At the first of every year, everyone seems focused on personal goals or resolutions. Businesses spend a lot of time and energy on yearly goals. Individuals are encouraged to make New Year’s resolutions to help motivate them to new levels of happiness and productivity. Countless webinars, blog posts, and books are offered with the latest and greatest ideas on how to set and reach your goals.
I have never been energized by goals. They have seemed to me to be a waste of time-- unattainable dreaming that looks good on paper, placed in a document, never to get implemented. As an administrator and fairly organized person, I felt a bit out of sync with the rest of the world. What’s wrong with me? Why don’t goals excite me like everyone else?
Twenty years ago, I ran across a concept in a book by Bobb Biehl entitled “Stop Setting Goals.” I was intrigued by the subtitle, “If You Would Rather Solve Problems.” That was it! Stop setting goals: solve problems!
When I considered setting goals, I was always blocked by coming up with countless problems that would be obstacles to reaching the goal. Call me negative, but when the talk of goals came up, i would think, “all talk, no action.” Biehl gave me permission to be different. He suggested that like temperaments, some people are energized by problems and drained by goals while other are energized by goals and drained by problems.I happened to be a problem solver.
Set priorities framed as either goals or problems. As I looked around my own professional setting, I could clearly see those two types of people. Biehl further noted that setting priorities might be a better way to work with both types of people. Those priorities could be framed either as goals or problems. That resonated with me. From that point on, I have tried to use that model in my planning.
Some have suggested that leaders set goals and managers solve problems. Others have said that extroverts like goals and introverts like problems. Goal setters tend to add to a system while problem-solver fix something in the system. I have learned that no one can be placed in one category all the time. When I look at my priorities for the year, or for a project, I usually have a mix of goals and problems.
If you are feeling a lack of energy for goal setting at the beginning of the year or when you are considering a new initiative, try the problem-solving approach. If you are leading a team of people, be aware that you will most likely need a balance of goal setters and problem solvers—dreamers and doers.
Why don’t you carve out some time to make a list of problems that you need to solve? Dump everything on the list. Don’t compartmentalize. Put professional and personal things on the list. After all, they are all floating around in your brain, waiting for some order. Once you have listed the problems, put them in one of two contexts: professional and personal. Then for each list rank the problems in priority order from most important and urgent to least. There you have it. A roadmap to effectiveness. After all, isn’t that what goals are supposed to do anyway?
I would love to hear how you have implemented this simple idea.