The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Setting Goals By Starting From Within Yourself And Working Towards A Picture Of Success

 

There are many ways to set goals. This article looks at three approaches. These are: a) To start from within yourself; b) To work towards a picture of success; c) To find ways to combine these approaches. Let’s explore each of these ways.

You can start
from within yourself

This often involves going through a period of reflection. It may include exploring questions about your philosophy and purpose on the planet.

This approach often involves considering the existential questions that individuals have explored over the centuries. These include the following. 

Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want to do in my life? How can I do these things? When do I want to begin?

Different people go on different journeys to answer these questions. Some of these journeys lead to enlightenment. The next step is to translate these breakthroughs into actions.

Some individuals focus on their strengths and how they can use these to serve other people. Some focus on their passions and translate these into a clear purpose.

Some aim to clarify their values. They then focus on their inner compass and how they can follow it each day. Some may choose to follow a spiritual faith, mission or vocation.

Some explore who they are and why they are that way. Sometimes this can lead to self-awareness and become the springboard for action. Sometimes it can lead to increasing complexity and a feeling of paralysis.

A person who starts from within may begin by clarifying their core principles. Imagine, for example, that they settle on aiming:

To encourage other people.

To become the best they can be.

To build a better world.

The person can then translate these into concrete actions they want to take each day. Looking at the first of these principles, they may say:

Who are the specific people I want to encourage today? How can I encourage each of these individuals? How can I welcome the person and help them to feel at ease? How can I connect with them? How can I help them to feel the centre of my world?

How can I show respect for the person? If they wish, how can I encourage them to talk about what is happening in their world? How can I then provide practical encouragement? My goal for the day is to do everything I possibly can to encourage people.

The person will then focus on the other principles they want to follow. They will translate these into actions and set specific goals.

Imagine that you want to take this route. Here are some of the pluses and minuses involved in this approach.

The potential pluses are: 

You can be true to yourself. You can clarify your inner compass – which can be spiritual or a set of moral values – and aim to follow it each day.

You can pursue your guiding principles and translate these into action. You can get a sense of satisfaction from setting and achieving specific goals. 

The potential minuses are:

You can become addicted to getting more self-awareness but fail to move on to application and achievement. You can become the victim of too much introspection

Depending on the method used, you can be uplifted or fall into a spiral of self-questioning. You may still yearn to find a big goal that can become your guiding North Star.

Imagine that you want to take the looking within yourself approach to setting goals. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to set goals by starting from within yourself.

Describe what you see as the potential pluses of taking this approach.

Describe what you see as the potential minuses.

You can work towards
a picture of success

This involves clarifying your longer-term goals. You may choose to focus on achieving your personal or professional picture of success.

Let’s start with the professional aspect. You may aim to gain a qualification or get promotion. You may aim to climb the career ladder or achieve a certain status. You may aim to earn enough money to feel more in charge of shaping your future.

Let’s move on to the personal aspect. You may set specific goals that for you equate to being successful. You may focus on spiritual goals or achieving a sense of peace. You may aim to be happy or find fulfilment. You may work towards achieving your lifetime picture of success.

Imagine that you want to take this route. Here are some of the pluses and minuses involved in this approach.

The potential pluses are:

You can feel alive by setting an inspiring long-term goal. You can feel motivated by focusing on the rewards of achieving the target. You may feel a sense of purpose in your daily life and work.  

You can get small successes on the way towards achieving the goal. You can get a deep sense of satisfaction when you achieve the picture of success.

The potential minuses are:

You may set a goal that seems attractive but it does not lead to real satisfaction. You may strive to achieve something out of duty rather than joy. You may then think: “I will be able to do what I really want after I achieve the goal.”

You may be in love with the destination and fail to enjoy the journey. You may set a goal that is beyond your control and impossible to achieve. You may reach the goal but then find it difficult to develop a new sense of purpose.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to set goals by working towards a picture of success. 

Describe what you see as the potential pluses of taking this approach.

Describe what you see as the potential minuses.

You can find ways to
combine these approaches

There are many ways to look within and then translate what you discover into a clear picture of success. Here is one approach.

You can start from within by, for example, clarifying the core principles you want to follow in your life. You can then translate each of these principles into specific goals you want to achieve. These can form the basis for clarifying your lifetime picture of success.

Here is one exercise that can be used to take this step. Different people will, of course, come up with different answers when doing the exercise.

During the past 50 years I have invited many people to go through similar exercises. The answers they produce often cover similar themes.

Many people say the principles they want to follow include helping other people, enjoying life and creating some kind of legacy. They then focus on how they can express these principles in various areas of life.

The goals they set often fall under three main headings. How they try to get these things differs, of course, and this can create happiness or problems. Here are the headings.

Positive Relationships

They want to love and be loved. They may aim to be a good parent, partner or friend. When looking at the parenting part, for example, they may say something like:

I want my partner and I to give our children a happy childhood. For example, when they are older I want them to say things like:

“Our parents were always there for us. They encouraged us, helped us to develop our talents and also learn how to make good decisions.”

Positive Experiences

They want to be healthy, hopeful and happy. They want to enjoy life and have few regrets. So they may say something like:

I want to live life fully, to visit many countries, to complete the book I promise myself I am going to write and to make full use of my talents. 

Positive Contribution

They want to make a positive contribution to the world. So they may something like:

I want to do stimulating work that encourages other people and, when looking back on my life, feel that I have created a positive legacy.

Different people come up with different goals when looking at how to express these themes. Here is an example of one person’s lifetime picture of success. They followed up with a more detailed action plan for achieving their goals.

There are many approaches to looking within and translating your findings into specific goals. You may call this process clarifying your inner compass, defining your core principles or whatever. The key is that it provides guidance on the way towards achieving your aims.

Like every method, this approach also has pluses and minuses. Here are some of these.

The potential pluses are:

You can create a real connection between your values – what you believe in – and your personal vision. You can keep returning to this inner compass to gain strength. You can then focus on how to follow the core principles to achieve the picture of success.  

You can do something every day towards achieving the goals. You can prioritise your activities by asking: “Will doing this activity contribute towards achieving my life goals?” You can gain a sense of satisfaction by working towards and achieving your picture of success.

The potential minuses are:

You may have to do the exercises many times before you are satisfied that you are on the right track. You will need to break down the big goals into small actions that provide a sense of satisfaction. 

You may wonder: “What if my goals change?” This is a legitimate question. If you do the exercise many times, however, you will probably find that you keep returning to the same themes and goals. You may do the exercise and then put it away, forgetting to keep focusing on your principles and picture of success.

Imagine that you want to take this approach. You aim to start from within and then translate what you discover into a clear picture of success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to look within and then translate what you discover into a clear picture of success. 

Describe what you see as the potential pluses. 

Describe what you see as the potential minuses.

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