As we get to half-way through the year, it’s a great time to review the commitments and resolutions you made to yourself at the start of the year and to check out how your intentions have played out.

So many things can waylay the best of intentions.

I’ve just been waylaid myself! A main water pipe burst on our property; the ensuing crisis and clean-up has been a nightmare and a major distraction to getting anything else done.

It happens….. Now to get back on track.

A good simple way to reflect and if you need to, to get back on track, is to conduct your own mid-year self-audit of your goals.

Focus in on your work habits to make it practical and focused. Your work habits are where the rubber of goals hits the road.

Try these questions:

  1. How in control do you feel of your daily schedule and working pattern?
  2. How well does your routine work for you – does it give you the flexibility and focus you need?
  3. What friction/s get in the way of achieving a good working day?
  4. What interferes most with being able to manage your time as you would like to?
  5. What success have you had in the past in shifting unhelpful habits and substituting good ones?

Then identify what you’ll do differently.

Habits are neither good or bad, what matters most is how well they serve the goals you have set yourself.

When you have your habits sorted, they are the best scaffold to help you live and work in alignment with your goals and what matters most to you. And to realign when life throws you curveballs.

Make sure your purpose is honoured in your work

If you find that you are a little out of alignment with your goals, as a part of your audit, reacquaint yourself with your purpose. This is the centre of the universe when it comes to alignment.

What is your purpose, how much does your work enable you to live your purpose, what, if any, contradictions exist between your purpose and what you do?

It is surprisingly difficult to nail a succinct purpose description. The broad intent is usually very clear, to make a difference, but just what that difference is can be somewhat harder to articulate.

‘I help people see things clearly’ was how one executive recently nailed it. (Which was apt in more than one way!)

In this simple, elegant form, it was easy for the Exec to see how the purpose applied not just to work, but to other areas of their life, and how it has been a hallmark of their approach to all sorts of circumstances over their adult life.

Why does this matter? Being authentic in your self-expression delivers better organisational outcomes than traditional practices that have people fitting into organisational norms and identities.

Work shouldn’t just allow, it needsthe expression of individuals’ purposes and purposefulness to thrive.

Most people want to feel a good sense of fit and alignment to their organisation as much as it benefits organisations when they do.

As you re-assess your purpose, do you feel the right sense of alignment with your organisation’s purpose? It doesn’t have to match 100%, but if you feel friction between the organisation’s and your own purpose, achieving your goals may be harder.

You need to feel congruent, and so do your team members. There should be strong perception of person-organisation fit. The better the sense of person-organisation fit, the more the basic psychological needs for meaning, connection and belonging are met.

Model of alignment between individuals and organisation's purposes

Here’s how to honour your’s and your team members’ purposes:

  • Engage your caring, compassionate self
  • Take the time to know your own purpose, and to know that of others – spend time, listen attentively and help others figure it out if it’s not clear to them
  • Talk about purpose in the team, identify disruptions and connections between the organisation’s and team members’ purposes
  • Show the alignment between what is most meaningful to the team and what the organisation strives to do.

By doing this you honour yourself, your team, and the work.

Purpose is great inspiration. It helps fulfil our need for deep meaning and it also creates rather than depletes energy. But it’s not quite enough. We do need clear, tangible goals that help channel that energy so that dreams become reality.

Goals empower us to bring our purpose to life

Goals are what takes our dreams from our heads and hearts and into our hands to bring them to life, so the clearer they are, the better. Having goals is helpful because they shape the direction of your action, influence the degree of effort you exert and increase your persistence over time. The greater your self-belief, the bigger the goals you can tackle and the better your performance will be.

Setting goals brings about more change, effort, concentration and persistence than merely trying to do your best in the absence of goals.

Good intentions are not enough.

Here’s what we know about goal-setting:

  • Commitment counts – high commitment to goals results from believing they are important and attainable. Making goals public demonstrates commitment and increases accountability. The more difficult the goal is, the more commitment is needed.
  • Clarity matters – articulating goals specifically and clearly identifies the target of change and assists with monitoring and accountability.
  • Feedback helps – feedback that recognises your progress increases the likelihood of the goal being achieved and helps maintain momentum.

The latest advice on goals – make then open not smart

If you need to realign, perhaps a different approach to your goals might help. Christian Swann provides an interesting challenge to our reliance on the SMART method of goal setting.

I admit that I have promoted the SMART approach – any approach to goal setting would seem better than not setting goals. But Christian argues that the research says they don’t work so well. So maybe not so smart after all.

