By December, many of us have submitted financial projections, targets, and goals for 2017. As individual and group performance goals get disseminated, we live amid the tension of reward for what’s been and planning what’s needed to meet our projected goals. With this elaborate goal setting process, it’s not uncommon to hear clients admit to feeling stuck when motivating themselves and their teams to tackle what’s expected for the year ahead.
Beyond a positive mindset when goal setting, I encourage clients to take an approach that includes practical optimism and emphasizes what’s possible? The idea of ‘possibilities’ can open our imagination and potential with new eyes to explore what optimum outcomes we want – not just the safe ones. With our teams, when we use ‘what if’ and ‘how might this evolve?’ type thinking, it can unleash possibilities that would never arise if we’re solely looking behind us to meet or beat last year’s expectations. What’s possible thinking asks us to pull something from the very core of our human beliefs and worldview. This goes beyond goodness, as some leaders and people would say, into our ‘god-ness’. What’s possible thinking shows that we can be co-authors in shaping our experience of the future.
This is a vastly different mindset and approach than just being defined by past performance and historic evidence. While informative, past performance goal setting can hijack the best of the human spirit, preventing its inventive and generative participation. What’s possible thinking allows us to step outside the regular biases and fear buffering, and move towards hopefulness and inclusion of the needs of others. This is especially helpful when setting our vision, mission, and our desired impact on customers, employees, future generations, and possibly even our ‘future Self’. When thoughts and feelings about what’s possible create compelling meanings for us, we operate from a more highly-motivated state to be and do what’s needed. This is because we believe in, and not just agree with, the goals we’ve developed. It’s from this place of belief that we’re able to recharge motivation in ourselves and in others towards what we believe in – because the goals matter to us at a core level.
We can then simply ask when planning and designing actions towards our goals:
- To achieve this possibility, how will I move towards it?
- What might be different when it happens? What is this worth to me/us?
- Who, or what, comes with us and what respectfully needs to be left behind?
- Who or what is needed? For us? For any new stakeholders?
- Assess if actions are moving us towards our goal or distracting us from it? Is something else happening?
- What is in place to acknowledge your progress?
As an avid mountain hiker, it’s often the vista from the top takes my breath away. This type of approach to future planning allows us to catch a glimpse our desired future – akin to seeing the view from the mountaintop. The value and meaning we attach to this view serves to catalyst the journey – and helps sustain us through the sweat, discomfort, misunderstandings, challenges, and long-term effort required to reach the top. In this approach, it’s important that we initially suspend what’s required to reach our goals, so we deeply anchor and commit to what we truly desire. Should we observe that we are lacking motivation or a sense of ‘stuckness’ surfaces, we can call on this vision from the vista – like a compass – to get us moving on the trail again. The compelling vision of what’s possible can truly take us to the mountaintop.
As we approach the beginning of a new year, let’s reflect on what we’ve learned, and with gratitude, set our goals for the trail ahead by asking – what’s possible?
Anticipating your best year yet!