Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.

Announcement

Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

Is Goal Setting Bad for You?

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Is Goal Setting Bad for You?

    Despite setting goals in some of the key areas in my life – goals which are to the obvious benefit of my family – I have found that over the last few weekends I am totally stressed out in their company.

    To extend the runway metaphor, I feel like a plane trying to take off when the wheels are pointing a different direction to the flight path, while half the passengers are still in the departure lounge with no idea that the plane has left.

    I am mulling over two reasons for this.

    Firstly – how good can we really be at identifying the essential goals that will make our own lives happier? Have we really got the insight to be able to self-analyse to the extent that we can hit on some set of keys to ultimate satisfaction, i.e. the very goals that will make our lives deeply satisfying? I’m not so sure.

    I suspect that I have created a rickety wooden footbridge made out of a few goals, and am staking my life on it. Meanwhile, there is a fertile canyon concealed in the gloom nearby, which is the real me, and would take years to explore, if I ever even got to see it. Would I have the insight to be able to explore it and identify the things that really matter to me, and give me that deep, subterranean sense of rightness?

    The other reason might be a more accessible problem: balance. For example, two of the main goals I am obsessing about at the moment are the acquisition of an investment property, and the redecoration of our home. Now, if we take the usual categories of human activity: spiritual, family, creativity (I can’t remember the rest of them at the moment), maybe it is perilous to crank up the volume in one or two of those areas, while leaving the remainder at the usual everyday volume. Maybe those other unconsidered areas get trampled on, and the consequent sensation is that significant areas of our lives are crushed by our excessive focus on one or two areas only. Thus we get the sensation of being pulled severely off centre?

    Maybe humans need to either have something special going on in all areas of their lives at the same time, or else have everything on background cruise control in the subtle state of balance that has been fine tuning itself over all of our lives.

    DFE

  • #2
    Goalsetting bad for you? Yes and no

    As a veteran of Franklin/Covey teachings, I really identify with two statements of David Allen's (I paraphrase):

    "Clarifying your values is likely to make your life more complicated, not simpler. It's not bad or good, just true."

    "Getting some of the stuff you have to do done is more likely to make you feel better than reciting 'I am a powerful, effective person' one hundred times."

    The problem with goal setting is mostly a confusion of the different levels we live on. If my goal is to earn $400,000 this year, what does that really mean? Is the goal possible? How do I start? What do I need to do on an ongoing basis? It doesn't sound like a project, for sure. Do I need to have projects supporting the goal? Perhaps the project would be "enlarge client base with view to increasing income" or "focus on most profitable clients"- two very different approaches. If all you have are long-range goals, and no projects and no actions to drive you towards them, then your goals either drive you crazy or you learn to ignore them.

    Try separating your goals into 20,000 foot levels, 30,000 foot levels, et cetera. Don't worry about linking the levels. Just sort them out, and let them drive your projects. Don't review them too often- once a month is plenty for me.

    Good Luck!
    Mike

    Comment


    • #3
      pursuit of happiness / goal-setting

      Firstly – how good can we really be at identifying the essential goals that will make our own lives happier? Have we really got the insight to be able to self-analyse to the extent that we can hit on some set of keys to ultimate satisfaction, i.e. the very goals that will make our lives deeply satisfying? I’m not so sure.
      DFE,

      Wow! Your metaphor of the plane taking off is very powerful! I agree with the above quote from your mail. In terms goal setting, there is no certainity that we are setting the right goals.

      In the end, one simply needs to set goals that make sense at that time, and revise the goals based on experience. I am not sure there is any other way. It is also not easy to determine what makes us truly happy. One has to plod along and find their way - the journey towards happiness is life, not happiness itself (I think). In George Bernard Shaw's words, "the secret of being miserable is to have the time to think whether you are happy or not!"

      My experience is that it is essential to have the balance. I balance the three areas of my life - Self, Family and Work. I set goals for the near future and long term along these these lines and then go from there. Sometimes, balancing these may involve compromises to be made along the way in specific areas, but the sum total (balance) is a happier condition than succeeding too well in one at the cost of other. This focus on balance has made me much happier than anything else I did before - and it makes my goal setting much easier.

      thanks for a thought provoking mail.

      Siva

      Comment


      • #4
        Your puzzlement is related to a fundamental tension between two concepts that I have not seen well addressed: the tension between focus and balance.

        I am dinking around with looking at different timeframes for focused and balanced activity, and how that differs in importance for different roles we have (or Areas of Focus). For example, in training for distance races, Dick Brown (Olympic coach) advocated focused days, balanced weeks and balanced quarters (13 weeks). For Work/Life Balance, you might decide to balance your months, during which you might put in some 80-hr weeks, or perhaps you balance every week (40-hrs), but focus intensely for periods during the week.

