Achieve your Goals with a Compass

yellow-confidence We’ve just started the second half of 2008, and some of us have just reached a landmark of a different kind – hitting the big five oh! A time to review and reset goals? I have written about goal setting quite a few times, especially about six months ago when everyone was setting goals and resolutions:-

In Are goals necessary? I reflected that I have had mixed success with goal setting and in my career I have taken opportunities rather than following a clear plan – so why be “SMART”?

Do you have passion or desire? discussed the concept of a “road map” – all the rage in December – and looked at getting excited about making changes, finding passion or desire.

Do you have a dream – concluded goals are necessary, but insufficient. We need some inner drive or passion.

Why haven’t you set goals? did address the balance with arguments in favor of goals and reasons people don’t set them.

In Achieving goals with support I used the example of goal setting being like using a GPs unit. For the first time I mentioned how coaching, or using support, could be helpful to get us to where we want to be.

Recently I have been coached and I have been coaching someone myself – more of which some other time. A broad definition of life coaching that I had been using is

“unlocking a persons potential to maximize their own performance. Its helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
(Tim Gallway, quoted by Whitmore in Coaching for Performance)

I’ve recently adopted a broader definition “helping facilitate growth and change“ as coaching is something that is happening all the time. As I argued in achieving goals with support a friend or family member may “coach” you and help you achieve or change, but do so through everyday conversation.

But it does come back to how you use goal setting. I happened upon a couple of posts by a frequent commenter on this site Maria Gajewski that describe her “compass approach” to goal setting. The analogy of a compass, rather than a detailed map, keeps with the principle that its important to know where you are heading. But it allows for the fact that it many situations, having detailed (SMART) goals neither works nor is helpful.

To quote Maria:-

By using the Compass Approach, you keep your eyes open to the world and are better able to accept opportunities as they come. You are also able to recognize when a slight shift in direction might actually be the crooked path that is faster than the straight line.

compass-for-confidenceIn terms of my 6 months a head, I could set myself SMART goals regarding my health and fitness – eg by 31st December I weigh 95 kilograms (hopefully kgs don’t mean much to most of you reading!) or I will compete and finish the Christmas 10k (road race) in under 60 minutes.

But rigid goals like these may be easily measurable, and I could write out steps to achieve those goals, but don’t take into account what else is happening in my life. For instance, my eldest daughter is home for the summer and is teaching me to swim properly. I also plan to buy a wet suit so I can swim outside in the summer months. Ironically I completed a swimming goal last year – swimming the 1.4 miles between two piers. But I have very poor technique, not able to “crawl”.

My wifes cycling partner is a about to move to France, so we are looking at starting Sunday morning cycle rides together. So my vision for the future has me engaging in a bigger range of physical activity – and enjoying it!! Heading in that direction I still need to check progress (“compass calibration” as Maria calls it) on a regular basis. But there is flexibility in the system.

Reading Maria’s post she refers to a book Goal Free Living that I hadn’t come across before. From what I can make out, the author Stephen Shapiro, doesn’t really recommend being “goal free”- he suggests being clear about what’s really important and focusing on getting the most out of the present rather than focusing foremost on the future. Or a “it’s the journey, not the destination” perspective.

So the book is about getting control of your life – not about being lazy or just going through life with no direction. Knowing where you are going, celebrating the progress, being open to take different paths, enjoying every moment in life and connecting with people. Stephen interviews many people along the journey he makes and their stories illustrate his theme, they live fulfilled lives without incessant goal achievement.

Adapting a model of future planning that suits you is very important for building self confidence. Never let your self esteem be determined by whether or not you have achieved a major goal that day. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t hit a particular target.

As Stephen says, its important to enjoy the journey. But a journey needs some sort of destination, otherwise you are just drifting. It is good for your confidence if you know where you are going.

top photo Meredith Farmer, bottom Alexia * on

Maria - Never the Same River Twice July 7, 2008 at 1:55 pm

David, I’m glad you found my post valuable. You are correct that Goal Free Living isn’t about drifting through life with no interests in self improvement. The reason Shapiro wrote it is because he noticed that when he focused all of his energy on achieving a goal and then achieved it he felt unfulfilled and was always looking for the next milestone.

I’m sure most of us can relate!

The reason compass approach to goal setting is about being flexible and staying in the moment, rather than working toward a defined outcome no matter what else is going on in your life. Your example of achieving a certain weight works well for this. By checking in with yourself on a regular basis, you can take your current circumstances into account and be honest about your health, time available, and all of the other factors that go into losing weight.

Maria – Never the Same River Twice’s last blog post..Supercharge Your Weekly Review with Mind Mapping

David July 7, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for taking the trouble to write such a full response. I recommend everyone reads your original posts from the links within my post.

David’s last blog post..Achieve your Goals with a Compass

Rob July 8, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Goals are only useful is you celebrate moving towards them and don’t focus on how you haven’t yet achieved them. It is the small steps along the way that are the most important.

Rob’s last blog post..The Importance of Fitness

Anand Dhillon July 15, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I think goals are useful in that provide a sense of direction – they sharpen your present moment decision making.

Goals provide a way to make all of your actions congruent. The congruency has a synergistic effect allowing you to make progress much more quickly than you would if you just took blind action.

I agree, howoever, that goals can be limiting if all you do is focus on the outcome instead of enjoying the present.

Anand Dhillon’s last blog post..Carnival of Self-Mastery – July 15, 2008

Alex June 5, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I do believe, that the key to achieve set goal is in small steps, but, please do forget , that withot true desier for achievment and our persistence will take us to our goal. Thing is, that in life we have some many external influences, that we forget to stay focus. And that’s the main reason why it takes much oonger to achieve our goal, or maybe this even eman, not achieving it at all. Therefore, BE PERSISTENC and fight for your goal.


{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: