When is it Time to Reshape Your Goals?

by Andy Wood on July 18, 2012

in Ability, Exploring the Possibilities, Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Increase, Time

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

 Had a blast from my past yesterday.  I returned to the scene of one of my greatest personal undertakings, which I wrote about here.    And it was an interesting reunion.

Twenty years ago, flush with vision and excitement, I began a project that many people refer to today as their Bucket List.  I took three pieces of paper and began three lists – 100 Things I Would Like to Be, Do, and Have.  Now 20 years later, it felt good to see some of the things that had been achieved.  Earning a Ph.D. was one of those.  Becoming a grandfather was another.

I also found things on the lists that still had value to me, but had yet to be fulfilled.  Places to go.  Things to accomplish.  Roles to embrace.

In between was a lot of fluff, trivia, and some disappointments.  If I intended to do anything with the lists anymore, it was definitely time for an overhaul.  Some things needed to be punted.  (Example:  I had listed about nine different master’s degrees.  Hey… it was a phase.)  Some things needed to be written off as a bust (no more dreams of Rogaine or the Hair Club for Men).  And some things were valid, but needed serious reworking.

Most importantly, over the last 20 years, my horizon has changed in major ways.  What was important – heck what was possible back then – has changed dramatically.

In the process of some major course correction and target adjustments, I’ve learned some things about how to recognize goals that need reevaluating or reshaping.  Take a look at where you are headed in light of these warning signs:

1.  When the goal just doesn’t matter anymore.

I listed some things that looked really awesome back then, and today I can’t even tell you what they actually are.  I listed some audacious goals what I guess would be stupendous for somebody else, but today I frankly just don’t care.  Time to punt or retool the goal.

2.  When it’s past the deadline and unfulfilled.

Oh well.  Either change the deadline if possible or redefine what success looks like in that venture.  If you can’t do either of those, maybe it’s time to tip your cap, call it strike three and head back to the dugout.  Just remember that missed goals don’t have to keep you from swinging for new, different fences.  But you can’t pursue those until you say good-bye to the old ones.

3.  When fulfilling the goal would violate your conscience.

As we grow, mature, or change destructive life patterns, we sometimes recognize that a former ambition or pursuit is morally or ethically wrong.  What good is any fulfilled goal if it makes you feel guilty or comes at the cost of your character?  Lose it.

4.  When your roles change.

No one taught the relationship between roles and goals better than the recently-deceased Stephen Covey.  He explained that different roles – professional, interpersonal, and personal – lead us to different targets and need to be explored.   Obviously over time our different roles change. That should be reflected in our most important aims.

5.  When the goal no longer stimulates you to action.

Keeping it real… I’ve looked at that list off and on for 20 years and many of the things I listed that sounded interesting or nice back then never moved me to do one thing about it.  See ya’.  Other targets were and are important to me and I am keeping them – but they need to be reframed, restated or re-measured.  Any goal that comes across like a bad New Year’s resolution needs fixing or tossing.

6.  When the scope of the goal is too massive.

This is one of the reasons I never took action on some of the ideas I listed.  It was simply too distant, too enormous, too large-scaled to see an end in sight.  This may be worth the price of admission:  If you can’t nail it in 90 days, restate the goal until you can.  Thirty days may be even better.

Okay, I know… here it comes… “But what about my one-year, five-year, and 20-year goals?” What about them?  Even marathons have checkpoints.  And if that overarching dream takes 20 years, it also takes 80 quarters or 240 months.  Set up some checkpoints or shorter-term targets or you’ll never get there.

7.  When the goal is trivial.

By “trivial” I mean you don’t have a plan to use it once you achieve it.  Okay, so you want to be the president of something or other?  Then what?  So you want to get a Master’s degree in whatever.  Then what? So you want to collect all the Andy Griffith Show episodes.  Okay.  But will you actually watch them?  So you want to see Paris in the spring.  How will you give meaning to that experience afterward?

8.  When the results are completely out of your hands.

Then the goal becomes a prayer request or something to add to your waiting list. (You do have a waiting list, don’t you?)  It may be a dream, but it isn’t a goal.  By definition, goals are accomplishments that you or your organization achieves.  If you have done all you can do, and there is nothing else to do but stand, wait, or pray, then put it in God’s hands and/or give the dream time to materialize  Just make sure there really is nothing else to do.  And make sure what you call a goal isn’t really putting a monkey on the back of your kids, your employees, or your friends.

9.  When you lack clarity to know whether the goal has been achieved.

Watch your words.  What do you mean by “expert” or “financially independent?”  What does “growth” or “profit” or “healthy” or “successful” mean?  What’s the difference between those things and the status quo?  When wording your ambitions, make sure to clarify what you mean and how you intend to measure progress or success.  Make the language as specific and measurable as possible.

10.  When you can’t articulate why the goal is important.

“What” may inspire the mind, but “why” motivates the heart.  When you’ve lost touch with the reason the goal is important, you’ve lost touch with the primary driving force to make it happen.  If you approach the goal with a “take it or leave it” attitude, you’ll probably leave it, and probably should.  Your “why” gives you the drive to forego instant gratification and to press on when you’re discouraged.  As much as possible, keep your “why” firmly attached to the goal.

11.  When you’re already pursuing the goal, but just haven’t identified it.

Sometimes you have goals you haven’t even brought to your awareness.  But all your actions, decisions, or conversations are pointing you in that direction.  So maybe it’s time to take inventory of what you’re already doing and consider the “why” or the goal behind it.  You may find some hidden, but powerful goals that are already driving you.  So why articulate them?  To sharpen your focus and give you a way to enjoy what Earl Nightingale called “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”  In other words, to celebrate your success.

12.  When God has redefined your calling or faith response to Him.

Different seasons and different places of spiritual maturity call for different kinds of vision.  But they don’t call for retirement or resignation.  I love the fact that Joshua’s faith partner Caleb, at age 85, still had a mountain to conquer – and Joshua’s mentor, Moses, was crossing the Red Sea at age 80.  Neither was fighting yesterday’s battles or pursuing yesterday’s targets.  But they had today’s calling and vision firmly in sight.  So should you, for the season you’re in.

Okay.  Your turn.  How have your goals changed over the last year, 5 years, or 20 years?  What needs to be clarified, reworked, revisited, or written off?  What new mountains do you have to conquer?  What new callings do you need to respond to?  And what can you knock out in the next 90 days?

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