When I sat down last week to start writing a blog post on setting goals.. I was quite happily typing away – and then Charlie Hebdo happened.
It’s a funny old thing this “freedom of speech” – as it suddenly struck me that “Je suis Charlie” – truly now applies to me. I write (badly perhaps!) and it’s published and out there for all the world to see should it so wish. I make my opinions and I hold them up to public scrutiny. Admittedly the world of “goal setting” is not generally a contentious subject – but the Parisian massacre made me stop for a second and consider my perspective.
You see – I had planned on writing this article a little bit away from the normal SMART process that accompanies goal setting. I had planned on suggesting that whilst SMART is great – and necessary – to achieving focus in one’s personal and professional lives – that it wasn’t all that’s required.
I was going to suggest that one way of making SMART even more effective was to go public. To put out there exactly what it was that you wanted to achieve – and perhaps even why! To create yourself a team of supporters – and a opposition to spur you on!
My reasons for this suggestion are entirely personal – and I can only speak from my own experiences. So I will give you my “lightbulb moment” … I was a classic underachiever at school, bright – and lazy – but despite that I managed to get by adequately enough.It took me until my final year at University to actually figure out that input = output (pretty dumb for a smart girl hey!!) and that actually I could and should apply myself to the task in hand. So nothing new there – it’s a common enough story – but I actually told someone my ambition.. it happened to be the swotty girl – and she laughed in my face. You.. a 1st??! NO Chance… and do you know – it made me mad.. really mad. and determined. The other thing that happened is that my “team” really came out of the woodwork for me. I had stated my position – and I was working for it. They helped.Helping with moral support and numerous coffees. Helping me avoid the pub and spend more time in the lab. My single goal had become a shared objective – and that community strength helped spur me on.
It did happen. I got my 1st. I did better than the swotty girl – and the goal was well and truly achieved – but not only for me.. That “team” of mine had also jumped on the badwagon and all of us did better than we would have done had I not announced that actually I did want a good result. My own goal – I was the “I” in the team – but together we were all more effective.
It’s been a lifelong valuable lesson.You need an aim, you need to commit to it, you do need SMART objectives.. but you also need others to keep you focused, to help you when it seems that the goal is insurmountable. But you also need to go public to people like my swotty friend – as sometimes it’s the competitive element that can drive you to keep on when everything else won’t. Going public makes it real. It’s why groups such as slimming world and weightwatchers are more effective than diets alone – that public weigh in does wonders for keeping you off the chocolate!!
All of which brings me back to Charlie… after the events of last week – to suggest that we all “go public “ with our aims and ambitions may seem a little frightening. We appear to be living increasingly in a world where our opinions are being threatened – but sadly this isn’t a new phenomenon..think back to Salman Rushdie and the outcry over the publication of the Satanic Verses! But perhaps this is the year to take a stand. Put something out there.Find something to aim for.Stand up for what you believe in. Have some goals – be they personal or professional.
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.”
John Steinbeck – East of Eden