Welcome to the final article our series on Reframing Goals. In these three 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.
We all come with stories about setting goals. These stories are important to know, not because we change them, or should change ourselves, but so that we have awareness of what’s impacting our current work. Here’s how we’re reframing our stories.
When Growth Opportunities Are Tied to Numbers
In industries where we’re hitting sales targets, our goal numbers can quickly turn our ambitions into fears. When quantitative goals were tied to performance reviews, bonuses, and career advancement it was stressful to have conversations with our supervisors. With numbers, there is no nuance, no room for our humanity. Our other contributions to the organization aren’t recognized and we are reduced to our sales. Goals are necessary, but they are not the measure of our value.
When Goals Are Punitive
No one wants to fail to meet their goals. But when goals are the single most important measure of performance, we lose our drive to learn, take risks, or grow. Why should we spend time enhancing ourselves when it might take away from hitting our target? When goals are reduced to accomplishment or not, there’s no room to ask what we need to do our best work, whether that be clarity, inclusion, structure, or another not-so-easy-to-measure need. Our goals are not judgments about our character or worth.
When Goals Become Your Identity
We all want to be ambitious, hard-working, and achievers. But forming our identity around these ideas can make us set goals simply for the sake of having them, for being the kind of person who sets big goals. Our identities are much more expansive than our goals.
When Setting Goals Is Not Your Strength
Sometimes, we work best when goals are set externally. It can be motivating when your doctor advises you to hit a certain health goal. It can be freeing when a coach helps you set a business goal. The key is to ask for this support when you need it.
When There’s No Time to Reflect or Assess
Goals too easily become the next thing we’re chasing, without any connection to what we want or why. This happens especially with external goals like graduating, getting a promotion, or hitting a certain salary mark. They can turn empty very quickly. All of these can be healthy and positive goals if we’re meeting them for reasons we articulate and are empowered to revise.
When No One Holds Accountability
Setting our own goals is a way to have agency over our work. But partnering with a supervisor to review goals is equally important. Without checking in about an employee’s experience, goals can lose all their value and employees lose motivation. They will set goals that are less challenging and less risky because they know they won’t receive the support they need to stretch themselves. Setting and meeting goals is not just about performance, it’s really part of every person’s professional development.
When We Don’t Interrogate the Values behind Our Goals
Many goals are framed by white supremacy culture of punishment, which especially harms women and people of color. White supremacy culture makes us believe that individuals, rather than systems, are to blame for shortcomings and failures to be more like white men. It makes us believe that we need to improve and that we’re never good enough, and so we feel constantly drained. Examine the values and beliefs behind your goals, and whether they align with your values.
The experiences that shape our feelings and beliefs about goals are neither good nor bad, but they all require examination and reflection.
We’d love to partner with you to create supportive and sustainable goal structures at your organization. Contact us any time to talk further.