Why A Vision Outperforms a Goal
Many people set goals, and there is nothing wrong with that. Goals are essential from a personal, professional, and business perspective. Without a goal to work towards, there is nothing to aim for. Without anything to aim for – how will you ever know where you are going.
The problem is not with setting a goal; it is that goals in isolation don’t work. Here’s why.
When she looked ahead, Florence Chadwick saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for more than sixteen hours.
Already she was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. Now at age 34, her goal was to become the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the Californian Coast.
On that 4th morning of July in 1952, the sea was like an ice bath and the fog so dense she could hardly see her support boats. Sharks cruised toward her lone figure, only to be driven away by the rifle shots. Against the icy grip of the sea, she struggled on – hour after hour while millions watched on national television.
Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn’t much further. But all she could see was fog. They urged her not to quit. She never had… until then.
With only half a mile to go, she asked to be pulled out of the water. Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, “Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I had been able to see the land, I might have made it.”
It was not fatigue or even cold water that defeated her. It was fog. She was unable to see her goal.
Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere behind that fog was land, and this time, she made it!
Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, eclipsing the men’s record by two hours.
Vision Triumphs a Goal
What Florence Chadwick encountered was she put her goal ahead of her vision. “If only I could see land,” she said. She knew the goal was to swim the Catalina Channel, but she failed to see her vision of succeeding in her attempt. She couldn’t visualize the moment she set foot on land surrounded by her fans, friends, and family.
Had she visualized this on her first attempt, she would have succeeded.
What made the difference on her second attempt was being able to visualize land. This is what motivated her. She could visualize success even though she couldn’t see land. She knew it was ahead of here. This is what kept her going on the second attempt. It was her vision, not her goal, that allowed her to succeed.
Fog is Nothing But a Smoke Screen
The Problem With Setting a Daily Goal
It’s easy to wake in the morning and set a new goal for the day. You say to yourself, “I am going to start running today. I am going on a diet today. I am going to find a new job. I am going to…… “becomes a morning goal setting mantra, with no substance behind it.
I am going to….. is a decision only and nothing but empty words. Making a decision is quite different from taking action. A goal set like this fails because there is no substance behind it.
Goals alone have no Substance
When you set goals with no substance, it’s easy to fall off the wagon and not achieve them. Goals with no substance or meaning focus you on the battle but not winning the war. Goals set in isolation within a vision supporting them don’t have the motivational factor to keep you inspired.
Although it’s far better to say,
“I am going to start running today because I want to run a marathon.”
“I am going to go on a diet today because I want to fit into my old clothes.”
“I am going to find a new job today because I need the money so I can buy a house.”
Although goals set like this are better, they still don’t have the substance to make them work.
I am going to…… I want to…… are merely wishes. Wishing willing and waiting aren’t a success strategy.
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Setting Goals With Substance
You would have heard of setting SMART Goals. I subscribe to something called SMARTER Goals. There are an extra two steps in this goal setting formula.
Why many fail to set and reach their goals is that they are not specific enough. It’s where you take the words, “I am going to…” and substitute with the words, “On Monday, June 10th, at 6 am, I will run for 30 minutes.” This is very specific. It has a day, date, and time attached to it. What makes it more powerful as a daily or weekly goal is that the length of time you will run is also stated.
When goals are specific like this, it gives you some kind of measurement to ensure you are on track.
Attainable and Achievable
If you said, On Monday, I will run a marathon – this is not attainable, nor is it achievable. You haven’t conditioned yourself overtime to get fit enough and build the strength to run a marathon.
A better goal would be, I want to run the New York Marathon. Therefore on Monday, June 10th, at 6 am, I will start my training routine and begin with 30 minutes a day for the first week. For the second week, I will run for one hour six days a week…. And so on.
Therefore your goals must also be achievable and attainable.
Relevant and Realistic
By building a training plan to support the goal of running a marathon, the goal becomes more realistic. What makes it relevant is the goal is now tied to a bigger goal, to run a marathon. Running a marathon becomes more aspirational.
For goals to be attainable, achievable, relevant, and realistic, they need the support of an overarching vision. This means to attach your shorter-term goals to a medium-term goal which is something that is pushed out to a time frame in the future. In this example, that medium-term or larger-term goal is to run a marathon with a specific date and time attached to it.
A Goal must be Ethical
Now to the SMARTER parts of goal setting. How you achieve a goal must be ethical.
For instance, when business leaders set unrealistic goals for salespeople to achieve their sales goals, it encourages some unethical salespeople to make a sale at any cost. Yes, they win the battle but lose the war. They ruin the company’s reputation they work for and lose the customer if the product they bought is not right for them.
When CEO remuneration and bonus are attached to profits, they too can act in an unethical manner in order to reach a goal that triggers their bonus. It’s easy to make money if you sell off a subsidiary for profit. But what about the long-term viability of the company?
Take Enron; personal greed is what led to unethical behavior that ultimately led to many people losing their life savings and ended up with senior executives going to prison.
How you go about achieving a goal is just as important as the goal itself.
Why so many people come unstuck with setting a goal is that there is no reward attached to it when they achieve a smaller goal.
Imagine you achieved all the goals your boss set you, and these achievements were never acknowledged. Most people want some kind of recognition for what they do well. Therefore, when setting a goal, every time you achieve it, give yourself a little reward. It might be as simple as watching TV a half-hour longer. Having a piece of chocolate or even treating yourself to dinner out.
Build in minor rewards into all the little goals you achieve along the way.
Keep Your Vision in Sight
Now for crunch time.
Remember Florence Chadwick. What gave her the impetus to keep going despite the fog. Despite the sharks and the same freezing cold water. She did something different she didn’t do in her first attempt to swim the Catalina Channel. She kept her vision in front of her, not her goal. She could see herself safely coming out of the water on the California coast and successfully completing the swim. She visualized success even though she couldn’t see land.
Instead of saying I want to run a marathon, visualize yourself as a lifelong runner. It gives you something to keep you motivated after you complete the marathon.
Instead of saying I want to go on a diet, see yourself as your dream size for life.
Instead of saying I want a new job, see yourself as a successful senior executive running a million-dollar company.
It’s your vision for the future that sees you overcome all the obstacles that stand in your way for achieving your goals.
A compelling vision for the future is what matters, not the individual goal. Your vision is the X factor, the motivational factor that needs to be attached to your goals when you are tempted to give up.
On a Final Note
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