Nov 032011

Goal-setting - Where am I?

Goal-setting – Do You Know Where You Are?

A lot of times a coaching relationship will start with a goal-setting exercise.  This makes some sense, because if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know if you get there?  Goal-setting is necessary, but not sufficient.  In order to get started correctly, you MUST first know where you are!

What does it mean to know where you are?  In part that depends on what your goals are, which we’ll get to later, but fundamentally it’s about who you are and how you think.  For example, what are your core values?  Are you more individualistic, or are you more interested in the consensus of the group and the status quo?  Are you more cautious or are you comfortable being daring and making bold decisions without a lot of data?  Do you think mostly with your head or your heart?  The permutations are almost endless, but there are assessment instruments available that allow you to zero in on your core values, decision-making and communication style.

I have taken a variety of such instruments in my career and I’ve used several in my work with family businesses and other coaching and advisory clients.  Recently, I was introduced to a few of the tests developed and administered by Innermetrix.  I found these instruments to be some of the more helpful and informative ones I’ve used.  In particular, they allowed me to get a great deal of clarity around my profile as an entrepreneur and gave me insights into why coaching and helping people is so appealing to me.  In my opinion, such clarity is important and really acts a “starting point” in any discussion regarding your goals and the most effective and efficient path to achieving them.

Goal-setting - Do You Know Where You Are?

Per the diagram above, depending where you are starting from, the correct route to your objective or destination will vary significantly.  There is no one size fits all solution; what you should do and where you should go depends almost entirely on from where you are starting.  Think of a street map or GPS system; there is no way to get precise and optimal directions to your destination without first knowing your starting point!

So, at a fundamental level, you must know your starting point.  You must know your mindset.  At the next level up, which is the skills you’ve already developed that will help with your journey, you must also understand your starting point.  For example, if you want to take your soccer game to the next level and ultimately try to play professionally, you must follow a progression.  There is a fairly well worn path.  You must know your starting point on this path, before you can put together the optimal training program to follow the path as efficiently as possible.  Forgetting age for a moment and just talking about skills, let’s say that you do not yet know how to shoot, pass, and dribble effectively.  If that’s the case, you should develop proficiency in those areas before moving on to more complex aspects of the game, otherwise you will only ingrain your bad habits more deeply.  The same is true in business and almost any other endeavor.

This is not to say that everyone will take the same path, even if they have the same starting point.  Everyone’s path will be slightly, or very, different, depending on the individual, coaches and the particular endeavor.  However, it is key to learn the fundamentals first, then move on from there.  If you don’t, you may still make it to your goals, but it is likely to be a much less direct path, and in my experience and observation, your odds of making it at all are greatly diminished.

In summary, first understand where you are as a person.  Understand your own mind and how to make it work in your favor, rather than against you.  Next, understand the fundamentals of what it takes to excel at your endeavor, and where you stand in regard to development of those fundamentals.  Then, chart a path that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses, trying to maximize use of your strengths and minimize the harm of your weaknesses.  As you are on your way, monitor your progress.  Make sure you are practicing deliberately.  Be sure to incorporate feedback from your previous performance, in order to improve your future practice and performance.  This approach of “deliberate practice” will increase the probability that you get to your destination, and it is also likely to get you there more quickly.  Be patient though, as most research points to ten years or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice as the typical amount necessary to become an expert at anything.  If becoming an expert is not your objective, then you will be able to get by with a shorter period of practice and learning.

It’s key that your goals excite you and get you fired up enough to tap into your willpower and stick with the journey for as long as it takes.  Don’t be another victim of shiny object syndrome.  Set goals that really matter to you and make sure you are committed to achieving them, so you will persevere through the inevitable challenges that arise when you are trying to achieve something worthwhile.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

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  • Fantastic post I Very useful content to share with some clients I am coaching.
    Thanks Paul for sharing. BTW I love the 3D image on the top !

  • Excellent, Anne! I’m happy you found it helpful. Let me know how your clients react. In my book, it’s fundamental to know where you are, before you start mapping the path to where you want to go. You can “just start walking (or driving, or flying) of course, but the odds of arriving at your intended destination decrease considerably.

  • Jayna Locke

    Neat stuff! And the image at the top of your post is such a great graphical representation of what it feels like to try to head in a direction without a goal. Which way do you turn? Thanks for the insightful post. I will check out Innermetrix.

  • Ryan Williams

    Brilliant article. Know thyself. And while 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” seems a bit overwhelming this really motivates me to polish up my own clarity. Thanks for posting this.

  • Thanks, Ryan. Yes, clarity is key in goal-setting and you’re better off knowing where you are first, before you chart the course to where you want to be.

  • Thanks, Jayna. Yes, in goal-setting, I’ve found it is very helpful to know where you are before you try to chart a path to where you want to be.