        I have an intuition that successively longer planning timeframes generally should alternate balance and focus, but I am still playing around with this. Different roles need to be treated differently. This is more to identify the issue as needing exploration.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by CosmoGTD
          For fun, you can go all the way from the Stratospshere, right down to the runway, and everything in between.
          ...
          But if we can connect our daily activities, with our highest Values, and Objectives, then that gives life MEANING.
          And the meaning we give our lives are decided by us as individuals.
          Coz,

          basically I agree with you. But I often have been in the situation that my "meaning" clashes with someone else's "meaning" and that only a bottom-up approach could untangle the struggle. The "cosmic view" of two persons can be so completely different from each other that only a "down to earth" agreement can settle the difference.

          Regards
          Rainer

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Goalsetting bad for you? Yes and no

            Originally posted by mcogilvie

            "Clarifying your values is likely to make your life more complicated, not simpler. It's not bad or good, just true."
            Mike,

            yes, it is true. Now that I'm quite clear about my values things are getting more and more complicated.

            Originally posted by mcogilvie

            "Getting some of the stuff you have to do done is more likely to make you feel better than reciting 'I am a powerful, effective person' one hundred times."
            This is true, too. Affirmations only work when they are no lies and finishing a big chunk of work gives you a great feeling.

            Originally posted by mcogilvie
            Try separating your goals into 20,000 foot levels, 30,000 foot levels, et cetera. Don't worry about linking the levels. Just sort them out, and let them drive your projects. Don't review them too often- once a month is plenty for me.
            This sounds convincing to me. Maybe I should think about connecting this with the SMART-approach to goal setting.

            Thanks,
            Rainer

            Comment


            • #7
              May I suggest "Your Best Year Yet" By Jinny Ditzler? This is a fantastic book for working through what your goals are/should be - helping you establish focus, figure out what is most important to you, what will benefit you the most, a practical workbook on goal-setting that no time management book could ever match (imho).

              Pam

              Comment


              • #8
                Coz

                How do you do it? I basically have two lives running in parallel: the “professional career” I somehow ended up in, which is clerical, cold, and soulless; and the life I wish I had led – one rich in artistic creativity and reward. My main work goal is to minimise stress. Nothing more. My main artistic goal is somehow, someday, to earn my crust through artistic expression. But the years are pushing on.

                The mis-fit between these two “lives” has inner seismic consequences. I guess I approach every weekend hoping against hope that I can drag some solid creative satisfaction from the hours available, but of course, this single minded approach means that all the other areas – family, rest, spiritual etc get scant attention, with the inevitable painful consequences. If I persist I hurt them, if I compromise I become filled with resentment. And furthermore at the moment, as I described in my first post, I have two other mundane but important projects to attend to.

                I’d kill for a fully integrated vista as you describe it!

                DFE

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's all in how you do it...

                  I've personally found that I am 50% more effective, and less stressed, by "beginning with the end in mind". Like Jim Rohn says, see where you want to be <xx days/years/months from now>, and work backwards.

                  I can't tell you how many times I've had goals that were like
                  * Plan Nashville Trip
                  * Go to Nashville
                  etc,...and never got done. Never spelled out the little things, like "Order Nashville tickets", "Get rental car", etc.

                  What I do today is a combination of:
                  * GTD
                  * Tasks (I _heavily_ use these in Outlook/Palm)

                  I use a tool DAILY called Bonsai Outliner by Natara Software (Palm OS). I scrapped the paper planner (not even sure where it is right now) and am using this approach:
                  * I'm not going to look at my planner ALL THE TIME in the category "@Computer" whenever I sit down to my computer. It's just not going to happen, and I'm fooling myself if I think it is.
                  * I think heirarchically, but jump from spot to spot (in my head). So an outliner is perfect for a guy like me.
                  * I borrow from David's "@" categories, though. Lets me logically group my tasks in chunks, and therefore projects. That's how I think.
                  * Bonsai lets you group todo's many different ways. I can link dissimilar, but related tasks, into a project and they still show up in my calendar, alarms and all.
                  * Feels great to check stuff off the list. I also use a companion program to "journal" completion of the task. Can't tell you how many times I've referred back to things.

                  I tried apps like LifeBalance, and I guess it works for some folks, but not me. Waaay too much time to spend to "pat myself on the back" for being balanced. I can think of about 20 other ways to tell you whether I'm balanced or not...especially when my 10-year old boy comes in and asks for help with his homework when I'm on the phone with my business. I help him first, and go back to my call. My kids are more important than setting up my Palm.

                  IMHO, it's all about your personal priorities...not what the system says the priorities are.

                  Dave

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Dave

                    Thanks for that refreshing serving of real life – I felt better just reading it! Your remark about your ten year old son said it all: in a few years time they won’t want to know us – there is no better thing to do now than just be with them.

