To Reach Your Goals - Make Them Robust
“Many are stubborn in their pursuit of the path they’ve chosen. Few in pursuit of the goal.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Have you ever set a goal that you
a) didn't follow through with,
b) achieved, and didn't feel a sense of satisfaction upon achieving?
Why does this happen? I would argue it happens when a goal isn't robust enough. This doesn't mean it wasn't a valuable goal- it just means there's room to build a more meaningful context that will encourage follow through and true satisfaction. I'll share how I distinguish between 'regular' goals and robust goals.
'Regular' goal: Highly specific, destination oriented. With this type of goal you often focus on a singular, and you may tend to marry yourself to a process. You may become narrow minded in your actions, and you may repeat the same patterns of people before you at the loss of innovative solutions and of your own fulfillment.
Robust goal: Not a destination, more like a mission statement. Robust goals are action-influencing, not action-driven. Robust goals influence what type of 'regular' goals we set, and are critical for inspiring a sense of purpose behind those 'regular' goals.
Let's take an example of a common goal for many people: to lose weight. If my desire to lose weight stops at just that- to shed some pounds- it's not likely to be very motivating. If I can fit it inside of a bigger, more inspiring framework, I'm much more likely to achieve the goal (or, in some cases, I may realize I need to rework the goal altogether). A robust goal that could actually inspire losing weight may be: "I want to be healthy to show up with energy in all areas of my life" or "I want to express deep self-love in all that I do". When I can find a way to connect my individual goals to a greater life purpose, not only am I moving in a direction that I feel good about- I'm also more likely to achieve the small goal.
Robust goals ensure that we will be open to many paths. We will be selective in what pursuits serve our biggest goals. We will be nimble to new opportunities and realize that we can build never-before-taken road. Example: When I imagine the path to "get a job", I am stuck considering what credentials I need and who I should have coffee with and what my resume should look like. When I imagine my goal- of being of service to others and adding value to those around me in a way that sustains my lifestyle- my paths become COUNTLESS- my avenues for this goal are diverse. I may head down the "get a job" path in this case- but I'm also open to changing paths if this one would no longer serve the robust goal, or if I realize a better path to the robust goal.
It is my belief that all activities or goals should be a part of a robust goal. A goal that depicts how you want to show up in the world, and that has multiple paths. I tried this line of thinking the last time I was sitting in my stylist's chair. I asked: Why had she become a hairdresser? What did she like best about being a hairdresser? Her response: I like making women feel confident.
Well- if her robust goal is to make women feel confident... she actually doesn't need to be a hairdresser to do so. There are many paths available for her, as well as increased meaning in the small things that make her successful in her job. The robust goal of making women feel confident is deeply motivating for my stylist. Years ago, when her goal was to become a hairdresser, this deep goal would have insulated her from the (a) and (b) outcomes listed at the beginning of this post. In fact, even if she had not followed through on becoming a stylist, she could have taken another path to fulfill the robust goal.
Consider this in your own work or with what 'regular' goals you're currently working with. Is there a larger story that those goals a part of? If so, does that larger story resonate with you? If not, perhaps it's time to work on the robust goal which will help to influence the 'regular' ones.
Questions to help build your robust goal:
At the end of my days, what would feel like a life well lived?
Who do I need to be, in order to exercise my potential to impact this world?
What difference do I seek to make in the world by my presence in it? (a personal favourite I discovered through Human Venture)
Which of my talents do I wish to develop?
What legacy do I want to leave?