Life Principles - Setting Clear Goals

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Don’t confuse goals with desires- a proper goal is something that you really need to achieve.  Desires are the things that you want that can prevent you from reaching your goals.

Let’s pretend that life is a martial art or game, the object of which is to get around a challenge and reach a goal. Once you accept its rules, you’ll get used to the discomfort that comes with the constant frustration. You should realize also that you will never handle everything perfectly: Mistakes are inevitable and its important to recognize and accept this fact of life. The good news however is that every mistake you make can teach you something, so there’s no end to learning.

So, what if you don’t have all the skills you need to succeed? Don’t fret about this because that is true for everyone. You just have to know when they are needed and where you can go to get them. With practice, you will eventually play this game with a calm unstoppable centeredness in the face of adversity. Your ability to get what you want will thrill you, but you should start first by setting clear goals.

In my coaching experience, one of the most important and cardinal talking point during my sessions is the goal setting phase. This task dictates the pace of the session and how impactful the change or guidance will be to the client. Let’s take a look at the best approach to setting clear goals.

Prioritize – While you can have virtually anything you want; you can’t have everything you want. Life is like a giant smorgasbord with more delicious alternatives than you can ever hope to taste. Choosing a goal often means rejecting some things you want in order to get other things that you want or need even more. Some people fail at this point, before they’ve even started. Afraid to reject a good alternative for a better one, they try to pursue so many goals at once, achieving only a few or none of them. Don’t get discouraged and don’t let yourself be paralyzed by all the choices. You can have much more that hat you need to be happy. Make your choice and get on with it.

Don’t confuse goals with desires – A proper goal is something that you really need to achieve. Desires are the things that you want that can prevent you from reaching your goals. Typically, desires are first-order consequences. For example, your goal might be physical fitness, while your desire is to eat good-tasting but unhealthy food. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be a couch potato, that’s fine with me. You can pursue whatever goal you want. But if you don’t want to be a couch potato, then you better not open that bag of chips.

Decide what you really want in life by reconciling your goals and your desires – Take passion, for example. Without passion, life would be dull; you wouldn’t want to live without it. But what’s key is what you do with your passion. Do you let it consume you and drive you to irrational acts, or do your harness it to motivate and drive you while you pursue your real goals? What will ultimately fulfill you are the things that feel right at both levels, as both desires and goals.

Don’t mistake the trappings of success for success itself – Achievement orientation is important, but people who obsess over a $1,200 pair of shoes or a fancy car are very rarely happy because they don’t know what it is that they really want and hence what will satisfy them.

Never rule out a goal because you think it is unattainable – Be audacious. There is always a best possible path. Your job is to find it and have the courage to follow it. What you think is attainable is just a function of what you know at the moment. Once you start your pursuit you will learn a lot, especially if you triangulate with others, paths you never saw before will emerge. Of course, there are some impossibilities or near impossibilities, such as playing centre on a football team if you are short or running a four-minute mile at age seventy.

Remember that great expectations create great capabilities – if you limit your goals to what you know you can achieve, you are setting the bar way too low.

Almost nothing can stop you from succeeding if you have a)flexibility and b)self-accountability – Flexibility is what allows you to accept what reality (or knowledgeable people) teaches you; self-accountability is essential because if you really believe that failing to achieve a goal is your personal failure, you will see your failing to achieve it as indicative that you haven’t been creative or flexible or determined enough to do what it takes. And you will be that much more motivated to find the way.

Knowing how to deal with your setbacks is as important as knowing how to move forward – Sometimes you know that you are going over a waterfall and there is no way to avoid it. Life will throw you such challenges, some of which will seem devastating at the time. In bad times, your goal might be to keep what you have, to minimize your rate of loss, or simply to deal with a loss that is irrevocable. Your mission is to always make the best possible choices, knowing that you will be rewarded if you do.

Culled from Ray Dalio’s principles

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