"You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks." Winston Churchill
Determined. Hustler. Go-getter. Type A. GOAL-ORIENTED. DRIVEN. Over-achiever. Goal digger.
Whew. What an exhausting list. Yet, these are attributes many of us use to describe ourselves or aspire to have. I know. I'm one of those "goal diggers."
When I miss a check mark next to one of my goals, my inner mean girl is standing in the corner, arms crossed, whispering in a snotty, self-assured tone, "lazy."
I've blogged before about putting myself on a "goal diet" (read more here). But, left unchecked, I easily slide back into the overachiever's addiction of choice, more goals.
I've found too many goals can be a cleverly disguised forms of procrastination and avoidance. A long list of goals can be a sneaky form of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of not being good enough.
When we have too many goals, we can't possibly achieve them all, and, on some level, conscious or not, we know this.
If we can't reach our goals, we give our ever-fragile ego the perfect argument. "Well, I could have done that, but I was just too busy with everything else." "I would have been sooo good at that, but you know, I didn't have the time with everything else on my plate."
Studies show about 70 percent of the people who set goals fail to achieve them. (Read more about why people fail to achieve their goals here.)
Left unchecked, our well-intended goals can turn into crutches and excuses.
"People have gone overboard on goals and haven't given the dark side of goals enough attention. I think goals work. The benefits are so overwhelmingly good, but goals can lead to problems if not done carefully. If there are multiple goals, people will pick the easiest ones to do." (Read more from the authors of Goals Gone Wild, a Harvard Business School research paper.)
When we have a long list of goals, we run ourselves ragged, doing lots of important stuff without accomplishing much of anything. Instead of moving closer to our goals, we're treading water, or in some cases drowning.
So, what's a Type-A, overachieving, goal-oriented, hustler of a goal digger to do?
I'm proposing "Stop-Doing Goals."
Simply put, I'm suggesting you stop doing some of your goals. It's a radical approach, I know.
Don't get me wrong, I am a huge believer in setting goals. This isn't about throwing the baby out with the bath water. It's about chucking out the dirty bath water that's mucking everything up.
Stop-Doing Goals can help you get more done and help you accomplish your "Hell Yeah" goals.
Stop-Doing Goals can make more opportunities appear because you are free to take action on them. They create more space and time.
As Greg McKeown says in Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, "There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in, and although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital."
Time is a limited resource. We can't buy more time. We can't get time back, but we can prioritize the time we have.
Do you have more than 2 or 3 goals? If so, you're in need of a few Stop-Doing Goals.
Productivity Specialist Franklin Covey surveyed thousands of teams and found, if a team has 2-3 primary goals, they are likely to achieve 2-3 of them. If a team has 3-10 primary goals, they are likely to achieve 1 or 2 of them. And, if a team has 11 or more goals, they are likely to achieve none of them. Read that again. NONE of them. (Read more here.)
More goals did not equal more achievement. Conversely, more goals resulted in achieving less, or nothing at all.
Dr. Ned Hallowell talks about having 3 goals a day, 3 goals a week, 3 goals a year, and 3 lifetime goals; this way you are always working toward a short-term, medium-term, and long-term goal. Setting goals this way forces you to prioritize, otherwise you either try to do everything at once and it ends up as a clusterfuck, or you get overwhelmed and do nothing at all. It's how we end up with busy days, weeks, months, years and never actually finish anything. (Watch a great interview with Dr. Ned Hallowell and Marie Forleo here. )
How to create stop-doing goals :
- List all of your current goals. You can separate them by time frame like Ned Hallowell suggests if you like.
- Now list your goals in priority order. If you're having a hard time prioritizing, think about which goals excite you and light you up. Which goals energize you? List those first. Which goals don't feel good? Which goals trigger self-critique and doubt? Which goals zap your energy or drain you? That's usually a good sign that those might belong lower on the priority list.
- Circle your top 2 to 3 goals. These goals are safe, they can stay. The rest of the goals on your list have got to go. They are you Stop-Doing Goals.
- Here's the tricky part, your Stop-Doing Goals are exactly that. Your goal is to stop pursuing them completely. They remain Stop-Doing Goals until you've either achieved one of your priority goals or have decided to remove a priority goal off the list.
This can be anxiety producing for the die-hard overachiever. It may make you feel like you're selling yourself short and limiting your possibilities. The reality is, you are breathing life into your priority goals. You're setting yourself up to succeed by creating focus.
You may find yourself relapsing and adding a few more goals to your plate after you've had some success with this. (Ask me how I know.) Usually this is when overwhelm and frustration tend to creep in, and it's time to set up a few more Stop-Doing Goals.
'Til next week! I'm off to stop doing a few things.