                    I like your planning approach too: working backwards is a huge help, and GTD is the best way to get the first toe-hold.

                    DFE

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Elephants

                      Despite setting goals in some of the key areas in my life – goals which are to the obvious benefit of my family – I have found that over the last few weekends I am totally stressed out in their company.

                      To extend the runway metaphor, I feel like a plane trying to take off when the wheels are pointing a different direction to the flight path, while half the passengers are still in the departure lounge with no idea that the plane has left.
                      I'm wondering if the reason you are so stressed out by clarifying your goals is that you are mentally trying to accomplish them all at once.

                      To adapt an old joke:

                      Q: How do you eat an elephant?
                      A: One bite at a time.

                      Q: How do you eat a herd of elephants?
                      A: One elephant at a time.

                      You might gain greater peace by spending some time determining the order and sequence of the projects and actions you will need to accomplish to realize your goals. Let's face it. We can only do one thing at a time. For me, focus is doing one thing at a time and staying at it until you have gotten a significant and meaningful "unit of work" accomplished. Balance, on the other hand, is obtained by the mix of things you accomplish over time. This is how you can have "focused days and balanced weeks" as StringDad's quote of Dick Brown suggests.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Goals

                        I know many successful people and as far as I know none of them could produce a list of handwritten goals (none of them use gtd either). But ask them to rattle of their accomplishments and they are many.

                        Honestly, since I started using GTD I've been astounded at what some people are able to keep in their heads. My wife for one, no goals, no lists, but a very successful magazine launch with lots of moving parts. I wonder

                        Its something of a mystery to me

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Goals

                          Is not an Accomplishment, just an achieved goal?

                          Also, humans have survived just fine for hundreds of thousands of years without ANY lists at all!


                          Originally posted by DM
                          I know many successful people and as far as I know none of them could produce a list of handwritten goals (none of them use gtd either). But ask them to rattle of their accomplishments and they are many.

                          Honestly, since I started using GTD I've been astounded at what some people are able to keep in their heads. My wife for one, no goals, no lists, but a very successful magazine launch with lots of moving parts. I wonder

                          Its something of a mystery to me
                          Last edited by CosmoGTD; 03-25-2006, 07:55 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks everybody for the great replies. I actually feel relaxed and reassured, and this tells me that I had been reading FAR too many goal setting and total life management articles. In hyping up their message, a lot of theses articles imply that the lives we currently lead are valueless.

                            Not so.

                            The replies on this thread are full of positive tones – people are making systems work for THEM, as opposed to feeling they have to integrate their entire life into a particular system. I don’t think anyone on this thread has fallen for any sales pitches.

                            I can see now that a large part of the frustration I expressed at the start of the thread was caused by this implanted belief that the way I currently live my life is bad/wrong/a failure. This in turn caused me to over-react to anything that obstructed my path towards “worthwhile” goals.

                            For example, I believed that unless I led a life of artistic expression, I was not “being true to myself”. If I did not become a millionaire by retirement age, I was a financial failure and had betrayed my family, etc. etc. Then I picked up the belief that I must achieve these goals at all costs, and this cranked up the tensions even more.

                            I have a dream that recurs very frequently – I am at the end of my annual two week vacation, and I suddenly realise that I have not done any of the things I wanted to do. No prizes for interpreting this one. But I think it shows that I am putty in the hands of goal-setting gurus.

                            Mike, I think your approach is a much more realistic one than the all-or-nothing fixation that can afflict people like me. Your approach “feels” like one that fits in with the rhythms (or lack of rhythms) of life.

                            You wrote: “If all you have are long-range goals, and no projects and no actions to drive you towards them, then your goals either drive you crazy or you learn to ignore them.” Placing projects and sub-projects at various altitudes lets you say to yourself “Yeah, I’m getting somewhere with this. I can’t see exactly how it will all work out, nobody can do that.”

                            You quote DA “Getting some of the stuff you have to do done is more likely to make you feel better than reciting 'I am a powerful, effective person' one hundred times.” That’s what goal setting should really be about – creating the sense that we can actually get some things done to make our lives better. (Again, NOT the all-or-nothing message that others espouse).

                            Siva, you wrote “In the end, one simply needs to set goals that make sense at that time, and revise the goals based on experience.” Again, you confirm that there is no magic solution to deciding how our lives should go, no single vision. I know, for example, that my goals have subtly changed since I was a younger man. (In fact, we will have heard a thousand times that having kids changes everything in your life. Well then, how can we possibly have a single life vision that will be equally valid when we are young free and single, when we are married with young kids, an when or kids have grown up?).

                            You confirm what I said (and secretly hoped) in my first post, that balance is the best aim to have. If I had embarked on a twelve reading or writing program, I know I would feel a lot happier (or less guilty) if I was also planning a great family holiday, an investment for the kids education, and a surprise gift for my wife.

