As we approach the New Year many of us began the process of goal setting for the next year. Unfortunately, within about the first two weeks the vast majority of people who have set goals, will have either forgotten about them or allow them to be pushed aside by other priorities. I thought it would be useful to do a short series on practical goal setting. By practical, I mean things you can actually accomplish.
Before we get too far, let’s consider that there are a variety of goals, and ways that we set about achieving them. Let’s divide these between Achievement goals and Process goals. Let me give you an example.
Two good friends of mine in college, Mike and Tyler, are today both very successful airline pilots. Mike was very goal oriented, and always seemed to have a pretty specific plan for his life. Most of what he did was to serve his long-term goal of first becoming a Naval Aviator, and then becoming an airline pilot. Tyler was more process oriented. To him, he was happy just flying. Tyler did have some vague notions, I think, about where he would ultimately like to be or what you would ultimately like to fly, but he pretty much took any chance he could to get into an airplane. I remember one semester he even dropped out of college to go take a flying job in Guam for six months (much to his girlfriends surprise). But, he returned to college, finished out his degree and today is an airline pilot, just like Mike.
Mike and Tyler: two people setting out to achieve similar goals but using completely different approaches. Mike’s approach is very typical of the way most of us approach goal setting: write down what you want to achieve, line out the steps needed to achieve it, daily focus on short term actionable items that move you towards the goal, set interim benchmarks to mark progress, and eventually, achieve the goal.
Tyler’s approach reminds me of an interview that someone once did with NHL hockey player Ville Nieminen, who played in the NHL from 1999 until 2007. Born in Finland (where he still plays hockey), he was once asked if it was his goal to be in the NHL. Paraphrasing his response, he basically said no, his goal was just to be the best hockey player he could be, and just by focusing on the process and becoming a better play, he was recruited to higher and higher levels – until one day he was playing for the Colorado Avalanche, his first NHL team.
Like Ville, all Tyler seem to worry about was becoming a better and better pilot, and everything else fell into line. Obviously, he had to apply for jobs, and do the things necessary to be qualified for the jobs, but his only focus was really only on flying. He is someone who very much enjoyed the process, even more than the outcome.
Remember: you will spend more of your life in the process, than you will in the outcome.
Achievement or Process? Which way is better? That depends, which way works better for you? I submit to you that you will actually have both types of goals in your goal setting, achievement goals, and process goals. Achievement goals are notable because there is a deadline. You know when you have achieved it or succeeded. Process goals are things you are always working on, always seeking to improve.
Your homework is to think about goals for your future and decide whether they are achievement goals for process goals.