When execution isn’t everything
You’ve connected with the vision. You’ve set a meaningful and inspiring goal. You’re feeling hugely motivated. But it’s what happens next that determines the success (or otherwise!) of your goal pursuit.
We might instinctively say that action is the next, crucial, success-defining step. And yes, to some extent: “execution is everything”. But a headlong rush into immediate action can have negative consequences too.
To improve your goal pursuit, there is an intermediate step.
Goals vs. Outcomes
One of the great benefits of working with a professional coach is the offer of a positive counterbalance to that desire to launch into immediate action; and instead, challenge the thinking thus far to develop the goal into a yet-more complete and well-formed outcome.
The difference between a goal and an outcome may not be obvious at first – but it is significant. A goal is what we want, whereas an outcome is what we get. And whilst our outcomes are always the result of our actions, they are not always what we desire.
So armed with (the beginnings of!) your goal, spend some thinking time fashioning a well-formed outcome with the following thoughts – and then into action!
Establish your baseline criteria
Of course, there are some baseline criteria to establish. I’m sure you have these, but here’s a quick check.
- State your outcome in positive terms. We want to move towards something positive, not away from something negative. (The unconscious mind cannot process negatives.)
- Be as specific as possible. Make your outcome as vivid as you can. Make it “real”, right from the start. And if it’s a larger outcome, break it down into smaller parts that are, at once, manageable but still stretching.
- Have access to resources. A realistic assessment of whether you have, or can get, the resources you need: both internal and external.
- Ensure the outcome is within your control. State your goal in a way that means you can get it yourself, no matter what other people may do.
Introduce sensory-based language
Enrich your vision and make your outcome more “real” by introducing sensory-based language to your goal. Ask yourself:
- What will you see/hear/feel when you achieve this?
Have your success criteria include a sensory-based check.
Spare a thought for the status quo
Very often, there are hidden benefits to the status quo. And when we find ourselves not achieving our goals, it might be the lure of the current benefits. After all: all behaviour has a positive intention. Ask yourself:
- What will I gain when I achieve this outcome?
- What will I lose when I achieve this outcome?
Look for the hidden benefits of leaving things as they are. And then enhance your new outcome by looking for ways to maintain those current benefits.
Check the ecology of your outcome
“Ecology” is about taking into account the effect of any change on the system of which it is a part. And every change has a ripple effect, no matter how small. Your thinking job is to consider the extent and cost of these effects. And whether your outcome fits with your sense of who you are and what’s important to you. Ask yourself:
- What will happen if you achieve this outcome?
- What won’t happen if you achieve this outcome?
- What will happen if you don’t achieve this outcome?
- What won’t happen if you don’t achieve this outcome?
Think deeply about the advantages and disadvantages of following a course of action. And ask of your outcome: if I had it, would I want it?
(or more simply: what happens next?)
After you achieve your outcome:
- What will you do next?
- What will this lead to?
- What will it do for you?
Our goals are usually steps along the way to more long-term effects. Exploring the follow-on consequences of actually having achieved our outcome can helps us be sure this is what we really want.
Take 100% responsibility
It’s tempting not to take 100% responsibility for our goals. That way: if it doesn’t work out, we can always blame someone else. But of course, goals take commitment. And when we accept 100% responsibility for our results, we move ourselves into possibility, potential and achievement.
So write down your goal. Date it. And sign it. And now tell someone who doesn’t already know about your goal.
Define the first step
The final part of developing a well-formed outcome is to define that first step – but now armed with a well-formed outcome, not an ill-formed goal. Once again, be specific:
- What, precisely, will you do?
- When, precisely, will you do it?
Make Action #1 something meaningful, but not (quote, unquote) “big”. This is about setting the momentum more than anything else.
Putting well-formed goal pursuit into action
Well-formed outcomes are a significant step-up from goals. From here, you might like to take one or two of your goals and experiment with the ideas above. Do they still apply and in the same ways, once you’ve tested and tuned them for well-formedness?
The well-formedness challenge is also a helpful way to think about outcomes when helping others work on and achieve their goals. How might you introduce some of this thinking to your work with your team, clients and colleagues?