Have you noticed how many unsolicited emails there are in your inbox these days giving you new tips for goal setting? Yup – it’s that time of year alright – even though we may not be ready for it – 2022 is here. So here’s another one for you.
Each year I do a goal setting message with the latest and greatest tips for setting bright and shiny goals for the new year, a clean slate ahead. Early on, I started with New Year’s Resolutions but after a while it became just goal setting and the process I was talking about each year became simpler and simpler. Because if you make it too complicated, no one is going to do it anyway. However now, after yet another year of stress, ambiguity and uncertainty it almost seems pointless to set goals after what we’ve been through. But of course, that just makes it the most important thing we can do! It’s one of the few things that we really can control right now, when there’s so much we can’t. Taking control over something can help us get our life back and maybe even some feeling of that ‘normalcy’ we are all looking for.
After looking at what other people are suggesting, I’m going with simple and ambitious for this new year. I’m following Michael Bungay-Stanier, coach and author, who is coming out with a new book soon called “How To Begin: Start Doing Something That Matters”. And I agree with him when he says you should set a ‘worthy’ goal this year.
What is a worthy goal you ask and why is that important? A worthy goal is about playing big, something bigger than just you, because playing small doesn’t serve you or the world anymore. So, worthy of your life, your talents and worthy of the world. After all we’ve been through the last 2 years it almost seems we should do nothing less, don’t you think? Also, I’m always asking people to look out to their older self (at the end of career or life) and think about what they might regret not doing. This might just be that thing and the time to start it is now.
You can set all the usual goals you want, but Michael says that a worthy goal should be thrilling, important and daunting and we’ll look at what he says about each piece:
- Thrilling – think about something that lights you up vs creating goals for things that you think you ‘should’ be doing, which I know I’ve done a lot of in the past. How excited do you get about it? Would it keep you up at night thinking about it and carry you through even when it got tough? Does it speak to your values or who you want to be in the world if you lived up to your fullest potential? If you said it out loud would people look at you strangely, clap their hands in excitement or run away screaming? (Any of those 3 things could be just fine, by the way.)
- Important – Jacqueline Novogratz makes a great point when she says, “what if we could give more to the world than we take away”. This is where you leave selfishness behind and create a sense of purpose bigger than yourself. The world needs more of that right now for sure. Ask yourself, why do you really want to do this and what type of an impact can you have?
- Daunting – does the goal make you nervous or take you to the edge of yourself because it’s almost unreachable? Find something that is not too small that it’s trivial but not too big that it’s impossible, (like world peace). You know how to start but you may not know yet how to finish.
And that all sounds great, especially if something pops into your head right away, giving you that purpose that you’ve always wanted to have. But what if you can’t think of anything worthy right now – you are on board with the idea but how you do you figure out what your real ‘worthy’ goal should be? Michael suggests that you look at your goal from 3 different lenses:
- What is the context around it – do you want it to be a part of your work life or your personal (non-work) life? What’s most important to accomplish in your life right now?
- Scale – this can be from narrow or intimate to broad, whatever feels right. For example, it could be about a family, a community, a state/province, or even a country. Where is it best placed and who is your audience?
- Projects, people or patterns – what do you want to focus on most?
Michael also says that you should make several drafts of your worthy goal and test each draft, so they build on each other and to see if it is viable or ambitious enough. Use action verbs such as build, create, disrupt, change, reinvent etc. so that you will start with action, make it really specific and also have a time commitment – when are you going to have it done by?
The other thing that might help you if you are struggling with figuring out your worthy goal, think about it and put it out there and then let it go. It may come to you later. I did that and had an idea, but I thought no, don’t know how to do that, so I pushed it away. But it kept coming back. That means something.
Or another way – take time to reflect on all the things you have had to deal with these last 2 years and what needs to change for the better? We have pivoted and adapted and made accommodations, what is the one thing that you can take into the new year from what you have learned from all of this? What has been the biggest challenge or pain or even joy that you can use to help others? And is this something that will matter in 5 years – to you or someone else?
Take some time to formulate but don’t take too much. The year will slip by as it always does, faster than you expect, kicking you out at the end of 2022 with fingers on keyboard, still trying to figure it out. Abraham Lincoln said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”. Take some control, pick a goal worthy of your life and the world, set up some action steps, and let’s get going!