As a former three sport high school and varsity (DIII) collegiate athlete, I learned many lessons that transcended the field or court or track. The importance of dedication to your craft, that practice can make near perfect, victory favors the prepared, sleep and proper eating fuel performance, and that sometimes you need to make adjustments in game to stay on track to achieve the desired results (a win!).
Recently at work I hit a point of information overload – there was too much coming in and not enough time in the moment to react. There were a million thoughts rushing through my head – tasks I owed to some person at some point at some degree of importance. It was more than my to do list could handle, so I pulled my best Tom Brady and called an audible on one of my favorite and most helpful practices:
I abandoned my trusty to do list for a few days.
What!? Trust me, it was the right choice. And within 48 hours I was back to a routine with my to do list system that works for me. In the interim, I needed to get everything out of my head and onto paper so that I could focus on getting the tasks done. One of the 3M Post-It claims to fame is that, according to 3M, writing down your goals makes ou 42% more likely to achieve them. And yes, I did use some variations of post it note colors to make a rainbow of organization on my desk. I had three different colors of sticky pads, each correlated to a different project. For my blue project, I broke out into about eight different categories so I could see more easily where I could bulk items together. Had I put everything down on one sticky, or several without the organization, I would have been confused and lost about where I needed to start, just with a list with a million items instead of a million thoughts racing through my mind.
I used to be a rigid person, and it pained me, my relationships, my effectiveness, and my performance. Learning to be more flexible and make adjustments as I go has been a huge boon to not only professional aspects of my life, but my happiness in all areas.
The important thing to remember when making adjustments as you go is to look at changing methodology, not the goal. The goal should change only if it is no longer important or exciting or impactful to your life. As an example, when I was an engineer I had a goal of gaining the experience to apply and sit for the Professional Engineer (P.E.) exam so I could earn my license in Civil Engineering. As my career goals changed away from designing towards being on the “owner’s side of the table”, I realized that a license wasn’t necessary to achieve my goals. If I wanted to work in the public realm, a P.E. license was going to be important, but not to the same degree in the private sector and not designing, where I wanted to be. In this instance, changing the goal made sense. Achieving the P.E. would still be an incredible career accomplishment, but it wasn’t a requirement to get to the places I wanted to go. My previous example in this post about going away temporarily from my to do list is a case where changing methodology is okay – but it doesn’t change my goals to redevelop multi-family apartment communities.
When I was learning about lean construction a few years back, one of the concepts that stuck with me was the importance of asking “why”, not just once, but at a minimum of five times. Asking “why?” is incredibly powerful and has the ability to help you focus on the true meaning of your motivations and actions. Simon Sinek wrote an enlightening book, Start with Why, that focuses on the importance of that one word question and explains all of the impacts that answering that question can have on personal goals and even corporate success, and everything in between. I’d recommend this book (not sponsored) if you are curious about changing your world and the world around you. This concept of “why” helps define when you are thinking about changing a goal or changing your methodology to reach that goal. If you can dig down into why you have your goal, is it still in alignment with what your overall plans and hopes and dreams are? Or is it getting hard to get there?
If your goal is truly something you want, make your “in-game” adjustments. If you determine that your life’s direction doesn’t jive with the goals you had set weeks, months, or years ago, set new goals with new ways to get there. A few weeks ago I finished reading Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better (not sponsored) and there is a section on goal setting that I found fascinating. It explores how years ago at GE, the practice of setting goals was holding the company back, even though they were the best in the world at setting and meeting goals. With some help, they developed a hybrid approach of combining the easy and the impossible and it revolutionized the business to achieve even greater success. The key was to blend SMART goals with reach goals, and not pursue one or the other alone.
There are certain goals I know I have and have to constantly re-commit and adjust my approach – having a healthy lifestyle and losing weight, for example. This takes habit development, of which I am always re-setting and working on, commitment, and dedication. I can’t be perfect everyday, but the ability to have the freedom to do any physical activity I choose is a goal is something that keeps me going. Maybe calorie counting works some days, maybe intuitive eating is better on days I’ve got plenty of vegetables and fruits in front of me. Other goals, like the one I used to have about being a PE, are no longer relevant and getting rid of them created opportunity to pursue new goals, like more writing or making efforts to have a greater understanding of the financial fundamentals that drive the decisions made every day at work.
Knowing when to make the adjustment is a major skill, and unfortunately it takes both time and failure to hone it. Some failures may be minor, and even fewer will be catastrophic (depending what you are doing), but failure always provides an opportunity to learn. If something is truly important to you, you know that you can find a way to make it happen. Try adjusting your approach instead of giving up to see what happens. It may take a few different iterations, but keep exploring your whys and making the tweaks big and small to make it happen.
What goals do you keep and adjust your approach? How do you evaluate your why in deciding what it is you will pursue? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!