I have a membership at a fitness center. Every January there is a huge influx of new people. They all have the best intentions to achieve their New Year’s resolution to be fit. By the end of February, however, only a small percentage of these people continue to work out regularly.
There’s a difference between setting a goal and achieving a goal. I've struggled over the years with achieving personal goals. At one point I became so disillusioned by my consistent failure to achieve annual goals that I gave up. But then I discovered a better way.
Now I focus on two sets of goals. The first set is professional goals. I ask myself, “What am I trying to accomplish as the leader of this organization?” I’m not talking about organizational goals. While my professional goals may connect to the larger organizational goals, I focus on my functioning as a leader. There is one caveat. I must be able to achieve my goals without participation or input from others. I’ll come back to this idea.
The second set is personal goals. I ask myself, “What am I interested in accomplishing this year?” I’m not talking about family goals or relationship goals. I focus on hobbies, projects, or research I want to complete over the next twelve months. Like the professional goals, they are achieved without participation or input from others. Why is this?
It turns out that activities that promote autonomy make people healthier. To work more autonomously requires self-regulation. Working on self-regulation improves emotional, physical, and social well-being. Thus, goal setting is good for you if the focus is on being more autonomous.
But let’s be real. You know how it goes. Pretend your goal is to write more poetry. You plan to set aside time every morning to write, think, and go for long walks. You communicate your plan to your family. They all agree not to interrupt you. But then what happens? The family starts to interrupt your poetry time. The interruptions may “seem” reasonable. Over time, you give up your goal of writing poetry because it doesn’t seem realistic. You convince yourself that your focus should be on your family. You put your dream of writing poetry on the shelf for now. But what if the interruptions are a reaction to your effort to be more autonomous? What if other people in the family are having a difficult time regulating themselves without you? What if (are you sitting down) your regulation is also caught up with theirs?
Your brain allocates energy in the direction of others and self. You allocate energy to help regulate the relationship system and to regulate yourself. There are trade-offs either way. Our natural inclination is to regulate others and to be regulated by others. And while we can never escape this paradox, 50/50 is an optimum allocation of energy to others and to self.
To put this in simple terms, achieving a personal goal is not about motivation or organization. Achieving a goal requires a strategic road map for navigating the relationship system. And by relationship system I’m talking about family, work, and organizational systems. I'm working on a program to help people do better at achieving their goals.
I’m so excited to announce a goal setting retreat for clergy. On January 16, 2018, you will be treated to a goal setting day at New Morning Retreat Center in Hampshire, Illinois. The center, with its homey farmhouse and beautiful grounds, provides the perfect setting to work on setting goals for yourself and for your ministry.
I’ll be facilitated the morning session. The focus will be on strategies for reaching goals and exploring common obstacles for staying on track. The discussion will be based on Bowen Family Systems Theory, which provides an understanding of human behavior that can guide individuals in using beliefs and guiding principles to achieve life goals.
There will be plenty of time and space to work on goals, reflect, and relax during the day. I’ll also set aside time for individual consultation with me in the afternoon.
To learn more about the retreat and to register, click on this link. Space is limited, so be sure to secure your spot!