- James Stevenson, Accredited Wellbeing Coach and Positive Psychologist -
Goals and non-goals is an interesting one. I studied goal setting at university and then in my psychology masters. What is a non-goal when compared to a goal? Where is the line? Is there a line?
When working with clients on their dreams and goals there is something interesting that I keep noticing. I reckon the ingredient of most interest here is power. So often its's the smallest of changes that can make vague dreams or hopes into something more concrete, real, with power behind it.
It's like at first there's no power or determination or motivation... it's like sharing a nice sounding idea that's never going to happen. But then a few powerful questions, and the shift happens. I guess this could described as the moment a non-goal becomes a goal.
In order to shed further light on what successful goal setting looks like lets look at the opposite; non-goals.
For the sake of this discussion I will consider a non-goal as a wish. A hope. A dream. A want. A desire. Something we all have, and something which has not yet become serious or realistic enough for us decide when and how it will happen.
Although I've read statistics which like to divide us into 5% goal-setters and 95% non-goal-setters the reality is not so simple. The truth is we are all both goal-setters and non-goal-setters. We all have both tendencies. Even those who say they do not set goals in fact set goals everyday.
A goal is something clear that we decide we want. We decide when we will get it.
Let's look at for example the first thing we do everyday. We wake up. You know how I know that most people set goals? Because most people have an alarm clock. An alarm clock is basically a goal setting wake up machine.
1. You want to wake up in the morning
2. You know exactly when you want to wake up
This means it's a goal. Most people are unlikely to write this down and with good reason. If it was written down it would sound like this.
I will wake up tomorrow morning at 6am. This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed. An excellent SMART goal.
Plus with a little help from the alarm its a goal which we pretty much achieve (with the odd snooze here and there) every day.
In the same way that we want to wake up early so we make a plan, buy an alarm clock, set it, and attempt to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning...
In the same way, if we turn our dreams into concrete goals, play around with some completion dates, then gradually, one little action at a time, move in that direction, before we know it we find that we have actually achieved something remarkable.
We don't need to do anything particularly special. We just keep on doing what we are doing but with this little addition which changes our course or direction ever so slightly. Even a 1 degree change in direction, if we keep going that way will eventually put us miles from where we would be without it.
So goals and non-goals... Which are we setting? We are all surely doing both. We have some things which we think concretely about, and know exactly what we want. Because of the attitude we take regarding these things we are able to get results.
We also have some things we want which we are little vague about. We are human. So we have both. We are all in the same boat. So let's help each other make a seemingly imperceptible but ultimately beneficial 1 degree change if it will improve our changes of achievement.
The fast track to personal growth is to create the motivation within. By setting even one little extra goal we can create that motivation ourselves and it will always go in the direction we ourselves truly want to move towards.
James Stevenson is the owner of WiseGoals.com and a qualified and accredited wellbeing and philosophy coach.
He works with clients in an patient, understanding and creative way to help them apply great philosophical ideas and psychological scientific findings so they can flourish in a way that leads to them also contributing to a better world.
The development of a strong sense of mattering and agency, alongside deep understanding of inner and outer obstacles give clients a powerful coaching experience. More about James here.
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