Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goals?

A friend posted a couple noble goals on a social networking site.  My first reaction was, “I am glad my friend is considering how to be better with others!”  But the stated goal was simply to be better.  No plan of action was laid out.  No details about what it means to be better and how achieving this illustrious pinnacle is to be accomplished.  Granted, it was just a status update, but I became a bit embittered.

And then I thought about it some more.  I considered my own past and future goals.  I thought back to my project management and innovation classes in college and considered some definitions that are worth remembering.

Goals: goals encompass abstract ideas, a desired outcome, or an overarching mission.  Goals are the output, the end result.  Sometimes goals are more like aspirations and are constantly worked on, perhaps for a lifetime.  The finished puzzle.

Strategies: strategies are the methods used or applied to achieve the desired goal.  There can be one or many, but there must be some activity to get one to the eventual goal. Strategy is the action of putting a puzzle piece next to another puzzle piece to make connections.  Sometimes, this requires a bit of trial and error.

Objectives: objectives are the definitions of a goal and its milestones. Objectives need to be completed or accomplished to achieve the goal.  This is the HOW of a goal.  Objectives are like putting the edge pieces of a puzzle together so there is a frame to build upon.

Tasks: tasks are the smaller accomplishments that together complete an objective.  Each should be honored and celebrated because each task represents a small battle won towards the end goal.  Tasks are the puzzle pieces.

(amusingly, I found this image after I wrote the post with the puzzle analogy)


Resources: resources can be tangible or soft.  This is the means by which you can apply to tasks, objectives, and strategies in accomplishing a goal.  This can be time, talent, etc.  Resources is the time is takes to work on the puzzle, the surface it sits on, the chair one sits in, the helper advising, etc.

In the last year I’ve closed a lot of chapters in my life.  I have seen the manifestation and completion of several long-term goals that I have been working frantically to achieve for years.  As I shed the last vestiges of childhood and make my way into real adulthood, I made a five year plan with five goals.

A couple of those goals I’m keeping close to the chest for now, but my point is that all I wrote down were the GOALS.  I didn’t keep in mind how I wanted to achieve those, what I expected achieving them, I defined nothing.  I simply wrote out abstract ideas.  A couple of them I’m not quite attached to, but even with an abstract “plan” I still feel listless and wandering.  Perhaps the exercise for formulating real plans will provide me with some arbitrary sense of direction and help me to decide what goals are realistic and cause-worthy.

Another friend (look at me!  I have more than one friend!  At least, that’s what Facebook tells me), upon reaching an age milestone, lamented to me that they had hoped to have achieved some specific goals by that time and now believed that those goals were lost and impossible (or at least very unlikely) to achieve.  I think if my friend truly wanted to accomplish these goals, steps would be taken to do so, but that’s neither here nor there.  There are a million reasons why people in their 50s haven’t set out to do what they promised they would in their 20s.  I’m curious though, how many people state goals and actually map out a plan of action to achieve those?  I’d venture to say not many.  

There are many people who believe things always work out, or things work out the way they are “supposed” to.  For example, a co-worker was trying to sway me to start having children on the premise that “God takes care of everything” and all that matters is that I provide that child with love.  This was after I expressed my concerns to wait until I felt more financially secure before attempting to bring a child into the world (yes, I know there’s more to child-rearing than finances, but being secure financially is a specific objective you could say).  Now, while I am still very much undecided whether or not I want to bear and rear children, there is a part of me that agrees with the sentiment that some perceived needs are mostly superficial.  I’m resourceful, and I accomplish relatively anything I want to do.  There’s the key: want.  I don’t want to worry about providing basic needs.  I want to be able to let my (potential) child explore as freely as possible without having to say, “Sorry, I can’t afford soccer/piano/dance/martial arts lessons/equipment/supplementals/uniforms because we can’t afford it.”  

Now, I agree there’s a lot of positives in being flexible and handling the randomness that the Universe brings.  Rigidity is problematic, stressful, and unrealistic (and I know this from several years of experience).  It’s good to have boundaries, but one shouldn’t live in a world of absolutes, including being overly free.

Maybe my friend’s post was simply a witty update.  Nonetheless, it offered a chance for me to evaluate my own goals and take a look within.

McNamara, Carter. http://managementhelp.org/plan_dec/gen_plan/gen_plan.htm. Retrieved August 18, 2010.

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