If you are a leader, does it matter whether you have personal goals – or is it enough to focus on the business?
With so much to deal with in business, it can be tempting to avoid the question of personal goals. There’s usually plenty to keep us occupied. However, I believe it is extremely helpful to reflect on what’s important in our own lives as well as the life of our business. Knowing yourself provides a direction and integrity for business that doesn’t seem to come from making a list of how to achieve the desired business results.
The question then is, what does that goal setting look like. Indeed, is it goal setting or something deeper that we need; a sense of what is important to serve as a beacon. Or perhaps a combination. There are no right answers, of course. For now, here are some of my thoughts on how to approach this.
I’ll start with a detour, as it’s kindof cool to see how people and ideas are connected.
Earlier in the year, Gini Dietrich wrote a post “The 10 things I want to do before I die” and encouraged the idea to be passed on. It got my attention, because it echoed a deep dive introspection I did about 4 years ago.
In my case, the exercise was more than spontaneous list making. I headed literally up a mountain (Whistler) and spent 2 days reflecting on three questions. It was a challenging and rewarding activity and led to insight into what is important. Now, four years on, those insights have helped me figure out what is important and this seems to increasingly underpin how I do things.
At the time, the process helped me to work out my next steps. Thereafter the lists ended up in a file with no particular action taken (though I did tick off a visit to Tofino before moving countries distracted me). Here are the questions:
- Everything I want to do before I die.
- Everything I want to do in the next 5 years. Next, you categorise the items, which names the things you care about in life. Then, finally…
- Imagine you’ve just discovered you only have 6 months to live (and would live in perfect health till the last moment), what would you do?
It’s been interesting to look at the list, reflect on the items, the things I care about and consider whether the items are still important or what might change.
There are a some standout items that are still important:
- Write a book. While it’s not accomplished yet, it’s on the radar now after an opportunity showed up this year.
- Learn to play the piano. Until very recently, I’d forgotten about this. I was surprised when the idea came up quite randomly and I was keen on it. When I saw it on the unearthed list, I got a sense of the value of this exercise for getting at what matters.
- Become a speaker. Strange to see that on the list, and at the time I had no sense of what that would look like, or how to do it. yet now I am paid to speak.
There are other items where my priorities have shifted (eg the specific focus of social cause interests), but the idea is still important.
What I like about looking at the list is how some of the things have ‘just happened’, which makes me realise just how powerful these exercises are. In fact, I’m sure when the goals are really clearly envisaged, have determination behind them they do get accomplished somehow. Seeing the categories of items shows me themes that are actually quite accurate, and I certainly think the process helps to sort out what’s important.
I’d certainly encourage every business leader to take time for this type of activity.