To goal or not to goal, that is the question.

A recent article we read on career progression raised some interesting points on how you can put yourself in the best position to succeed in your work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, goal setting was a key feature with some thought-provoking discussion around how we set goals; the different approaches individuals take and techniques for reassessing and planning for the future.

“The big vision, the energetic, inspired vision for what you want from your life and where you’re going is really important, but if it’s not broken down into really practical measurable steps then it’s just going to be an overwhelming waste of time.” Jennifer Wong / ABC Everyday

Whether you love setting and working towards goals or not, the events of the last year have simply thrown so many of our plans and aspirations up in the air. On top of that, many businesses have had to reshape their models and products entirely; the goal posts have literally had to shift overnight (pardon the pun).

All of this got us thinking about the real purpose and value of goal setting on a personal and professional level. We use it a lot in coaching of course, whether it’s short, long term or SMART – but how helpful is it? And has the pandemic impacted on our outlook around the goals we choose to set?

What’s your take on goal setting and has this changed for you at all during the pandemic?

We asked the above question to a small group within our network, the responses were fascinating. In a nutshell, we learnt:

1. The pandemic has had a varied impact on how people perceive goal setting.

For some, it’s provided the structure, motivation and variety they feel they’ve missed out on. But for others, goal setting has ‘gone out the window’ either as a result of new demands created through lockdown or because it makes them feel even more restricted with the risk of being ‘unattainable’.

2. The busier we become, the less likely we are to goal set.

For those where work and home boundaries became blurred and time even more precious, goal setting became looser and less of a priority.

‘Professionally I set short term and aspirational, long term goals. In the pandemic it’s all gone to pot, I’ve never been more busy in my professional life or had more responsibility’.

On the flip side, those with more time and space recognised where goal setting might serve them in ways that it hadn’t before the pandemic.

‘I was more motivated to create a specific goal during the pandemic. Before, I generally shied away from them to avoid stress’

‘In the last year being forced to rest has made me realise that leaving a blank space in my diary might be a good thing. And whilst I don’t know whether that will make me want to set ‘goals’, as such, it definitely makes the idea of a goal more palatable’.

3. Reassessing what’s important and adapting accordingly.

In speaking with an Associate recently, they described how their professional goals pre-pandemic were very different to what they are now. They have had to shift and adapt their thinking and, as a result, their aspirations and vision of success.

‘Before the pandemic I was very clear on the level of which I wanted to coach, at Executive level, now I’m reassessing that entirely – my business model has had to adapt and therefore my goals have too’

How do you relate to some of these areas? Is goal setting an imperative for you in how you live your life both professionally and personally?

Our view on this…goal setting can be whatever you want it to be. You can throw out the rule book and dream as big or as little as you want. Whatever your approach, set yourself up for success and not failure by giving yourself permission to pause, correct and go again; just because you set a goal doesn’t mean it has to stay in that form. Much like life goals can be fluid – they can evolve, adapt and change. And if one things for sure, we’ve had to do all three in abundance this year.

Ending with a few ideas we’ve heard and love…

  • A weekly check-in with yourself
  • A quarterly business retreat just for you to help focus your thinking…but be careful of your selection!

“And a lot of the time my own goals are based on where I get to have my business retreat, because my very first business retreat was in a caravan park in the middle of winter and my goal after that first business retreat was to never again have to have a business retreat in the middle of winter in a caravan park. Source.

  • Curating career goals that suit you, not someone else or your organization
  • Setting goals when you’re on a high
  • Looking inwards rather than outwards.