People grow in different ways. One approach is to throw themselves into projects where they work hard to achieve specific goals.
There are different kinds of goals. Some can lead to breakthroughs; some can lead to breakdowns. So let’s explore two kinds of goals.
People often grow when they take the following steps.
* They focus on activities they find stimulating.
* They set specific goals.
* They stretch themselves to achieve success.
People love to pursue stimulating and yet stretching activities in their life and work. This helps them to feel alive and also deal with the more mundane tasks.
One key point is worth remembering. People need to feel that, providing they do their best, they have a reasonable chance of achieving the stretch target.
Such stimulating and stretching ‘projects’ often embody the qualities described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow.
He found that people experienced a sense of flow when the task they were doing met the following conditions.
People need to recognise the difference between stretch targets and those that fall into more questionable territory.
Some macho organisations, for example, invite people to strive hard to reach almost impossible goals. They may say to a team:
“Last year you delivered $500,000 worth of business. This year you are expected to deliver $700,000. We are cutting costs, however, so you will have to do it with less support staff.
“We will be checking you each week to see how you are doing towards achieving the target.”
Imagine that the team manages to delivers $600,000 worth of business. The organisation then says:
“We set $700,000 to make sure you worked hard to get $600,000. It is better to shoot for $700k and almost reach it, than to set you a smaller goal and you fall short of that. Now your target for next year is …”
This approach stems from a view that people need a lot of stick and only a little carrot to make them work. But there is a cost.
Professional people often pay a price in the process. They may break or, more likely, leave to find an organisation that treats them like responsible adults. This leads to losing their knowledge and paying replacement costs.
Great organisations invite people to achieve stretching goals. But they make sure that, providing people do their best and are given the right support, it is possible to achieve these targets.
Such organisations also have a certain approach to management. They employ people who are positive, professional and want to achieve peak performance. They don’t employ those who don’t want to work.
Great organisations then manage by outcomes, rather than manage by tasks. They provide an environment in which people are encouraged to stretch and make breakthroughs, rather than to break.
Some things to bear in
mind when setting goals
Imagine that you are feeling uncertain about setting a certain goal. Here are some guidelines to bear in mind.
You can clarify the ‘controllables’.
Peak performers focus on how they can ‘control the controllables’ before embarking on a certain task. They clarify:
The things they can control.
The things they can’t control.
The things they can do to build on what they can control and manage what they can’t.
Some people ignore this approach and plunge into spending energy on things they cannot control.
You can do due diligence on the
probability of achieving the goal.
Before setting out on a project it is useful:
To rate the probability of being able to reach the goal and make sure the rating is at least 7+/10.
To clarify the specific things that could be done to increase the probability.
To then make a decision regarding whether or not to go for the goal.
Certainly it is possible to go for goals that haven’t such a high probability of success. People often take that path when facing potential life or death situations. But then the risk of doing nothing far outweighs that of going for the goal.
Peak performers in organisations may also test themselves by, for example, setting three performance goals which have differing chances of success. So these may look something like the following.
The key is to make sure you don’t have three ‘mission critical’ goals where the chances of success are less than 7/10.
Let’s explore another factor to consider when moving into potentially dangerous territory.
You can take heed of warning
signs in your body or intuition.
“Looking back on it, I should have taken heed of my gut feeling,” a person may say. “I knew something did not feel right, but I could not put my finger on it.
“Now I take notice of any warning signs and try to find facts that explain the feeling. Today I am much better at getting the data that backs up my intuition.”
Such an approach may seem laboured and take time. But people can sometimes feel that something does not feel right. It is then important to double-check information to, as far as possible, see the big picture before embarking on an expedition.
When has this happened for you? Looking back on your life and work, try to think of the times when:
You have taken heed of warning signs.
You have not taken heed of warning signs.
How can you apply these lessons in the future? Consider the things you can do:
To take heed of any warning signs.
To gather information to back up your feelings.
To then take the appropriate decision.
There are many models for growth. One approach is to set stimulating goals. But the key is to ensure that you make breakthroughs – rather than break – on the way to achieving your aims.