3 Thoughtful Questions to Help You Set Goals



Stever Robbins

Goals!! I just love goals!!! Well … sometimes, I hate goals. But then I love them again. Because when we set goals, we can reach them!

But often, we set goals and proceed blindly ahead, assuming the goal is a good one. Then there we are, standing at the International Bubble Gum Blowing championship, blowing our little hearts out, and we realize that the bubble we’ve blown is so big that if it pops, it just might destroy our entire outfit, not to mention that Gucci haircut that means so much to us. Becoming #1 in Bubble Gum? Probably not the right goal. We should have seen that coming. So how do we nip bad goals in the bud? How do we tell if a goal is worth pursuing before we start pursuing it?

One of my earliest professional mentors and friends, Joseph Yeager of LinguisTechs, taught me a perfect framework. It’s spring, and Bernice is setting her goals. Let’s find out how Joe’s framework can help.

Bernice is feeling romantic. As owner of the Green Growing Things plant store, she’s decided to a massive Death Star out of solid flowers, roses to the core, like Jeff Koons’ flower poodle. This isn’t for her, of course. It’s for her fiancee Melvine. Melvin’s a big nerd, so she wanted to make it a big Death Star. One that would cover the roof of Green Growing Things.

Is Your Goal Real?

The first element of Joe’s model is asking: are you meeting the real goal?

When you’re deciding to set a new goal, ask yourself if it’s the actual thing you want to achieve? When people say they want a million dollars, the goal is rarely actually a million dollars. The real goal is the one hidden behind. They want to be secure. Or maybe they want to be surrounded by beautiful people. Ask yourself, “what do I hope this goal will achieve?” Make sure the goal you’re setting is the right one.

Bernice asked herself if her real goal was building a Death Starflower. Of course it was! Her nerdy shmoopie would love nothing more than something she made, from one of his favorite movies. But wait! The goal isn’t actually building a Death Starflower of solid roses. It’s making something handmade for Melvin!

Upon reflection, Bernice realizes that the real goal is something handmade for Melvin. Fortunately, her original vision of the plant-store-sized Death Star made of petunias will be hand made. She passes the “Is it real?” test with flying colors … er, well, at least the color black. Because the Death Star is black.

Will You Win If You Meet Your Goal?

The second question to ask is: Will you win if you actually reach your goal?

Win can mean different things to different people. Will you personally win, whatever that means to you? Take revenge, for example. People just love revenge! They got screwed over by their boss, so they plot a multi-year course of revenge that ends in sordid blackmail photos being emailed to every major news station in America. But once they’re watching the sordid naked clown video on the evening news, they don’t really feel better. They were still screwed over by their boss. And now, they screwed someone else over too. Nobody wins.

When you’re deciding to set a new goal, ask yourself if it’s the actual thing you want to achieve?

Bernice imagined completing the Death Star. It occurred to her that it’s a pretty big bouquet. Really big. On a hunch, she idly mentioned it to a contractor friend, who just burst out laughing. He’d seen this before (apparently store-sized Petunia Death Stars are a “thing”), and assured her that the roof would collapse under the weight. And as for the environmental effects of 55,324 rotting roses? Don’t even think it. “Remember the Kansas City Incident,” he told her with a shudder and a haunted look in his eyes. “Never forget!” Bernice nodded with a serious expression, as if she had the slightest clue what he was talking about. She resolved to Google the tragic event as soon as she got home.

The “Will you win?” question led her to redesign her Death Star. She made it smaller. And substituted daisies for petunias. And made it hollow, so the roof would support the weight. Now she knows it will meet her real need. She knows she’ll win if she gets it. It’s time to pull the construction permits and start constructing!

Is Your Goal Worth It?

This brings us to the last of Joe’s questions: Is your goal worth it?

Goals have a cost. Sometimes we can reduce the cost, sometimes not. If you want to be a surgeon in real life, you need to do 16 years of medical school, or be Dexter. Being Dexter is problematic in real life. So that leaves medical school. You need to decide if the surgeon path is worth it. And as for you, so for Bernice.

Is the Death Starflower really worth it?

Bernice really wanted it to be on the roof. But the contractors said permits would take too long for her to even finish the star before Melvin’s birthday. The star wouldn’t done on time. Melvin wouldn’t get his present and Bernice wouldn’t get to make him happy. The work would be all for naught. It wouldn’t be worth it to go that far.

Bernice came up with a brilliant plan. She would make the Death Starflower a little smaller, and she would make it inside the greenhouse. That way, she and Melvin could actually go inside the Death Starflower, and eat Oreo Ice Cream Cake! Perfect.

A month later, Bernice led Melvin blindfolded to the greenhouse. The whole greenhouse was lit up red, and inside there was a giant ball of pure black roses. When Bernice removed Melvin’s blindfold, he yelped for joy and gave her the biggest hug ever. They walked into the Death Starflower hand in hand, and ate Oreo Ice Cream cake to their heart’s content.

Bernice decided, it was definitely worth it. If you want some extra tips on how to make sure your goal is worth it, check out this previous article.

Next time you have a big goal, use Joseph Yeager’s framework. Ask yourself, is it my real goal? Will I totally win if I get it? And is it worth the work to get that goal? You may be surprised what you find, and the result might be a happier ending.

This is Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. I run webinars and other programs to help people be Extraordinarily Productive, and build extraordinary careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com.

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