27 min read

Over 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King uttered the words, "I have a dream," in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. We are already a few weeks past "Happy New Years" now. 

Typically this time of year represents a "reset " time or a new start on goals. If you go to a gym, you will notice that the next 3 months are the busiest of the year, before people fall back into their old habits. Change is tough, and takes time and commitment. As you look out at the rest of the year, while globally there is much uncertainty and the media will predictably dwell on the fears and negatives, we must take a step back and think about what is important to us, what we want to achieve, and then document these goals. Most of us are in leadership in some way - whether at work with an official title, or as a volunteer, or at home with our kids. As a leader, you will be most effective when you pause, reflect, and focus on some clear goals - then help others around you (direct reports, colleagues, friends and family) to do the same. There is much that has been written about goal setting; below are some suggested links, as well as two critical starting points: Desire, and Written Goals.

1) Desire

 First and foremost, all great goals start with a very strong desire. The reality is that most people don't really drill down on this. It is crucial to clarify what you really want to achieve. From my experience (and likely yours), people are driven more by fear than by desire.

I recall meeting Anthony “Tony” Robbins and his then wife, Becky, in 1989 before he became a (to some at the time an infomercial ) celebrity. We were both taking the rare opportunity to hear Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak live in  Toronto  at a limited audience. As I chatted with him after the event and shared that I enjoyed his book Unlimited Power, Tony invited me to attend one of his live seminars. I, along with my brother and two friends Pat and Joe, will never forget the firewalk experience - walking over burning coals in bare feet. I vividly remember standing in line to do this, and thinking "this is nuts!" My only comfort as I waited was that, as I got closer to the front of the line to participate in this goofy thing, the coals seemed to be gradually fading from burning red to grey. My anxiety decreased somewhat as I watched, and I reassured myself that the coals were cooling.

Well, just as I got to the front of the line, the folks in charge abruptly called a halt to the proceedings. As I stood there, assuming that the time had run out, I found myself suddenly feeling quite brave, and thinking, "I could have done it if there had been time – no problem!"

 You can imagine the jolt to my nervous system when I saw what happened next. It turns out, time wasn’t up yet. I glanced around just in time to see the approach of a couple of wheelbarrows filled with fresh, red hot, burning coals. Seems I wasn't the only one what had noticed that the coals were cooling! "Ok Chuck- your turn to walk...”

 That event has forever anchored my perspective on focus, desire, and distractions caused by fear. In fact, most people are preoccupied with fear of what could happen, because they haven't really focussed as deeply on the mechanics of what they desire to achieve. Brian Tracy likes to say, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” So when you reflect on what you want to achieve, also think about the pain of not achieving it. Leverage your focus on what you desire with the pain of doing nothing different. Like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, look into the future to see both the benefit of achieving a goal, as well as what life would look like if you don’t achieve it.

 Right now, make a plan to spend some time in solitude to think about what you desire for your life this year. As author Stan Davis likes to ask, what would your life look like if it were perfect?

 If you are coaching others, at work or at home, help them to focus on what they want. Remember, people do things for their reasons, not ours. Martin Luther King Junior didn't motivate others by saying "I have a nightmare," that’s not engagement. Use questions like: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change in your job/life? Or, what are 3 changes you’d like to implement this year? Then, in workplace coaching, help them align these goals with organizational objectives.

 For example, if a sales rep says, "I’d like to take my whole family to Europe in the Fall", you could encourage him to sit down with his spouse on the weekend and research destinations in Europe and the costs of the trip, before calculating how much more in commissions he’d like to earn. From there, you can coach him through to breaking this down into weekly goals. All intentional achievement starts with focussing on what we desire.

 By the way, U2’s Desire Hollwywood Remix is on my iPod workout play list... As the proverb says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

2) Written Goals

 Once you’ve focussed on what you want, it’s time to break it into goals and write them down. Clearly written goals create clarity and focus. In order to eliminate distractions from over exposure to information, effective people write their goals down. If you are coaching others, give them time to reflect and do the same. Frankly, done properly, this removes the pressure from you to “evaluate” their progress. As they articulate the goals, you can check in and really coach them by helping them to “self-evaluate” their progress. Then, talk about what they need to do next, or do differently when they are off track. Below are some links about goals to help you get started.

 Peter Drucker once said, "the best way to handle change is to initiate it." I'm sure you will agree in this continuously changing world it is far better to be proactive and live life on purpose than being fully reactive and living life by accident.

 Moving forward, if we clarify our personal and professional goals now and write them down, and continue to reread/rewrite them, then 12 months from now we will have directed change in the direction of our goals. As a manager or colleague, if you help others do the same, you will be igniting superior engagement and achievement in your department/organization.

 Wishing you great success the rest of the year! May it be a special one for you and yours.



Links for Goal Focus:                     
Tony Robbins, on  Persisting through Goals (video)                      
John Maxwell, on Goals (video)                      
 Goal Setting 101 - How to Set and Achieve a Goal, by Gary Blair                      
A great book to create goal-focussed clarity for achievement - The Power of Focus, by Jack Canfield.                      
Maximum Achievement, by Brian Tracy, one of the masters in communicating the How To's of Achievement.     


#Teamwork #Goals #Leadership