Reframing Goals: How Experiential Goals Create Belonging

Jan 29, 2024 | About L2L, All Blogs, Belonging, Goals

Welcome to our series on reframing goals. In these articles, we share how our own process of setting and sharing goals has evolved, what we like about it so far, what stories we carry about meeting or missing goals, and why experiential goals are just as important as operational goals.

This year, we created a new structure for our team to set and share goals. In years past, we reflected on experiential goals but had never before made them an official part of our goal-setting or goal-sharing process. Already, experiential goals have become an essential way for us to connect to our work and each other. 

Why We Need Experiential Goals

Employees use goals for a sense of purpose and direction, but they often see goals as a measure of where they stand within their organization. Consequently, employees, and not their managers, are usually the hardest drivers of their goals. They set ambitious and productivity-driven goals because too often their value is in their production, not their humanity.

An experiential goal, by contrast, focuses on how you want to feel while doing the work and when the work is done. It encompasses how you want to show up and embody the process. Your outcome is whether you achieved a desired feeling.

Some examples of experiential goals our team has set this year:

  • Feel excited about…
  • Feel confident in my ability to…
  • Grow more…
  • Build relationships with…
  • Feel supported in…
  • Connect with colleagues about…
  • Get comfortable with…
  • Feel energized about …
  • Embrace and enjoy…
  • Take up more space with…
  • Lean into the tension of…
  • Embrace vulnerability about…
  • Feel motivated to…

While our team set an experiential goal alongside every operational goal, their outcomes don’t necessarily have to align. Hitting 85% of an operational goal can and perhaps should still result in feeling confident, connected, or energized–and that’s still a notable accomplishment. And if you’re feeling those things, your progress toward a goal and the result is going to be more impactful, more fruitful, and more beneficial to the team.

An organization can help create the conditions for belonging–safety, clarity, feedback, appreciation, shared purpose–but belonging is something employees are responsible for choosing. We demonstrate belonging in how we show up, our engagement, risk-taking, willingness to be vulnerable, give and receive feedback, and align with company values. In this way, experiential goals aren’t just nice to have, they’re essential to supporting and measuring belonging.

When we set experiential goals, we take on agency for our experience as well as our work product. In this way, they encourage us to grow by noticing what we like doing, what challenges us, or brings us discomfort. Essentially, our experiences teach us what we want and what we need in order to succeed and thrive.

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