If you have been reading the last two posts, by this point, you probably have a list of goals, a list of “why” motivators and a list of “how” implementation steps. But this probably still doesn’t feel like a complete “plan” and some of the ideas may seem out of reach.
“[T]hink of someone who already has achieved your goal, someone who represents your goal, and write down the things he says and the things he does that cause you to be willing to pin that goal label on him. . . . If you can not think of anyone who represents your goal, you have a problem. . . . If . . . you . . . can not think of someone who represents the state or condition described by the goal, you need to think of what a person might be like if he represented your goal. You are skating on thin ice, though, because when you think of hypothetical people, there is the danger that your expectations will be forever unattainable.”
–Robert Mager, Goal Analysis
While I like this concept, it may be a concept that works better in business, where one “customer service representative” or “market analyst” may be the same as the next in terms of access to company resources, compensation and working hours. When I try to apply this to my personal life goals it gets complicated quickly.
For example, let’s say you have an ambitious list of personal tasks for your home organization. Think of a person who represents your goal. Depending on your personality, you are either thinking, “Martha Stewart” or “ ____ from across the street.” If you are aiming for weight loss, do you have a supermodel or celebrity in mind or someone from the local gym? Robert Mager reminds us that if we find someone in our similar situation who has achieved everything we want to achieve, chances are our goals are rooted somewhere in reality.
Some will find Robert Mager’s strategy disagreeable in this respect. For example, if you asked Amy Chua when she was making the decision to pursue her tiger parenting method to find another American family with two full-time working parents with two daughters who were both excellent musicians, fluent in Chinese and had perfect grades, she probably couldn’t find one! Sometimes you have to push the boundaries of possible to achieve something new.
Others will find this strategy disagreeable because it invites envy and competition among friends. Envying someone we don’t know and have never met is different than wanting to become the person you run into all the time. Some people find the realistic target a depressing reminder of all their shortcomings.
As I look around at people I know, there is an inevitable connection between money and organization. The more money you have the easier it is to hire a cleaning service, remodel, buy a new car, get your hair done at the salon, throw things out because you know you can always buy more, etc. Sometimes I wonder if wanting to “be more organized” is really a part of us saying, “I wish I had more money to _____.”
Another problem I am running into finding a role model for my goals is finding someone in a similar situation. There are always key differences when comparing people no matter how similar many of the circumstances seem.
Also, when it comes to our personal lives, there are a lot of hidden details that make direct comparisons difficult. The best we can do is say, “Assuming that ___ has a life similar to mine, he/she probably gets all that done by _______.”
Looking again at Amy Chua, for example. When she committed to her tiger mother strategy, she looked around at other mothers on her block and decided that she couldn’t do everything they were doing and still achieve her goal. So, she cut out sleepovers and playdates and school plays and other “fun” things for her children. She also cut out a lot of free time for herself, dedicating it instead to attending music lessons with her daughters, arranging for Chinese tutors, and, I suspect, losing sleep as well.
Ah…the reality check. Not the most fun part of the goaling process. It is far more exciting to imagine a life without boundaries. But if you really want to achieve your goal, you have to check in with reality.
Ruly Challenge: Take your current goal(s) and apply the people-based test to them. Who do you know who has roughly similar life circumstances to you? How are you different or similar to these people? If you imagine that one of these people wanted to achieve your same goal(s), how would he/she do it?
Do you find it helpful to imagine a real-life person when drafting your goals? What benefits or downsides do you see to this method? Please share in the comments.