Getting Stuff Done: What Do You Want to Get Done?

What do you want to achieve?  Can you say it in a simple declarative sentence? If you can, then you have a good chance of achieving that goal.  If you can’t,  it is very likely  you won’t achieve that goal. How could you?  You don’t know what the goal is!  This may sound obvious but people are always trying to achieve goals without having really figured out what the goal is.  Ask the next person you see “what’s your big goal over the next couple months?” (This is actually a great way to start a conversation at a party too!)  Chances are you will hear a lot of hemming and hawing, a list of goals under consideration, a theme or two but I would be surprised if the person you asked responded immediately and confidently with a a clear, simple, observable, valuable goal.

Commitment, Confidence and Scope are three big inhibitors to setting good goals.  Saying what you want to achieve means at some level you are committing to do it and that is a big deal.  If commitment is your blocker, you probably hear yourself saying “but  I don’t have time” or “but it’s too hard.”   If confidence is your blocker, you may hear yourself saying  “but I would have to go back to school” or “but I could never make enough money” or “but I don’t know how to do it.”  If scope is your blocker, your goal keeps changing and getting bigger and getting pushed further and further into the future.  “I want to write a novel and have it published and be on Oprah and win a Booker award.”  This is a far cry from a sensible goal like  “I want to write a complete short story and read it out loud to my best friend.”  Scope may seem to be the opposite of confidence and commitment because scope is about wanting to do everything or wanting to do it all at once.  But scope, like commitment and confidence is just another sneaky way we use to get out of having to really achieve something.  Human beings are resourceful.  They can do just about anything they want to do (or at least approximate it) if they want to do it badly enough. Yes, a 50 year old person who wants to become a doctor could achieve a reasonable approximation of this outcome if he or she really wanted it badly enough.

The trick is to separate what from how.  As soon as you let your doubts about how you are going to achieve the goal interfere with what the goal is, you are sunk.  So in my next blog, we will talk about how to set a good goal.  Later we will talk about how to achieve it.