Goals and Paths

November 1, 2013

I have had a recurring theme lately with several clients.  It’s about what it takes to get where they want to go…the path to reaching their goal/s.  As the CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, says (among other interesting things about being a leader, sticking to your plan, trusting your instincts, etc) in a New York Times interview sent to me by a client, “You can’t realize your goal if it’s not defined.”  So basic, but so true.  For many people defining a goal is the first part of the process of working with me, but others come to work with me with a very clear goal in mind.

The thing is, as clear as that goal may be, many of them also assume there is one specific path that will get them to that goal.  They hold on to what they assume/know is the path, but that assumption or knowledge actually keeps them from making progress and moving forward.  I ask them what makes them so certain there are certain specific steps on the way to their goal.   They strain against the steps they have laid out for themselves, and are unable to let themselves take a different approach because changing the path feels like giving up on the goal.  So I ask:  what if another action, however counterintuitive, is actually a required step to attaining your goal?  For example, if someone’s goal is to have financial and personal stability, it might seem counterintuitive that they take a trip around the world for a year, spending savings and moving from place to place.  But maybe that is the very thing that will let them get what they so badly want.

Often the most important thing is action and movement.  Without it there is no change.  No achieving your goal.  If you’re stuck, step back and ask yourself what you’re holding on to that is blocking you.  A literal example:  if the goal (a swimming pool, lake, mountain, house) you want to reach is just over a brick wall in your path, you might slam your body into it a few times, you might try pushing the wall over a few times, or pulling out bricks.  But after a while, bashed and bruised, you’d probably try to climb over it, find the end and go around it, dig under it…anything except walk into it again!

Remember your goal…hold on to it tightly, but open your mind to the fact that the path there may not be what you expect.