This year I have been helping a lot of people draft their goals and supported them in achieving those goals. As coach to several dozen lawyers, I worked with them to make their goals SMART (specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and time-bound), which is the first dimension of goals. But that is not enough: goals need to be three-dimensional.
Making goals specific usually is the hardest part. It´s very easy to come up with fuzzy goals (e.g. “I want to be a better project leader” or “I want to communicate more clearly”), but fuzzy goals need to be broken down into specific behaviour that can be observed by either yourself or an observer: What exactly does a good project leader in your type of projects do? What precisely does someone who communicates clearly do?
Making goals measurable is not as hard as it looks at first sight. Some of my coaching clients prefer input goals over which they have complete control (“at least X client acquisition activities each week”); some prefer output goals (“10 new clients before the end of the year”). If the goal consists of recurring behaviour that cannot be counted as such (“give timely and specific positive feedback to team members whenever it´s due”), a self-evaluation is perfectly sufficient (“on a scale of 1 to 10, I rate my feedback behaviour today as a 6 and I would like to achieve a rating of 8, which means […] within two months”).
The A – a goal that is attractive to you – provides the motivation to get started, because you need to put time and considerable energy into reaching your goal. Some of my clients also instinctively grasp the connection between their goals and their habits: Good habits that support your goals form the second dimension of goals. While it is motivation that gets you started, it is habits that keep you going. This is especially important in the face of setbacks on your path to reaching your goal. Changing habits is a bit harder than setting goals, as anyone who has ever tried to quit a bad habit or take up a good one will tell you. But it is definitely worth your while.
And still, I had the feeling that something, the third dimension of goals, was missing. This third dimension is provided by your values, by the purpose you find in what you do, the vision you have for your best self – whatever you want to call it. Finding those may be even harder to do than changing your habits and it might take some time for reflection and even soul-searching. But it is definitely worth the effort: Your values or your vision is the engine that powers you from within. Online when you have access to this engine will you be able to really put your back into reaching your goals.
Furthermore, going from being goal-focused (”What do I want to achieve?”) to being value-focused (”Who do I want to be?”) will help you in a world that moves fast and forces you to move fast – it´s like exchanging the map for a compass. This is important, because: what good is a map when your travel takes you off the map? That´s when you need to know where north is.