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  • Writer's pictureAdam Melnyk

Making the right goal for the right job!

Goal setting is one of the fundamentals of leadership. Anyone going anywhere within an organization, in their personal or romantic life, has a clear-cut goal! Interestingly, too many leaders create the wrong goal for their organization or personal life then wonder why they aren't moving forward. The goals might be unobtainable or, conversely, too easy to achieve. These leaders might be thinking, "alright, I achieved my goal; now what?" or the reverse "why can I never seem to achieve my goals?!." If this is you, don't worry, it's not a "you problem" it's a goal problem, and I'm here to help you create the right goal for your situation!

You need to have one goal

To start us off, we need to create one goal for you, maybe two if you want to get spicy. This one goal will be the focus of your life and give you the direction you need to drive you to a future that suits you. This one goal will sound deceptively simple but can prove deviously complicated in its implementation. The time it will take you to complete this goal will be anywhere from a year to the rest of your life, depending on how ambitious you want to be. A couple of examples are "I'm going to be one of the best public speakers in North America by the end of the decade!", "I will be the ruler of this nation before I die," or "I'm going to live a comfortable life in the next five years." Notice how the goal is overreaching, future-orientated, building towards a dream, will require vast amounts of work, and yet is so simple a child can understand it. These are primary goals.

A common pitfall that many people make is that they make way too many goals! When I talk with people who aspire to leadership, the question of goals always comes up. I want to know all about my client's dreams, ambitions, and plans. It soon becomes apparent that we are dealing with too many subgoals dancing around the actual primary goal and what we need is clarification.

Every Primary Goal has multiple Subgoals

"A subgoal?" I hear you say, "what is that?". Well, subgoals are achievement markers that you hit on the road to accomplishing your main goal! These are different from the primary goals that are overarching and create focus. Subgoals will be created as a side effect of your primary goal, each one feeding into your dream and driving you ever closer to your destination like the steps of a staircase. Sometimes, however, subgoals are hidden until we get far enough on our journey for them to become apparent.

To help illustrate this, imagine you have the primary goal of making passive income as you have heard it's the best way to make money but know nothing about passive income. The first subgoal would be to learn more about passive income; only once you fully understand what passive income is can you make another subgoal of deciding what income stream works for you. Once you have done that, a new subgoal is created around educating yourself on how to create that specific income stream. In this example, you couldn't have predicted the second or third subgoal until you figured out the answer to the first subgoal.

Now here is a bit of a more real-world example of a primary goal and subgoals in action! On the 25th of May, 1961, President Kennedy announced the plan of landing a man on the moon, stating, "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." This primary goal is so easy to understand that a six-year-old could read this and know what the US will achieve. Yet this goal at the time and to this day remains so mind-bogglingly complicated it had many people saying, "wait, what?".

The primary goal of landing a man on the moon within the decade caused the knock-on effect of making a million subgoals. They would have to put the right team of people in place, gather data of the moon's surface, create a recruitment and training process for astronauts, successfully launch a man into orbit, and on and on, the goals were created. Each subgoal could be a goal on its own, but when you step back, you can see that all subgoals work together to achieve the overarching purpose of landing a man on the moon.

How to set a goal?

Now that we understand the difference between subgoals and primary goals, we will talk about goal setting. Most of you dear readers will know this already, but every single goal must be SMART,

Specific - what exactly do you want?

Measurable - how are you going to measure your success or failure?

Achievable - Can I realistically accomplish this goal?

Relevant - does this goal match your needs?

Timely - when do you exactly want to accomplish this goal?

By making our goals SMART, we create plans that are relevant to what we need, can be measured to see if what we are doing is working or not, and determine if this goal is even achievable – all before we even begin our work!

Dangers of not using SMART goals and infinite games

Every goal doesn't have to be SMART, but if you don't make a SMART goal, you run the risk of playing what's called an infinite game. Infinite games have no end, they are bottomless pits for resources where players drop in and out as the game progresses, and infinite games have no winners, only those who stop playing. A classic example of an infinite game in action is the War on Terror.

On the 20th of September 2001, George W. Bush announced the war on terror in a congressional speech. Ever since, the US had been on a campaign to end the war on terror. Small problem, how do you end terror? How do you measure your success in a war on terror? How long do you commit resources to end the war on terror? Can you ever actually end terror? How can you destroy your enemy time and time again and yet still lose the war on terror? Welcome to the headache of an infinite game, a game where you can only stop playing but never win. Trust me on this. You don't want to get into an infinity game, but that's a post for another time.

Creating your primary goal.

So now we know that we need only one primary goal, it has to be SMART, and it needs to be painted far into the future. To help create this goal, we need to ask some questions to get us thinking; here are a few to help you out. Imagine your organization or yourself in the next 5 to 10 years. What are you/they doing? What are you/your organization known for in the next five years? You are on your death bed looking back on your life; what is your biggest regret? What have you/your organization always wanted more of? Throughout your life, what has been a common dream of yours? Take some time and sit with these questions. Maybe ask others around you for their answers to these questions but think about it, and don't rush it because you'll be working on this goal for the next few years.

Now, examine your answers and see if you can identify the common threads. Notice how you feel when reading the answers to your questions, and mull over the answers in your head, and you should start to see a bit of a clear picture of where you want to go. Please write down your goal in a short, clear, concise sentence that a child could understand; remember, try to keep it SMART.

Here are some examples of primary goals from a few of my clients after a brainstorming session.

  • I want our organization to be renowned for its expertise in mental health in the next decade

  • I want to find a partner that I can love and that will support me in my goals within the next five years

  • I want to own a company worth $500,000 and sell it ten years from now


Expand expand expand

Take some time and expand upon what your goal means. For example, if you want your organization to be renowned for its expertise in mental health, you will need to define what renown looks like for you. It could be being asked to speak about mental health, maybe it's brand recognition, or an increase in applicants to your program, etc.

What does having an expertise in mental health mean? Does that mean investing in research and development of mental health techniques? Maybe it means training your talent in the newest mental health skills.

If your goal is to find a partner you can love and who will support you, you need to expand on what love means to you. Does that love look like cuddles and texting regularly, or is doing things for you without being asked? Is it a feeling you have every time you see them? Maybe it's all of the above.

Then you need to examine what your partner's support will look like? Does support mean helping you obtain your dream? Allowing you the freedom to choose what you want? Maybe it's about positive affirmations.

To move forward with your goal, make sure to expand on any vague terms in your plans and to define them clearly.

Creating the why

Only after writing down your primary goal should you ask, Why is this important to me? Who am I hoping to become by completing this goal? What do I want to get out of it? What kind of legacy am I hoping to leave? These questions should take you just as long, if not longer, to answer as when you were brainstorming your primary goal. If you don't create the why you will never be motivated to fulfill your dream.

Making your first subgoal

Now that we have your future planned out, let's create your very first subgoal. Imagine your expansive dream in all of its facets and intricacies, and then ask yourself, What is the one thing I can do right now to start me on my journey. What can you do to move the needle right now of your primary goal? Remember to keep it SMART, write it down and start working towards your one goal!

Working in one direction

Never forget, as you continue to conquer subgoal after subgoal, you are getting step by step closer to completing your one primary goal. Sometimes it can be hard to see the progress you are making, so don't be afraid to take a moment and look back. Take note of all your little achievements and all the stepping stones you've crossed. And take pride in each one of these steps. Let your small achievements inspire your future efforts knowing that one day you will cross your finish line.

Now you may ask, "what do I do once I've accomplished my primary goal." That's easy. You do it all again!

Are you interested in learning more about Goals? Try reading The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

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