Goals, Goals and more Goals

Here's my 2020 Hindsight on Goal Setting!

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Like me, your inbox and linkedin feed is probably littered with articles, offers and posts on the importance of goal setting – which given we’re at the start of a new year is hardly surprising.

And I have to say that I am a strong proponent of goal setting, especially SMART goals, those Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely goals which seem to help us on our journey to achieve them.

But today I want to share my experiences of some of the biggest goals I have ever achieved, and what that journey looked like because it poses an interesting juxtaposition to the value of goal setting.

So what are the biggest goals I have achieved in my life?

  1. I was selected #25 in the Global Guru Top 30 Leadership Experts and Speakers
  2. My book FAST was selected fin the final five in Chartered Management Institute Management Book of the Year
  3. I have had over 250 articles published in Inc, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, Fortune, Chicago Tribune, and many other world-renowned publications, and have seen them translated into 21 different languages.

Now, not only am I proud of achieving all of these things, let me say at no point did I ever set the goal of achieving them.

When I started to share my thoughts on leadership on my own blog back in 2013 I never even knew that there were rankings for leadership experts, and even if I did I would never have had the audacity to write down such a goal.

Why? Because in my own mind I never saw myself as an expert, but just as someone who had expertise and experience that I thought others might benefit from.

As for the writing, I was convinced and had been told by several teachers that I was not a good writer. My 10-grade English teacher actually told me how she was so glad I was good at Maths because my English was atrocious and would never lead to anything.

So I never actually set any goals in this area, other than the most basic goal of sharing my thoughts on leadership.

Here’s the rub, if I had set a goal, given my expectations and confidence in my own ability it would have been very, very low, and as I would have worked toward achieving it, it could have limited what I was ultimately able to achieve. I would never have set a goal of having an article in Forbes, nor on having anything I’d written translated into one other language, let alone over 20.

And by not having a goal, or a target I was able to express myself freely. With no limitations or objectives to try and achieve, I could play around and experiment and just let me see where the wind took me.

In fact, I would go as far as to say any goal setting would have actually hampered my progress completely and would have stopped me from achieving a fraction of what I had achieved.

That’s not to say I don’t set goals now and I don’t see the value of them.

I just think that with some new ventures where we have little, to no experience, that maybe we should just dive in, test the water, see how it feels and see where the current takes us.

I know that I was completely blown away by what I was able to achieve in my first year of writing and speaking on leadership.

So much so that the following year when I thought that maybe I should set a goal, that by the time I had written it down I had surpassed it, and that got me to stop setting myself goals because it was clear I had no clue as to what was achievable.

Just recently I was reminded of this approach as I go myself a running coach to help me with my upcoming Rome Marathon.

The first thing my coach, Christiaan Oosterveen, said was “ok I want you to throw all your goals away. I want you to turn off any tools you use that give you feedback during the run of how you are doing, and I just want you to run free. Don’t set yourself a goal as that might become a limitation. You might have a pace you think you should run, but maybe your body feels great and can to go faster. But if you have a target pace you will slow yourself to achieve it, and now your goal is your limitation.”

It seemed such strange advice to me, but as I say when I look at the biggest things I have ever achieved they were never set as goals, and if I had set goals those would have been so so much lower and could have held me back.

Whilst goals can give us focus, they can also take away our freedom to achieve our unknown full potential.

I know that on my journey, the lack of goals allowed me to focus on doing, rather than achieving, and it was this doing that allowed me to achieve more than I ever imagined.

Let me just reiterate my biggest achievements were never goals that I set for myself!

Gordon works with organizations that want to equip their leaders with the tools to drive engagement, performance, and profit. For details email [email protected].

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