I used to think of new year’s resolutions as if they were life-targets. Then run them like the appraisal system that went with my career-targets.
It felt productive and smart. But that was when I ran a division of a global company. Where the weeks ran at 100 mph and the deadline-driven demands were disproportionate to the scope of work.
Oh, and utterly disconnected from the real me. I wasn’t saving lives – this was public relations! Which I loved. Until I realized I was wrong about that too.
When asked recently which aspects of self-regulation felt most important, nearly 40% of my audience asked to know why we don’t want what we think we want. Or feel happy when we get it.
5 Fast Thoughts
I hope these 5 thought-starters offer answers that will resonate. And help in setting better career-life goals this New Year. Because the fact is, some goals are just better than others.
We choose goals in a bunch of different ways.
To fit with our sense of self. For instance, extraverted people are more likely to set financial goals while quieter personalities will often set social goals.
Check in with yourself: are you running true to type and if so, will those goals get you closer to what matters most? If not, change them. They’re not destiny, just habits.
Out of these two options, are you more worried about missing out on a career or business opportunity? Or avoiding a fail and minimizing losses? Setting the right-fit goals for your ‘regulatory style’, is really important. If you’re not sure, draw a ‘goal tree’ and place each goal on one of two branches:
‘approach’: hanging on to what you’ve got, or
‘avoidance’: gaining as much ground as you can and never missing out?
Ideally, we create a hierarchy of concrete ‘doing’ goals to support our less tangible ‘being’ goals. Often we say ‘being happy’ is the big goal. Then pursue smaller goals taking us in precisely the opposite direction because we’re wrong about what we think we want. Which explains why it doesn’t make us happy even if we achieve it.
For instance, the importance given to being very well-off financially increases year on year. Despite financial success being an increasingly reliable predictor of unhappiness. Research shows that beyond quite a conservative level of income, increased spending power doesn’t correlate with matching levels of happiness.
If you are among the 75% of people setting goals around money, do the maths. How much do you need to be comfortable? After that, question your thinking. If your goals are about attracting more money, why? What is it you want? Is there something that matters more? Things give us less pleasure than time spent with close others. Or giving to others.
It will help you to know there are 2 types of motivation for pursuing goals:
intrinsic (something you want to do for your own reasons, e.g. passion, purpose, self-worth)
extrinsic (Something you strive for because of the reward it brings, e.g. approval, money).