Why all this focus on ‘goals’ is bullsh*t

It’s all about goals these days. Goals based advice, the new AMP Goals system, for example. And not just in advice. There’s a plethora of podcasts about how to achieve your goals, how to set goals, why you need goals, the list goes on! And then there’s the good old ‘SMART’ goals, that I was required to set when I worked in corporate land. To quote some text I just found “To make your goal S.M.A.R.T., it needs to conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.” The mere fact that the sentence contains the word ‘conform’ does my head in before I’ve even got to the criteria!

I suspect all of this is part of an overall push to take control of the world around us. There’s so much going on, global politics is in turmoil, refugees, Donald Trump, and the list just goes on. It’s pretty chaotic at the moment.

Plus, unless you are working towards something BIG, then you just aren’t trying hard enough. At least that’s what you read on LinkedIn. AmIright?

The problem is, you can’t boil it all down to a bunch of goals. We humans are much more interesting and nuanced than that. As financial planners and accountants, you would see this every day.

So, what should you do instead? Personally, and for you clients? Well, here’s a few ideas.

Firstly, I think we should aim for balance, at a macro level. Over a few months or maybe a year you should spend a good amount of time, effort and energy on your mental health, your family, your physical fitness, and of course your work. You might have goals, or you might just want to enjoy what you do. For instance, I love to play the piano, and I have been making an effort to sit down once or twice a week. It’s so nice to do something that’s not ‘for my job’ or ‘for my kids’. It’s just for me… And the lucky neighbours. Sorry about that neighbours! You might enjoy running or playing golf. That doesn’t mean that you have to be training for a marathon every time you run, it’s really OK to just enjoy yourself! (And yes, I might need to remind myself of that quite often too.) Interested in this? Here’s an episode from Seeking Wisdom (a podcast I regularly listen to) I that talks about balance in more detail.

Secondly, it’s really worth unpacking what’s keeping you up at night, what worries you. Sometimes (OK often) it can take some real self-reflection to work out what’s really bothering you. Same goes for your clients. But it’s worth spending the time. There are lots of tools and resources out there to help with this process. Writing your obituary is one approach. Or spending time with a personal coach or psychologist. Or even just spending time by yourself really thinking, and writing down your ideas. Personally, I find a mind map the best way to write stuff down, but you might be completely different. The point here is to take some action to understand yourself.

And then, finally, you might have a goal or two (or three or four) that you are working towards. And frankly, it’s worth considering your goals in light of the above paragraph. I can’t tell you how many people I know who are completely trapped in a job they hate because “keeping up with the Joneses” has become their entire life. They will tell you they have goals like ‘continue up the career ladder’, ‘get a promotion’, ‘get paid more’, but what do they really, deeply want? To get off the hamster wheel and find some meaning in their lives. Don’t be those people…

So in summary, find some balance over the weeks and months (not hours and days), spend some time understanding what drives you, and only pick goals that you deeply want to achieve. Easier said than done of course! But worth thinking about nevertheless.

And of course, the more cognisant you are of your own choices, the easier it will be to support your clients to find their purpose and make considered life decisions too.