                            Stringdad, EVERYONE seems to recommend focus as the only way to go. Trouble is, they don’t say how long we should focus for. Brian Tracy and others tell us to identify our most valuable task or goal, and focus exclusively on it until it is completed. But that just does not work in real life.

                            I have been thinking about a concept that combines focus and balance. When you think of it, we focus within certain contexts. The longest I will focus on work tasks is between, say, 9 a.m. and 5 30 p.m. This is the full extent of my work focus. But even within this context there are tasks that must be carried out. A lot of them will spring from worthwhile routines – sign letters, make or take certain phone calls, delegate work to staff, and so on. So, within the work context, I might block out 9 until 11 as exclusive to my main project. Then, take a coffee and make calls for 30 minutes. Then return to the project for one hour, and on. Therefore, focus is good, but if it strays outside those allocated blocks of time, it will start to have a detrimental effect on the bigger work picture.

                            After work, I move into a different context. The contexts then probably become something on the lines of family time, workout time, and spouse time. Within each of those contexts there could be key things to focus upon, and again focus is good providing it does not exceed its context. For example, I might have a weight or pulse-rate target at the gym, but I will not miss out time with the kids by doubling gym time.

                            Goal setting gurus recommend the virtues of determination, drive, courage, but they rarely advise patience. The goal setting experience can be an exciting one as we take hold of the magic lamp and name all the things we want. But in the real world, they will take longer than we expect. There is a need for a detailed mixture of focus and balance to make sure we are moving towards those.

                            AS Mike quoted from DA “Clarifying your values is likely to make your life more complicated, not simpler. It's not bad or good, just true.” Our lives are a soup of different roles that average themselves out in some way or other, even if we do nothing about them. Goal setting articles often cite Michael Jordan or captains of industry as examples of how goal setting can achieve great things. However, those people were generally single minded to the exclusion of almost everything else. (Michael Jordan said that he wished he had seen his sons grow up). Trying to breakdown the soup of roles down into its individual ingredients, and then applying the goal setting formula to each of these roles, is very complicated.

                            I suspect that single minded people do not have the capacity to regret the lack of balance in their lives – that’s their mental make-up, they feel happy, and do not feel the pull from other areas they are ignoring.

                            Pam, I'll give that book a try. I think I have a good idea of the things that would make me happy in life, nevertheless, I am always open to new guides and techniques.

                            Coz, I could probably do a reasonably comprehensive diagram of main areas in my life. I think my problem would be accepting the restrictions caused by financial necessity, and also, as I said above, exercising patience. This would therefore sabotage my efforts to work down through the levels to a 10,000 foot or runway level stage.

                            I love the synergy that is clearly present in your system. I read somewhere recently, it was a quote from one of the old timers, possibly Napoleon hill, something along the lines that by observing a single decision make by a person, he could describe the whole system of values that drives that person’s life. So, I guess there is a very precise set of values and drivers that influence what I do all the time. It could even be mapped out as accurately as yours could. The trouble is, it would be a very unsymmetrical diagram. It would be nice to think that I could try to do such a diagram, and then identify the areas that are being strangled to death, and try to rescue them!

                            Scott, you are hammering home the need for patience. GTD is supped to help me keep all my projects visible. But without the considered approach that you describe, my list of projects is becoming a blurred lump of frustration. You‘re right, there’s no other way to actually make progress on them.

                            DM, your post reminds me of a conversation I had once. I was rounding up a meeting with the general manager of a branch of a major public company. He had his Filofax with him a usual, and I asked him what system he utilised, in particular, how he kept track of all his stuff.

                            He said it was simple. He noted all requests and commands from head office. If head office did not follow them up in three days, he dumped them and never thought about them again. I thought this was a great way to keep his lists real.

                            DFE

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              worthwhile goals....

                              DFE,

                              You have a good way of putting together information!

                              The problem you highlighted - that of having a worthwhile goal in life (and not be lost in so called mundane items) - is a very pervasive one, and difficult to recognize as you have done so well. It is not obvious what this worthwhile goal is. Most of the books give an impression that one's life is nothing unless we have this great worthwhile goal to go for. In my case this pursuit of 'worthwhile' goals led to problems - chiefly the fear of failure - and hence procrastination. I now think of my life/day as a series of experiments (I come from a research background) and hence I can now accept failure as a part of experiments. Works for me at this time!

                              I recently took a small test on the www.thinktq.com website (free). It has 100 questions on a variety of items. It helped me a lot in identifying my bigger problems and my smaller problems...so that I may focus on improving my weakest link. I recommend you take this (for educational purpose if nothing else) as you might appreciate its value.

                              Siva

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X