Goal Setting – A Creative Approach

After majoring in partying during my first two years of college, I got serious and then decided to double major.  Psychology and Education.  Did I envision being a Chief HR Officer?  Absolutely not.  My path to this profession was remarkably serendipitous (at least in my mind) and as it unfolded seemed to occur with what I perceived as very little input on my part.  Stuff just seemed to happen.  I realize now that this perception was inaccurate and skewed.  It allowed me to react with predictable self-deprecating dismissiveness at my successes, and passionate self-flagellation when absorbing my failures (in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve always had a flair for high drama – I’m particularly good at self-flagellation).  The truth of the matter is that I’ve always had goals.  Yes they were fluid, without question the path to their achievement was often more circuitous than direct and at times these goals were downright misguided.  But as my hopes for the future crystallized, the navigation of my ‘goal map’ became easier to read  – even when I was heading directly off course (have I also mentioned that geography was never my strong suit).

Just as advertisers use story boards when constructing a client pitch, I am a strong believer in using story boards to help determine what our goals are and how they may be achieved.  Think of the success of PinInterest.  Basically, you are ‘pinning’ and ‘repinning’ pictures that resonate with you on a visceral level – be they of places, nature, humor, etc..  Not only does it feel good to look at the compendium of your personal favorites, it’s self-reinforcing.  So…you pin some more – and if you look at your collection closely, you will see certain patterns.  In effect, it becomes a story board about you.  I used to encourage people to build story boards at work when training on the topic of goal setting (Creativity in a law firm?  A bit oxymoronic I suppose).

Try it – cut out pictures that inspire you, print off quotes or thoughts that excite you and tape them onto a piece of oak tag (if that sounds too dated, just stick ‘em up on a bulletin board).  See what messages you glean from what may seem like a random display.  Don’t be discomfited by the pieces that don’t seem to fit – if it was all perfect, it wouldn’t be self-reflective.  What you will find though is that there is a pattern in that collage of yours.  And it can help define what it is you want  – in your professional and/or personal life (depending on what your story board is focused on of course).  One quote that appears on my current board, first appeared on the board I created when I left the firm.  Kofi Annan once said, “To live is to choose.  But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to go there.”  It fuels my pictorial narrative.

Once you get a sense of what it is you want and need to do – take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, revel for a moment in the clarity you have found.  Then communicate your thoughts – write them down, tell a colleague, share them with your team.  And this is where it gets a little tricky – remember that a goal is only as achievable as the objectives that support its completion.  Objectives are the discreet, actionable steps that are taken to make a goal attainable.  For big picture people this is definitely the harder of the two steps, for it’s where you break it all down into timelines, responsibilities and commitments.  When you write objectives, use verbs that imply movement – there is no room for the passive voice in the world of achieving goals!  I realize that this is no easy challenge I’m throwing out into cyberspace, but I believe that you can take your dreams, your unspoken hopes and turn them into concrete goals with clear, defined steps.  Perhaps the dreaming part is more romantic; the realization of a dream is more fulfilling and enriching.  And one of the gazillion wonders of life is that we can dream many dreams, understand where our values and life choices intersect and create as many story boards as we want to help chart our path.  And that, is pretty damn terrific