I am sure most of us remember writing an essay on ‘my ambition’ during our early school days.
It bothered me every time because my ambition kept changing every few years. There were few who were persistent with their ambition to become a doctor or engineer although, I don’t know how far they succeeded but I surely wasn’t one of them.
I kept wondering – what is the point of all this if I am not going to achieve it? Why should I chase anything which I know is not meant for me? Sometimes we also landed up chasing something desperately just to realise we got it all wrong? Goals are certainly overhyped.
In my teenage year, I started firmly believing that goals are useless for common people like us; it is more for the intelligent, sharp and bright cohort of people who are probably born always sure of what they want.
I was proven wrong soon. I realised it is precisely for the same reason, ‘common people’ like me need a goal even more strongly.
Harvard study showed that the graduates who had written goals, decades later, were far more wealthy than those who didn’t. But there are also ample examples of individual, who are in vulnerable state inspite of being highly focused on their goals.
The problem is not about ‘having a goal’. It is about knowing the following about goals:
- Which is the right goal for me?
Choosing a goal which is appropriate is the key. There is a very thin line between a goal and an aspiration. Not being able to choose the right goal turns a goal into an aspiration but being able to select the right goal can turn an aspiration into a goal. Aspirations are motivating but being able to translate it into a goal create tangible results which we can take pride on
- How realistic is it?
Once again, keeping it realistic is about assessing the environment, evaluating your competency, gauging your supporting network. A realistic view of all these factors increases the possibility of the goal being achieved
- How complex or challenging is the goal?
The whole purpose of a goal is to help us move forward. A certain level of complexity gives us the required momentum, creates a strong enough zeal and also prepares us for a new state where a higher level of skill set would be required. On the other hand, if the goal is too complex or challenging; it is easy to get disengaged and push it for another day.
- When should I revisit the goal?
This is where most individuals struggle. It is also one of the areas which I feel is often ignored and hence become the strongest reason for disappointment when things go wrong. Working in a dynamic environment often throws us into circumstances we are barely prepared for. Being able to revisit the goal at critical points therefore becomes imperative
- Who will help me analyse the progress of the goal?
This is my personal favourite. Having a mentor or a coach or a guide is as crucial as having a goal. If you are connected to the right person, chances are higher you will choose the right goal and in case you have already chosen a goal, chances of you achieving it is higher too.
- What do I do if I realise my actions will not lead to the outcomes I am looking for?
We all have experienced a U-turn in our life at some point of time. Goals are meant to be achieved but sometimes a U-turn becomes unavoidable to keep the essence of the goal alive. That’s what agility is all about and in the last one year of living through a pandemic , I am certain most of us have experienced it.
I wish someone back then helped me with these questions; I would have been more motivated to actually have a goal.
But thankfully, at work I came across people who helped me answer these questions. Today when I set goals for my team or my team members, I got them covered.
So, to answer the question – Is goal setting overrated?
The answer would be – No.
In fact it is probably one of the most underrated activities throughout the year and that is where the essence of setting a goal, having a conversation around it is lost.
It has become a sign of compliance and not a reason for commitment.
Goals are set at the start of the year, not followed through and then reviewed at the end of the year during annual appraisal is a common practice in many organisations.
This impacts not only the quality of the appraisal conversations, but the manager’s relations with the team members, the credibility of the manager and, most importantly jeopardises, the performance of the individuals.
Even with SMART goal setting template, the understanding of the word ‘goal’ is not clear among many managers, leave aside the goal setting conversations and the goal review meetings.
Having said that there are many organisations that make a rigorous effort to not only sensitise their managers towards the process but train them to have healthy goal setting conversations too.
The appraisal seasons are over and the season for goal setting is about to start.
What are you doing to keep the essence of goal setting conversation meaningful in your organisation?
Author: Sumitra Paul Chatterjee
I Train Consultants India Pvt. Ltd.
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