the group commitment in the case of an organization goal.

        Might our level of commitment also link closely to the specificity and motivating power of the desired ourcome?

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