Once you begin checking your goals against reality, you have to be ready to change them. It’s pointless to stick with goals that are outdated, no longer valid or even harmful to you if you continue pursuing them. Flexibility in goal achieving is key. Often when we wrote our first goals we set some pretty lofty ones. Make a million dollars next year. Read several books a week. Learn and master a new skill or subject every 90 days.
These three goals are from my earliest attempts at goal setting some 30 years ago. I was all about the money. I was all about learning and reading different types of books. Year after year I dutifully copied these goals into the next year’s list, having hardly done anything to achieve them. They were overwhelming goals and I wasn’t willing to change them for a long time. While I actually managed to read books and get close sometimes to the rate of reading I needed, I never really got anywhere near these goals in any year.
These goals became an anchor around my neck. I felt I couldn’t let them go, because they were goals I “should” have on my list. Instead of motivating me, they became depressing. They were shining examples of my failures. All because I couldn’t recognize that all I had to do was change the goals or even discard them entirely. It’s not failure to scale back on goals or drop them at all. Would we consider it a failure to scale up on our goals or add new ones as we get better and better?
Of course not. That’s recognizing our abilities and setting our goals to match them. Well, isn’t it the same thing when we scale back or drop goals? Isn’t that recognizing our abilities and setting our goals to match them? Of course it is.
Eventually I cut back on the number of books I want to read each year and dropped the learning/subject mastery goal entirely. I still set income goals of course.
So, that’s what you do when you realize your internal conditions call for a change in your goals? What about when external conditions change? What if the economy tanks and your industry is in serious decline? What if your financing for your business falls through? What if you get ill or a family member does? What if you get an offer to partner with someone on a project that’s better than your project? What if you meet the love of your life? The list of what-ifs could go on and on. Each one of these things is really outside of your control, but they can have a profound effect on your ability to reach your goals.
Recognizing changing circumstances is just as important as recognizing different abilities, starting points and available resources at your disposal. It’s just as important as knowing if your goals are compatible with your values.
It’s just simple flexibility on your part. It’s the ability to move right and dodge the obstacle on the left. It’s the ability to jump over the hole in the ground. It’s the ability to see the ladder over there when you need to climb the fence. Reassess, adjust and act on the new circumstances. That alone will put you ahead of probably 95% of the people around you.