I (Shelby) recently asked a very creative, capable, hard-working woman how traditional goal-setting methods had failed her in the past.
She answered and said that traditional goal setting methods failed to help her make a bridge between the accomplishment of her most important goals and the life she was actually living in the present.
I could completely relate to those feelings.
Last week we told the story of how I plowed through stacks of time-management books, articles, and podcasts a few years ago when I found myself absolutely overwhelmed with the demands of working full-time hours from home, first-time motherhood, and chronic illness.
I learned so much from the top gurus in the time-management, goal-setting and personal growth habits space. But one thing I started to notice was that many of the tips and strategies assumed something that I couldn't relate to—they assumed that I'd be able get away to a kid-free office for eight hours per day and take twenty minutes before or after work to think, strategize, and walk through my goal-setting rituals. I began to realize something important. If I had any hope of truly taking action on anything I was learning, I would have to transpose all of these amazing CEO strategies into my real life context—toddler-crowded, macaroni-stained, cartoon-clanging kitchen "office" and all.
I also learned something extremely important after doing one particularly invigorating goal-setting exercise that fell flat in about three weeks. As good as I was at dreaming big and reverse-engineering my goals from A-to-Z, I couldn't set arbitrary goals and hope to have the stamina to meet them. Unless I found a way to integrate my long-term goals with my family's daily good, my goals were shot. I just couldn't stand to poke my head up from my goal-executing-scramble and see my little family starving for my time and attention.
The verdict was in. If it was going to be a contest between my paper goals, and my real, living, breathing heart goals (which were represented by my closest relationships, the atmosphere in my home, and the unexpected needs of others in my local community)—the paper goals were going to lose every time.
But I knew that I was called to more than just reacting and responding to the urgent expectations, requests, and whims of the people in my life. I was called to be proactive, to initiate, to solve big problems, and to make space for the important things. I could envision ways to cultivate abundance in the gaps of life where no one else could. I was put here for a purpose, and I wanted to keep growing into that God-given potential.
I knew that goal-setting could help me level-up from the realm of wishful thinking and begin to make the changes (big and small) that would empower me and my family to truly thrive. But I also knew from experience that S.M.A.R.T. goals weren't going to cut it.
The deepest currents of our lives that needed my proactive and steady nurture in order to be routed into something that gave us life (instead of drowning us in the overwhelm of it all) propelled me far past the bare mechanics of goal execution. I needed to cut back the layers of excuses and get to the heart of my "why" for living intentionally and setting significant goals for personal and familial progress. The bridge I built between my future goals and my current life context needed to be suspended by the things that were actually essential to a life well-lived.
This deep dive into my core values resulted in the development of a completely new approach to goal-setting. Instead of inadvertently introducing a contest between my goals and the "obstacles" of my life, I crafted the lifestyle that I and my family craved THROUGH the goals I set and accomplished. In turn, our new lifestyle made so much space for personal growth and productivity that it's actually begun to fuel some of the most challenging and life-giving goals that I've ever dared to imagine.