Do you ever get “how-to” overload? You know what I mean – 3 simple steps to achieve A, 7 pillars to support strategy B, 10 levers to enable C, 24 characteristics of successful D’s, 5 timeless principles necessary for E….and on and on and on and on. It gets overwhelming and confusing but, more importantly, often distracting.
Although breaking something down into its parts or components is necessary, it’s easy to become so fixated on the “how” and completely lose site of the “why” and “what.” This happens to people and organizations all the time.
It’s the classic example of the employee whose answer for why they’re doing something is: “we’ve always done it that way,” or the team who spends hours producing the monthly report that no one reads, or the family who’s chronically frustrated about exceeding the budget but keeps the same spending habits.
So how do you make sure you’re not among “the many” who are so tangled up in “the activity” they completely miss “the purpose?”
Take Time to Set a Goal
Most people who just “jump in and start swimming” haven’t given the first thought about what they want to achieve in the end. What is it – exactly? Is it worth it? Why am I doing it? Do I have time to add this to my other goals? Once you get clarity on what you want to achieve, the steps to get there become much more specific, focused and meaningful.
Regularly Envision it, Feel it, Get Inspiration
Admittedly this may seem a little “lite” and self-helpish, but the more regularly you can envision how success looks like and how it feels, the more you can change your mind-set to bring refreshed color to your goal (feeling, emotion, passion, motivation, hope, etc.). You’ll have a much higher chance of maintaining your loyalty to the purpose, instead of becoming enamored with the steps, if you regularly take time to calibrate your perspective and feed your motivation for the goal.
Now that you have the goal before you “in living color” and are applying “the steps,” are you really making progress towards it? Is anything changing? Could someone “looking in” see a difference (ask them!)? You need to be asking these questions regularly. If the answer is uncertain or negative it’s time to re-asses the steps or how you’re applying them.
Question the Goal
Goals are great, but just because they’re good doesn’t mean they’re timeless and can’t change. Think of …the business environment, phases of life, clarity on mission, health, finances, family, etc. A lot of things change that could affect what’s important, right? Don’t get stuck spending time and valuable resources on “the how” for goals that may have “expired.” Periodically take a step back, question, re-evaluate, decide, commit.
In closing, your life, your time, your organization’s resources are too valuable to waste blindly executing principles and steps (“the how”) for a purpose (“what & why”) that’s lost from site. Remember, while a map is important, it’s useless without a North Star and completely meaningless without a destination.