How do you relate to your personal goals?

I recently had the opportunity to deal with two situations in which two professionals that I am coaching dealt with a similar reality in a completely different way. Both clients are very determined and successful people. The topic they were dealing with was achieving their personal goals.

I’ll use fictional names and call one David and the other Bruce. Both set ambitious personal financial goals and both failed to achieve them.

David reacted emotionally to his missed goal. He was upset; he felt the sky had fallen. He identified with his goals so he took not achieving them personally.

Bruce on the other hand, related to his result as a smaller tragedy. While the goals were important to him, he didn’t take it personally and therefore he was able to move on without loosing much sleep over his missed goal.

Bruce felt he had failed. But, David felt he was a failure….two very different reactions to a similar situation.

Why did one person feel that he was a failure while the other felt that he merely failed?

It’s how they relate to their personal goals.

David had his identity and self-worth wrapped up in his goal. When he didn’t achieve his goal he felt personally invalidated. For him not meeting his desired objective meant that something was defective with him. It implied that he would most likely continue to fail in the future, because clearly ‘he wasn’t up to the task.’ You can imagine how devastating that feeling is.

Bruce, on the other hand, held his results separate from his self-worth. For him his results merely reflected how effective he was in turning his vision into reality. So, if he didn’t reach his personal goal this time, it merely meant that it was still attainable, but he needed to improve his performance. What a much more positive and hopeful outlook.

People who relate to their personal goals more like David tend to be more impatient in dealing with their goals. They are likely to feel that things are “moving too slow” and “taking too long.” As a result, they tend to have more tension, stress and anxiety in their life.

Contrast that with people who are more like Bruce; they tend to be more calm and happy. They do a better job enjoying the journey, not just the destination.

How do I know all this? Because I use to be more like David, but today am more like Bruce. I have personally experienced the transformation from one mindset to another.

In fact, a long time ago someone asked me “how are you doing?” and I responded with “Everything will be OK.” The unsaid was: “…when I achieve all my key goals.” My wife, who was with me at the time jumped in and exclaimed: “Things are OK now!” She reminded me that my self-esteem does not depend on the achievement of my goals. And yours doesn’t either.

My question to you is: How do you relate to your personal goals?

Photo by: Manoj Vasanth

Are you asking for what you want?

You would think that asking for what you want would be the easiest thing in the world to do. But it isn’t! I see so many people struggling with this.

In my coaching work I often ask people, “So, what do you want?” or “what do you want the outcome to be?” or “what do you want to accomplish?” Many people, when confronted with this direct question, find it hard to spit out a clear answer. Some say, “I know what I want” but when they attempt to describe it they get caught up in a long-winded conceptual description that is very confusing and vague even to them. A few simple follow-up questions such as, “what do you mean by that?” or “how would you know that you achieved that?” are often enough to make people realise they really don’t know what they want.

When people work on articulating their personal collective objectives they often say things like, “We should do this” or “We have to do that.” But, saying “We/I should” is not the same as “We/I want.”  In fact, it is much easier and less powerful to say “We/I should” than “We/I want.” “We/I want” is a declaration. “We/I should” is a description. When we say “We/I want,” we are staking ourselves to the outcome. We are putting our desire at stake. We are making it personal.

Some people suffer from guilt when it comes to declaring what they want. They feel it is arrogant or greedy to want too much or to want certain things. They refrain from explicitly and directly expressing their dreams and desires. Some are so afraid to get a “no!” to their request that they avoid asking altogether. They just convince themselves that “it’s not worth it” to ask. Some people were brought up that it is impolite to directly ask for what you want. If their meal in a restaurant is not served the way they like it or their hotel room is not what they wanted, they will suffer quietly and won’t say anything about it. Some may even have deeper demons. They feel they are not good enough or worthy of having what they really want. So, they stop dreaming altogether.

Some people feel that what they really aspire for and desire is too big, unrealistic and out of their reach. Their mindset is “what’s the point of going after things that are not realistic,” “why set myself up for failure, disappointment and heart break?” So, they make sure to set their desires and expectations low enough in order to not risk failure.

There is also a spiritual aspect to this. The law of attraction, which became popular through Oprah’s show says that people who explicitly express and ask for what they want would become more effective at achieving their desires.

In one of my previous blogs “3 Empowering Quotes About Courage” I wrote about the power of taking a stand. That is a very powerful way to ask for what you want.

It takes courage to dream and believe it. It takes courage to declare what we want, ask for it and pursue it. Yes, we may fail or fall short and that could be disappointing and perhaps upsetting.

Unfortunately, I have seen too many people fail to achieve their goals even in basic areas such as getting a dream job, a promotion or relationship simply because they held back and avoided directly expressing what they want. In my experience, people who repeatedly declared what they want eventually achieved their desired results, or at least a similar, satisfactory result.

Which way would you rather live?



Is your Leadership Team making a positive or negative difference?

Any organization is a reflection of its leaders and leadership team (LT). If the leaders build a strong and genuine team dynamic of trust, unity, communication and ownership among themselves, these characteristics will be cascaded through the veins of the organization and internalized in its culture and DNA. If the leaders operate as individual silos, not a team, their people will follow suit. And, if they have trust issues among themselves, harbor resentments or are the source of negativity or victim behaviors, the same issues, sentiments and behaviors will be inculcated throughout their organization.

