Goals are a hot topic. From athletes to business-folk, talk about goals is a main focus. Much ado is made about setting them and going after. We hear over and over about how the best are always goal-setters, and we should be too if we hope to achieve great things.
Really, though, why do we and why should we care about goals?
“Why” as Foundation
When we talk about goals, we can talk about how we are going to achieve them, we can talk about who is going to help us. Where is it going to happen? When will it be done?
None of these questions matter though without the Why serving as the foundation for it all.
Without a large enough Why, the details won’t matter because there won’t be enough motivation to hold them up.
To get great projects off the ground, you need some powerful rockets and the Why serves as fuel.
When it comes to goals, most people already have an idea of the Why. They know there are good reasons for wanting to be goal-oriented. So the purpose of this article is not merely to give a why but to make the why big enough to hold all of the great goals we want it to.
The Typical Reasons
When it comes to improving performance, specific and difficult goals outdo general and “cushy” directions (ex: “Do your best”).(1)
- When you take it upon yourself to set a specific outcome for your project and make that outcome worthy of seeking, then you are more likely to improve your performance.
In this way, goals are amazingly handy. They take the current you and have you focus on becoming a better you.
In addition to this,
- Goals give you direction by which to make use of your limited number of resources.
When you set out each day to improve yourself you are working with limited time, money, energy, etc. Having a goal helps to make sure you allocate these resources in the correct way.
- Goals help you by giving you competence and confidence. After having some successful goals under your belt, your confidence in yourself improves. This confidence is backed by the competence you have gained by working towards tough goals.
These typical reasons, even though great reasons to have for being obsessed about goals, just aren’t enough for me, though.
Sure, they help give you some foundation to start on your journey, but when the going really gets tough, it takes something deeper.
The True Value of Goals
The true value of a goal is that it injects meaning, significance and emotion into the everyday.
When you take on a goal you are taking on an idea of what you would like to be like in the future. What kind of person you want to be, whether smarter, stronger, faster, richer, etc.
That kind of person you want to be has an immediate effect upon who you are now. Your everyday conduct must now reflect the sort of actions that will bring that person into existence.
Goals give your everyday actions meaning and significance. The boring, menial task you used to perform is now a building block to a better life. The cheap, boring meal you just ate is part of saving up enough money to finally take that trip to Greece.
Even if you don’t achieve that goal, the kind of person you forge yourself into is the kind of person better able to handle themselves when it comes to getting what they want.
Football With End-Zones
Picture a football game without goal posts or end zones. What would the game eventually become? Just a bunch of people running around. And while it may be fun to watch for awhile the entertainment factor will wear off quickly when people realize there is no point.
Many times the work we are doing each day feels exactly like this. Without some way to score, we have no stake in what we are doing. We don’t care about the outcome because there is no winner, no loser, only going home after the same chain of events; the clock hits 5.
The real reason we should care about goals, the only reason we should care about goals is the fact that they inject meaning and emotion into our everyday.
They give us something to wake up for, to look forward to and give us reasons to continue to work our asses off even when exhausted.
Sure, the other reasons for liking goals are great. Wow, they improve performance. Big whoop.
Making the work I do each day matter? That is the only reason I’m ever worried about.
(1) Swezey, Robert W.; Meltzer, Zach L.; Salas, Jimmy M. (1994), “Some Issues Involved in Motivating Teams”, in O’Neil, Tyler; Drillings, Holden L., Motivation: health class research, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, p. 146.