Know Your Goal is the second of the Five Golden Rules for Effective Action. Together with the first rule it determines your course of action.
Just equally important as knowing the exact starting conditions is being able to exactly define where you want to go. Like when you are planning to drive to Las Vegas, you can easily calculate the distance and time it would take, but you may end up stranded in Sin City if you don’t know the booked Hotel or the street address of your accommodation. Knowing the rough goal will bring you 99% close, but not more.
Many of us want to change their life, find a better job, live healthier, earn more money, or be more successful, only to realize months later that seemingly nothing has changed. We can’t come up with a decisive action plan when the goals are only vague like in these examples.
Let’s take the search for a better job. We may spend a lot of time regularly scanning through different job postings, may even have set up job alerts only to dismiss all the offered jobs as bad matches. Do we really know what this ‘better job’ has to look like? Are we willing to relocate? Do we just want to get more salary or are there other traits we are looking for? Are we willing or even just able to commute? What salary would change that opinion? What salaries are realistic? How much time can we invest for job search? Are our expectations realistic at all? What is the time frame? What about the family? What are the tools and channels we are willing to activate for finding this job?
We need to be able to answer these and probably many more questions before we have the right to be disappointed about not meeting a goal we actually never really set. If we really want to find another, better job, then we should be able to spend the time defining an exact goal including realistic time frame and agreeable terms in the first place.
We may also create new problems by solving one, because we did not consider the consequences before we started. You certainly can’t anticipate every single possibility. Sometimes it just helps to spend a few extra thoughts to be sure about whether your are happy with the likely consequences that follow by reaching our goal.
A very simple example would be just hiking up a mountain.
You reach the summit and then what? You need to get back somehow. So your goal would actually be to reach the summit and come back, maybe even on another route. Or is your goal rather to reach the summit, enjoy nature and having a good time hiking? You can see that makes a huge difference because you may be too focused on reaching the summit when that is your only declared goal and miss out on the good times.
To know your goal for anything you are planning to do means to:
- assess how much you want it
- define exactly what has to happen to claim success
- understand what it takes to achieve it
- consider consequences
Only by clearly defining your start and end points you can plan accordingly to fill the time between these points with effective, meaningful action.
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