These are the reasons:

  • Goals don’t necessarily have to be Specific to be effective. He provides examples from health and exercise: nonspecific goals such as ‘be active’ show no greater benefit than ‘do 10,000 steps a day’.
  • Specific goals can be unhelpful when you’re starting something new because essentially you’re still figuring out what you can and can’t do so setting a learning-focused goal such as ‘swim as far as you can without stopping’ or ‘try three ways to do x…’ will be more helpful.
  • When you know how to do something, goals are more effective if they are Challenging, rather than ‘Achievable’ or ‘Realistic’.

He says there’s also a lot of confusion about what each of the terms being used means and so they are used differently. Even worse, goals can sometimes make us feel more pressure, take less pleasure in goal-focused activities, and be less likely to achieve the goals.

Houston, we have a problem!

Now, if you’ve been using the SMART approach and have found it to work well for you, then please stick with it.

If on the other hand you think you could do with freshening up your approach, Swann suggests starting with these two questions:

Are you already good at the task?

If you know how to do the task, and don’t find it difficult to do, you can stick with a specific goal such as ‘10,000 steps a day’.

However, perhaps that’s too Achievable so if you want to improve, make the goal Challenging, eg 12,000 or 15,000 steps a day.

Are you still new to or attempting to master a complex task?

Set yourself a learning goal rather than a performance goal.

Learning goals focus more on identifying or trialing different tactics to be more effective as a leader.

Try setting open goals.

Christian and his team are experimenting with open goals such as ‘see how many you can try/far you can go’ as they seem to have a number of benefits:

  1. Achieve performance on a par with SMART goals.
  2. Reduce pressure, increase confidence and help people feel better about the task and their performance.
  3. Make it more difficult to ‘fail’.

How might you use open goals to stay aligned to your purpose and achieve your dreams?

How to get a fraction less friction into your world

One of the main obstacles to achieving your goals is the friction between what you do and what you aspire to do differently. Having an approach to goal setting is one way to reduce the friction.

Goals are the conscious effort needed to help you build a desirable habit. They signal when you need to put conscious effort in to do something differently.

To make change more likely you need to manage the friction around the goal (if there wasn’t friction you’d be doing it already right?):

  • Start by creating the goal
  • Identify the friction – what do you need to manage in your context so that you will be able to do what you plan?
  • Get a new procedure in place – make it enjoyable
  • Then practice it for two to three months until it becomes automatic.

The more complex the behaviour you want to change, the longer it will take to move from a goal to a habit.

It’s a habit when you are no longer making a conscious decision to do it.

An executive I spoke with recently told me there was so much friction in their world they were getting up at 4.00am because that was the only time they could get the peace and quiet they needed to get things done.

Exhausted woman in front of laptop with two children playing in the background

That’s one way to deal with friction, though perhaps it’s a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Disrupting access to sleep may create flow-on frictions.

For now however, the Exec was enjoying the benefits of time to concentrate, reflect and achieve some important tasks.

When you’re setting new goals, a key thing to pay attention to is how much friction there is between what you do now and what your new goal is. The more friction, the more work you will need to do to achieve your goal; reduce the friction, as you can, to make it easier.

The biggest source of friction is your context.

Control your context to control your new procedure and new behaviour – I know, not always easy….

Context is not just your physical environment. Location does matter. Time of day is also a strong cue. Other people are also important parts of the context – perhaps the most – particular people can keep you locked into an existing habit, or can make it easier to create a new one.

For the Exec above the demands of family and a big team meant that time needed to be carved out away from their ‘distractions’. That way she could get work done on the big things that mattered most to her but were being neglected.

Woman in business suit fist pumping in delight

How do you reduce the friction that gets in the way of achieving your goals??

How to pause your year to self-audit your goals

While it’s always hard to ‘find the time’ to pause and reflect on your goals and their achievement, you really don’t need much time at all.

In fact, it’s not the time it takes that’s the problem. Because it doesn’t need to take a great deal of time. The problem is the effort to shift out of autopilot.

Self-auditing is far too much like a long country drive: each service centre you come to you think, no we won’t stop at THIS one, we’ll just keep going, there’s another one up ahead. And then you find that there isn’t one for another two hours…..

Don’t WILL your self-audit to happen at some non-specific point in the future, SCHEDULE it to happen at a specific time and place.

Set aside half an hour – schedule it now – and work through the questions and suggestions above.

I’d love to hear how you go, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like other resources to help you with your self-audit, and if need be, to reset.

Share This