Sunday, October 03, 2010

Focus on Progess to Evolving Goals

Goals are good right? I’ve had to question my stance on goals during the last few months of reassessing my life and beliefs and I’ve bumped up against an important intricacy or caveat in the use of goals I need to share with you.  I am going to share my story with you, which has noting to do with fitness, but the lesson is relatable to any goals and in most of our clients’ cases it is changing body composition.  There are few things more emotional than how you feel about your body and fitness, which can cut deep into our self-esteem and energy.

I know for me the idea and practice of SMART goal setting with measurements and timelines has been engrained in me from college, the corporate world, personal growth books, fitness best practice and the business world.  Goals are our structured way to move forward in our fast moving, high competition world.  Goals allow us to get clear on what we want and set our own expectations to live up to, which is much more motivating and emotionally inspiring than someone else setting high expectations for you.  When the goals come from outside ourselves without our input or buy in, like from our parents or boss, they can stress us out and we resist  or run for fear of disappointing them.  Disappointing people is a massive anxiety that we seldom stop to think about consciously but is always driving us, often in good directions, but sometimes can overwhelm and shut us down from growing.  The best approach is always preventive in my opinion, which in this case means setting your own goals and working with others to align them to your career, partner, etc. and get people’s input, and help in achieving them.  I still believe in goals very much and we use them as a major tool in my 10 week boot camps and fitness programs.  Click Here to download Fusion Cross-training’s Goal Worksheet and follow the process from discovering your inspirations to creating your staircase to achieve them.  There is a caveat however.

In reading a book called “What got you here won’t get you there” that the bestselling author himself, Marshall Goldsmith, recommended to me for entrepreneurs, I first read about this sneaky dark side of goals.  GOAL OBSESSION.  Our world and I have become obsessed with announced goals with set timelines and hard consequences.  Setting goals to get clear on what I wanted in life, being courageous enough to go for it, willing to sacrifice to achieve them, and persistent enough to see them through to success has been the cornerstone of my success.   In fact, I continually bet bigger, worked harder and risked more of myself both financially and emotionally in each stage of life.  No goals have been greater or closer to my heart than undertaking the successful creation and expansion of Fusion Cross-training and my relationship and life building with my ex partner. I don’t think I am alone in having wanted to be married and comfortable around a certain age.  I had my goal checklist and was driving through checking them off.  So far so good, but at the same time I was experiencing a level of disappointment in not quite achieving my exact goal as I had planned it.  From the outside I had a growing business that people love and a handsome, loyal partner, all of which are true and I was grateful for but the actual numbers and feelings weren’t quite adding up on the inside to the goals in my head and I had timelines damn it.  Relate this to losing fat/weight and making progress but not hitting your goal by the date you set.  Here is where the goal obsession comes into play, especially for all those type A’s out there. 

Goals are written specifically so you can measure against them, great right?  Well they don’t really tell you what to do when you are not quite achieving them.  When you are obsessed with goals, a few things occur.  First, you are overly emotional about them, which always clouds your vision from seeing signs and reassessing your original plan/decisions because of the pile of fear you have built up around not achieving them if you do look deeper.  This fear restricts the corrective actions required to actually get you back on track towards the right goals. The second thing that happens when you are goal obsessed is you don’t freely bob and weave, look for creative solutions or adjust your goals to go with the flow of the world.  Building on last months blog about having faith in the flow of the world outside yourself, you need to not only be attune to it, but be open to adjusting your goals based on the flow of all the things out of your control which is just about everything.  If we take our written goals, particularly the measures and timelines too seriously, we don’t leave much room for our inevitable mistakes (so making them seems worse) or the uncontrollable curve balls the world throws at us to make sure we are awake and humble.  At the end of the day the essence of our goals are pulled from our hearts but the measures and timelines we attach are pulled out of our ass.  It is like picking stocks, you make your best guess.  If not kept in perspective goals can set us up for disappointment, upset, destroyed confidence, depression and kills future motivation. 

For me, I felt like I was under achieving professionally and would beat myself up for not being further along financially.  I compared myself to others that stayed on the corporate track.  I didn’t give myself enough credit for what I had successfully created and how important it was to people.   Interestingly, personally I went the other direction in the face of resistance to my goal and was not willing to dig into why I was feeling that I was not getting the full commitment and love.  The bigger the goal, the higher the risk of obsession, just look at what took down some of the greatest leaders in the world, like Alexander the Great.  When you are obsessed with the measures and timelines of goals, you experience any set back or resistance as failure, confusion and loss of dreams.   Other people who are not obsessed might see it completely differently, they might see the amazing progress, a foundation for major opportunity ahead or in the personal areas a need for a relationship checkup and some tough questions.  With the obsession comes being really tough on yourself instead of seeing the progress, having patience and letting it evolve.  If you focus on the progress, feel good about it, assess how to do better with a kind and understanding heart, the next steps come easier and faster.  If you like me, continually dig into yourself, you will finally hit a wall.   I didn’t quite hit a wall as my survival instincts kicked in and forced me to start to get more creative and look for new pathways to slightly different goals.  Once released from the initial hard goals and upset, I was able to see other opportunities that came to me, I tested new business models and created a vision that reenergized me, albeit a different one from when I first set my goals.  We need to expect to redefine our goals partially or even entirely, to have different strategies, timelines and adapt to the new conditions.   Now I see the glass half full and am grateful which is an amazing starting point for anything.

Personally it was a much harder lesson to be learned as there was less obvious feedback and I hit the wall hard before awakening fully.  What I took from it was that timelines and measures aren’t really appropriate in issues of the heart and especially not in relationships.  The outward measures can be frightfull deceiving and cover up what is going on underneath.  Relationships always require the challenging harmonizing of two crazy emotional humans which takes as much work as career to keep it on the growth path.  The premise is still the same though, drop the obsession as it clouds judgment and the best path forward, and stick to moving it forward, even if it means separation. 

Ultimately our focus needs to be on the progress we have made towards our goals, continually reassessing our situation and evolving the measures, timelines, strategies, etc. to fit this new situation.   This is the caveat to using goals in your life.  Celebrate the progress, be it anniversaries, milestones, etc.  Reassess failures but forgive yourself for not achieving the exact goal you set out for as the timelines and measures are half baked anyway.  If it didn’t work it was because it wasn’t supposed to or there is a lesson you had to learn before you could really achieve the higher goal, which in the end is happiness.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post Gavin. What you said reminds me of playing soccer or probably any sport for that matter. The object is to score a goal but to get there you have to move the ball up the field while dodging opponents: sometimes moving the ball forward, sometimes passing to the side, and sometimes going backwards. Often players just head for the goal because they only have the end in sight. A good player takes in the field, moving to open spaces or creating space so they and their teammates can move the ball to goal. And along the way they have to constantly reevaluate how to get to a place where they can shoot to score.

Anonymous said...

Being involved in a startup venture that took seven years of my life and eventually failed you learn at some point to accept and acknowledge your accomplishments rather than measure your worth based on silly things like the size of your portfolio versus your peers.

I admire your bravery and insight in sharing such a blog entry. Remain happy and healthy Gavin.

Alex said...

Thanks for the thoughtful and personal post, Gavin. We all keep up appearances, but we're all struggling the same way.