Turn Resolutions into Meaningful Goals

Peak Performance

Cornerstone Global Training & Performance Solutions: Peak Performance Digest

 

 

 

Men (and women) should pledge themselves to nothing;
for reflection makes a liar of their resolution. -Sophocles

 

Sophocles appears to have had a dim view of resolutions. Your own performance may attest to his observation…the commitment to join the gym in January that lasts until February, followed by months of guilt. Our good intentions give way to old habits more quickly than it took to eat that “just one more” Christmas treat!

A new year seems to be a perfect time for a fresh start. As we pin up a new calendar on the wall with no history of missed opportunity, 365 empty boxes that represent all that is possible, we optimistically say, “this year is going to be different.”

Resolving to improve ourselves and our circumstances is hardwired in to the human experience. But often the behaviors and beliefs that keep us back are deep-rooted and unconscious. That includes how we lead ourselves and others as well as how we manage our work.

So what do we do when we want to improve but are reluctant to make resolutions? Follow these three steps to create meaningful goals that have a higher chance of success than a simple “resolution.”

  1. Narrow your focus. When goals are fuzzy, or we have too many of them, they quickly become overwhelming. Make a list of what you want to improve or accomplish and prioritize it . Chose 1-2 to start with, and wait until you have momentum and some success before adding another goal.
  2. Gather information. Take some time to research and reflect. Chances are you have some knowledge of your areas of improvement or accomplishment, but could probably benefit from some expert knowledge.
  3. Do something! Waiting for perfect conditions tends to stall us before we even get started. Break your goals into manageable chunks and milestones and give yourself credit for small wins. Don’t get discouraged when you backslide on your mission – acknowledge it, retool, and get back at it!

Developing Curiosity with Purpose

Curiosity May Have Killed the Cat, but It Could Mean Living With Purpose for You and Me

Most of us are curious about something from time to time. We turn the page, peek behind the curtain, or ask the question to give us a glimpse into something we are intrigued by. A lot of the time we have a random curiosity about things that don’t really matter. But putting curiosity to work for us can reveal purpose.

Blind curiosity can lead a cat, or a person, into dangerous territory. Beast or boy can follow a rat and quickly find himself the prey. But curiosity with a purpose, or intentional curiosity, can lead to great discoveries.

The word “curiosity” comes from the Latin “curiositatem,” meaning “desire of knowledge, inquisitiveness.”

Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

There is a big difference between random curiosity and purposeful curiosity. Undirected, our curiosity may be entertaining, interesting, even educational. But when we intentionally guide our curiosity toward a particular end, by focusing our questioning along a special path, we can benefit greatly.

I apply this principle of purposeful curiosity to my work in human performance improvement. I become a performance sleuth, looking for clues like Sherlock Holmes, trying to see the barriers and signs that no one else sees. Intentional curiosity about the system as a whole brings into focus issues that may normally be overlooked.

Intentional curiosity works best when we start at a thirty thousand foot view, then begin to zoom in to specific things through meaningful questions. A well-known technique that can be applied is the “5 Whys” which, as the name implies, consists of asking a series of why questions to uncover the source of a problem, or the heart of an opportunity.

Here’s a simple example of the 5 whys in action:

  1. Why did I lose my job? Because the company had too many employees.
  2. Why did the company have too many employees? Because they lost business during the recession.
  3. Why did they lose business during the recession? Because customers had less discretionary income.
  4. Why did customers have less discretionary income? Because they didn’t save enough when times were better.
  5. Why didn’t they save when times were better? Because they didn’t imagine that the economy could get this bad.

There are, of course, many possible answers to each question, so you can explore those possibilities and test various hypotheses to see how valid they are. Still curious about the Five Whys? Visit MindTools.com for more details.

Another great tool to use is appreciative inquiry, which leads you down a positive path toward a desired future built around a positive core.  In other words, you come up with a series of questions that guide your thinking around what has been successful, meaningful and life-giving in the past. By digging into the positive core, you can identify what you want to see more of, what you want to move toward in the future.  A central question to get you started in appreciative inquiry is:

 “It’s five years in the future; you go to work and discover that your life is the way you always wished it would be.  You are experiencing success in your job, feeling fulfilled and clearly in your “sweet spot.” Your family life is energizing, your home a place of peace and joy. You have meaningful friendships and have found a place to serve in the community that gives you a sense of giving back.” Now, describe how you got there. What specific things did you do to achieve this ideal life?

More samples of AI questions for a variety of applications can be found at the Appreciative Inquiry Commons.

Whatever tool(s) you choose to aid you in you in applying intentionally curiosity, be sure to identify your purpose and ask “what’s possible?” Intentional curiosity is ultimately about moving you toward your goals, helping you make positive progress in some area of your life. Being intentionally curious will lead you to useful discoveries that help you bust through walls that have hemmed you in. You never know, there just may be a great prize behind that door that you’re nervous about opening!

Go ahead…take a peek!

Recommended Resources:

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
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