Thoughts on Planning, Principles & Goals

I have a habit of living in the future. I make big plans. I break those big plans into big goals with realistic deadlines, then into smaller goals with even more realistic deadlines.

Most of the time I reach my goals.

But, I’ve rarely felt fulfilled by those achievements.

Being a rational, over-achieving, lawyer – the thing to do was obvious.

Dream up bigger goals with UNrealistic deadlines and WORK HARDER.

Obvious. Rational. Logical.

Duh.  I’m right, right?

Well, maybe not so much. Because when I create unrealistic goals and deadlines, and work even harder to find that fulfillment in achievement, I fall short.  So, no fulfillment in achieving the realistic goals and no fulfillment in falling short of the unrealistic goals. This cycle leads to some outward success, but leaves a void inside.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve felt that void.

Now, I’m REALLY good a this. I’ve been practicing for about 25 years. It’s what got me through college. It’s what motivated me to work hard and get promotions & bonuses. It’s what drove me to law school and whipped me into passing a couple bar exams. This process helped me start my own firm, borrow too much money to go after a few too many unrealistic goals, fall short and go through bankruptcy. The constant feeling that setting better goals and working harder to achieve them caused a lot of damage in my life and it also created some great stuff. I’ve done some good things and I’ve helped a lot of people. So, I’m unwilling to stop creating goals

But something has to change.

I think there will be three primary changes:

1. I will strive to set fewer rather than more goals. After 25 years, I’m realizing that putting less pressure on myself just MIGHT leave room for more happiness.

2. The goals I DO set will always include an open top – in the form of either “at least” or “or better.” For example: “Average monthly revenue will increase by AT LEAST 15% for 2011.” or “Average monthly revenue will increase by 15% in 2011, OR BETTER.” This will allow me to set realistic goals, but not get trapped into limiting thoughts.

3. I’ll strive to live by a set of core principles (or maybe my “Guiding Values” – Accept, Show Up, Pay Attention, Irons in the Fire, Stewardship) instead of rules and goals in an effort pay more attention to the EXPERIENCE and FEELINGS of the present moment instead of always sitting in the future goal.

However, I’m not comfortable feeling “rudderless” and just drifting along (although drifting downstream takes way less energy than trying to paddle against the flow). At least I’m not comfortable with that YET, although maybe it IS the secret to enlightenment and daily happiness & fulfillment – complete surrender and faith in God….

So, all of my principles must be themed around what I understand to be my purpose in life – the reason God put me on the planet.

My understanding of my purpose goes something along the lines of helping people reach their potential by fueling their inner spark of divinity through creativity – more specifically, creative business. I’m here to help people align who the are inside with what they do in the world. First people need to recognize their inner spark of divinity, then it’s time to share that spark with the rest of us. The sharing is the fuel. The sharing, in our culture, CAN take the form of a business venture. When people create businesses that are motivated by the inspiration to share who they are with the rest of us, it becomes easy to do the things entrepreneurs need to do.

Are these the answers for everyone? Probably not, they might not even be the answers for me. What I DO know is that what I’ve been practicing to become very good over the last 25 years hasn’t been the answer either and I’m getting tired of that same old story of not being fulfilled by my successes or failures, so I’m going to turn some pages.

How about you?

Leave a comment. I’d love to get more input on this line of thinking.






6 Responses to “Thoughts on Planning, Principles & Goals”

  1. Creating a value added processes for workflow and assessment is apt if not a necessitous.

    Less is always better, to me. And processes that leave a sour taste, or create strife can almost always be reworked into a harmonious balance.

    Asking yourself “Does this square with my core values” is part of all good decision making. A yes response to “Am I setting myself up for a let down with this goal?” warrants a re-write… Being guided by core principals seems close to the idea of following “values” where the idea of following ‘goals’seem to enable “stretch goals” that eek out performance and may be re-evaluated with a flexibility whereas re-writing principals impacts the superstructure of expressed values.

    Simply stated: I value the stretch goal.

    my $.02

  2. [...] reading here: Thoughts on Planning, Principles & Goals Share and [...]

  3. Goal setting is part of intention setting for me. It has been hard for me to let go of the control of having a detailed project plan in favor of manifestation and trust in myself and my higher power/self. And the achievements are so much more fulfilling!
    You’re right that the first step is finding one’s spark and purpose. I access that deeper knowledge through dreamwork, which is also really helpful in checking in on the progress of my goals and intentions and whether or not they continue to be aligned with my purpose.
    Here’s a practical example. A year ago I was finishing law school, had my house on the market, was 5 months pregnant and preparing for a two-month cross-country trip (with my partner and toddler). I was able to do all those things because I wasn’t attached to a schedule or plan, they were organically part of my goals.

  4. Kevin,

    As I’ve previously said, I think you say what all of us are thinking. The legal profession if rife with this type of person – we love a challenge, we love to work hard, and we love to play hard. I always feel like if I can just work a little harder, just stay at the office a little longer, then I’ll be a better attorney. I’ll let you know when that works out for me.

    I wish you the best of luck with setting fewer goals. More importantly, however, I wish you the best of luck with setting fewer, more-ascertainable goals. In the past I’ve felt like if I met a goal that I set, then I must not have set it high enough. But this is ultimately unproductive and even destructive. That’s why I love your concept of setting goals with an open top. It’s like a mini-competition against yourself. And what attorney doesn’t love a good competition?

    There’s not much I can say about the concept of complete enlightenment. I often say that God is in control, and I ultimately know that is true, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking that, with enough work, I can do something by my own will.

    I think the most important thing here is that we learn to be comfortable with who we are, while at the same time always strive to be better. That’s my New Year’s resolution anyway…

    Great post. Thanks for the read, and thanks for the motivation. Happy 2011.

    Jeremy A. Rose

  5. In just the few days since I hit submit on this post, I’ve been able to become willing to just point the boat downstream, keep an oar in the water, try to avoid the big rocks, and enjoy the ride.

    That took what may be one of the very first times I’ve actually acted in true surrender and faith. For me, surrender = faith = giving up my self-reliance (it really hasn’t worked that well during my 42 years on the planet anyway), and honestly, sincerely, and humbly being willing to rely on my higher power to have a better plan in mind for me than I ever set down for myself.

    And, it’s not like I have any shortage of goals that I’ve not yet reached, so it won’t hurt me to take a year off of adding to that pile. (And, I use the term “pile” consciously…)

    Let’s have a great 2011 everyone.

  6. Robin Maher says:

    WOW!! All that pressure and you wonder why, what and how? I was very much like you are now. Things happened and I changed and am so much happier and more ‘fulfilled’ than before.

    Give up the limitation or jail, if you will, of goals. Try targets. You hit them or you don’t. When you do, you celebrate. When you don’t, you keep shooting at them. Sometimes you change the angle, sometimes the length of the shot, and sometimes the trajectory.

    Yes, there are requirements of this reality. There is also always choice. I choose to live in a city/town. Therefore, I choose to have utilities provided to me by a company to whom I must give money every month. I can choose to live in an unstructured area and provide my own water, heat, etc and therefore not have those bills. It’s a choice.

    With all of your goals, where are the choices? Even my targets are choices. Especially the ones I haven’t hit, yet. It’s easy enough to look at those and choose which ones to table for later and which ones to keep shooting at. The beauty of choice and targets is the flexibility and sense of accomplishment I experience.

    I am fully aware that I am here to choose and have fun! How about you?

    A joyful, glorious, expansive, and fun New Year!

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