And, it doesn’t matter what leaders say in public. Even if it’s all the politically correct things, their people will watch their behaviors, pick up on subtle remarks and body language, and line up accordingly.

The LT is always an amplifier of sentiments, conversations and energy in the organization. Leaders’ behavior either amplifies the constructive, productive conversations that make a difference, or it amplifies and fuels the negative ones, which undermine and weaken; they are either the source of the solution or a big part of the problem.

Unfortunately, in so many cases the senior leaders amplify the negative sentiments and conversations. They initiate, express and participate in negative conversations, and they pass down negative and divisive messages to their people. I have heard managers and employees complain about this so many times, and I have seen this dynamic with my own eyes.

For example, I was working inside a large telecom company who acquired a smaller, more entrepreneurial, startup type company. As with most mergers and acquisitions the integration was done on paper but not in the hearts and minds of the people who had to implement it, especially not the people who joined the larger telecom firm from the smaller acquired company. As I walked the halls of the acquired company’s offices and sat in their meetings I could hear the resentments and negative and toxic feelings about the acquirer voiced in almost every conversation. Many of the complaints were legitimate and correct. However, given the negative environment, no one was collaborating to figure out how to fix the issues. And, even the senior leaders from the acquired company who agreed to, and gained from the acquisition, and now sat on the LT of the acquirer were expressing, engaging in, and fueling the negative and unproductive sentiments, behind the scenes.

Even when the LT members are not the originators of negative sentiments and conversations, they have the power to transform these into constructive conversations that address the issues, change things and make a difference. But, in many cases they avoid their responsibility and opportunity to do so. I guess cynicism is easier and more familiar, even if it is undermining and dysfunctional.

It seems that leaders often just don’t realize the positive or negative impact of their behaviors and conversations on their environment. They don’t focus on this topic hence they don’t see it, or take responsibility for its consequences.

If LT members periodically answered the question “Are we making a positive, neutral or negative impact through our behavior?” and perhaps also asked people around them for honest feedback on this, they would be more inclined to adjust their behaviors and conversations, especially if they realized that the cost associated with negative or neutral is dear.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Being a leader in business and life means adopting a certain point of view about people, circumstances, opportunities and challenges. It means being oriented around conversations that generate and empower new possibilities and action, rather than cynicism, resignation and excuses about all circumstances. It means always being the champions for “what’s possible” and “how can we make it work” rather than “why we can’t” and “why it won’t work”.

Every point of view or paradigm is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Have you ever noticed that when we have a point of view that something isn’t possible we always gather evidence and proof in our circumstances and environment to support and prove that point of view? And, if we happen to change our mind, even 180 degrees, and adopt a different point of view, we instantly can find new evidence and proof in the exact same environment and circumstances for our new point of view?

We often say “I can’t believe what I see”. But, in fact we don’t believe or disbelieve what we see. We see what we believe or disbelieve. We don’t really see with our eyes, we see with our paradigm or point of view. That’s why two people can participate in the same “physical” circumstance or situation and experience it drastically differently, often contradicting.

In our work and life we are always invested in proving right one point of view or another. Sometime we do it consciously, but more often we do it unconsciously. It’s the nature of being human.

I often interact with people who have a negative or cynical point of view about areas that are important to them in their work or personal life.  They seem to strongly believe that “they can’t have it all” or “they will never fully get what they want” or “things won’t simply workout smoothly and great for them.” And, unintentionally they constantly prove that point of view right. I can see it in their attitude and hear it in their conversations: every time things don’t work out great for them they say or imply “you see, I knew it.” or “you see I told you so.” And, every time something great does happen to them they view it as a “one off” and they are “cautiously optimistic” at best about their fortune.

Most people, including very successful and accomplished people, tend to be more skeptical and even cynical about “having it all.” They often explain their point of view as “being realistic”.

However, there are people who stand for a drastically different point of view. Their genuine life view is that “I can have it all,” “I can have my work and life be extraordinary with no compromise.” And, their life is about validating and proving that point of view right. Every time something significant or insignificant happens to them that is consistent with their point of view they “high five” it and think or say “See, life works.” And every time they don’t get what they want they view it as “temporary” or a “one off,” and they try to learn something worthwhile from it to strengthen their point of view.

One of my clients is the recently appointed CEO of a known brokerage company. He took on a significant change initiative to elevate his company from seventh to one of the top four companies in his market place. In a recent bid for a mega deal his team lost the bid after making it to the final short list of two contestants out of eight. While many of his team members seemed discouraged by the loss, he felt extremely proud and encouraged by the fact that his team made it that far. For him the fact that his team made it to the top two only signified proof that they were in fact on track to achieve their goal.

If you accept the premise that we are constantly proving right our points of view, and therefore our points of view are always self fulfilling prophecies, you have a choice about what point of view you will prove right in your work and life. Contrary to what many people may think there are no “right,” “true,” or “correct” points of view. There are only “empowering” or “disempowering” ones; points of view or paradigms that enable more possibilities, ideas and dreams, and ones that shut down possibilities, ideas and dreams, and explain and justify why these can’t and won’t come true.

I stand for the point of view that everyone deserves and can build a life that reflects the point of view of “having it all” and “fulfilling all our most precious commitments and dreams.”  So, my own professional and personal life is about proving that point of view right.

What point of view are YOU proving right in YOUR life? 

Photo by: John Liu