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December 19, 2012

What Goals Should I Set?

How do we surface the goals from our subconscious or intuitions? How do we discover them from inside of a deluge of facts and data?

And this is not a purely rational exercise either. We all know this human tendency to see what we want to see, to hear what we want to hear, shutting out what we don't want to. A historic example is Hitler who refused to accept facts whenever they did not fit into his plans and theories.

We all are good at self-deceiving in one way or another. Then how do we outwit our own feelings? 'Emotional intelligence' doesn't become a household term without a good reason.

Here is my list of guiding questions to enable your self-discovery:
What end states do you want?
What future do you envision? Please avoid jargons and big words here. Small plain words were enough for an American president who defeated Communism and revived America. Can you recall Reagan's campaign themes? Family, Neighborhood, Work, Peace. Outspend the communists on defence and fix the American economy.

Strategy guru Liddell Hart advised that before you start a war, you must be very clear about the kind of peace you want at the end of the war. The same holds true here.
What will bring you closer to your broader goals?
Are you just spinning wheels? Just looking busy?
What goal has the higher return on your effort?
Apply the 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle.
What do you fear?
If you have a definite, concrete, specific answer, you should do that thing first. There are many terms for this concept:
  1. BANJO (Bang A Nasty Job Off)
  2. Handle the Killer issues first (P&G innovation guidelines as noted in Game Changer.
  3. And Agile and Extreme Programming too make the similar recommendations.
If you don't have a ready answer, ask the question immediately below.
What if I don't know my fears?
What do you dread about tomorrow, or about the current project?
What miracle would you like to take place?
If you are invincible, what would you do?
Such answers point to what you secretly fear. You may invent your own question in this regard.
What do you want madly, badly?
That goal is more likely to be a red herring, a distraction than a truly beneficial goal for you.
Why are so mad, bad about this goal?
Are you taking so much risks, cutting corners?
These questions try to find out if you are being driven by lust, greed, passion, or any other wrong type of desire.
Is the goal doable?
If not, forget it for now. Keep it in a diary and revisit it when the situation has changed enough.
What is not doable is a mere pipe dream.
e.g. over-reach e.g. Napoleon in Russia, the Russians in Afghan, and the Afghans in ... ( well, I can't complete this tripartite run. ;-) )
Does the pursuit of the goal make use of your strengths?
As the late Peter Drucker remarked, strengths will give you results whereas attempts to correct your weaknesses will just give you mediocrity at best.
Does the pursuit of the goal involve something you cannot tolerate/stomach economically/morally/spiritually?
Are the goals internally consistent?
Do they defeat one another? e.g. Embrace the Internet but ban Google, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, eBay, youtube and ... huh ...

Quite a list. Quite a list.

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