Personal Goals – The Shoulds, Wants and Why
We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all said it. “I should exercise more”, “You should study something”, or “I should work on my communication skills”. Where do these mysterious and vague shoulds come from and how do they link to our personal goals?
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of necessary shoulds out there. For instance, you should obey the road rules and pay for your groceries at the supermarket. But how committed can we personally be to a should imposed by society, our family, our friends or our workplace? Can we really take ownership of another person’s should? If it was really our own goal the language would be different. We would hear “I want”, “I will” and “I am”. We talk a lot about aspects of our personal lives and our workplaces that we would like to improve, but without a personal commitment to the improvement it is unlikely we will experience the sustainable change we require.
Let’s start with why
Many of you will be familiar with Simon Sinek’s great TED talk on “Start with Why” and his book of the same name. Here is a link to the short version for those who need a refresher and there is a long version if you have time and are really keen to know more. Once we understand our why we can define our purpose. This relates to our personal why as well as our workplace why. In the workplace alignment of the personal and organisation why need to exist to create engagement.
Where there is an alignment of purpose and a sense of shared vision we start to see the wants of the employee adding real value to the organisation. There is also ownership of the goal by the employee. As an example, in the workplace we often see a development plan prepared that imposes the organisation’s should on the employee. To improve selection of, and commitment to goals, the conversation needs to be around aligning the purpose of both the organisation and the individual.
When an individual is setting their personal goals, this is why cannot be ignored. Understanding what is driving a goal – is it a should or a want – is important for understanding how likely it is that goal will be achieved and sustained.
Ownership of the should
Most coaches understand the value of visualisation and having the client prepare a mental image of them achieving their goal – what does it look like, how does it feel, what are others saying about it, etc. Our brains don’t really know the difference between a memory and a visualisation so creating this mental image ourselves can anchor the goal and link the what with the why. Check out some of the great work done by the American Navy Seals using visualisation and priming.
When an objective is a should, rather than a want, we have difficultly creating the mental map that will support it. Of course with some self-awareness and work it is possible to turn a should into your own personal want – we just have to create the link. Once you can take ownership of the should the language will automatically change.
So where to next?
Listen to yourself and others. Are we talking about goals in terms of should; what language are we using? As an individual you can identify and explore the shoulds. Where is the expectation coming from, and is it valid and right for you? Would it be best to set aside that should, or delve into it in greater detail to find your own want inside it? Many people work with a coach to identify, shape and progress goals linked to their why.
As a people manager in an organisation understanding the intersection and alignment of the personal and organisation why is important for creating meaningful objectives that will gain support from your team. A great overview of alignment, engagement and motivation is represented in the YouTube clip on the X Model of Engagement. To maximise discretionary effort and to help employees achieve their goals in the workplace, look for that alignment and ensure you are working on wants not shoulds.
So let’s all get out there and start climbing our own mountains!