Effective Goal-Setting Starts with Defining (or Re-defining) Success

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Reaching goals and achieving success go hand in hand. Rarely is there one without the other.

Some goals we set without giving conscientious intention to them. They are things like losing ten pounds, sticking to a budget, achieving a certain revenue benchmark, getting a promotion, or taking a dream vacation. While these are all admirable things to aspire to, without having a plan for execution, they are not goals. They are a wish or another item on your “to do” list that you “should” do.

What is a goal?
A goal is an authentic aspiration you reach for in order to move forward toward a larger vision. In order to set a meaningful goal, focus on what you envision as a success for what you are trying to achieve. For example, if your vision for your future is financial security or financial prosperity, your goals should ladder up to that vision. One goal might be to get out of debt. Another might be to start saving for retirement or develop a workable budget to track your expenses. These goals support your vision for financial prosperity, and more importantly, by completing each goal, you move one step closer to your vision.

Why do we set goals?
Humans are industrious and innovative striving for success and achievement in our endeavors, both personal and professional. We set goals in order to move us forward towards our visions. Setting a goal without knowing why you want to achieve that goal lessens the likelihood of attaining it because you have to rely solely on your own willpower to reach the goal rather than an authentic longing that is your vision. You are less likely to follow through with the smaller tasks that you will need to do in order to achieve the goal if it does not move you closer to a greater purpose.

As you work in the weeds completing tasks to move you towards your goals, you may become frustrated with how long it is taking you to complete a step or second guess yourself on your plan. When you feel like you are hitting a brick wall rather than scaling it, revisit your vision. If your vision and your goal came from a place of authenticity, you will be able to either get back on track or realize that you need to shift and redefine what success looks like. Your vision for success is your compass – it guides you through the weeds of achieving your goals. But your vision and definition of success can change over time as life circumstances evolve.

Parties experiencing a difficult family law matter often feel like they are living in the weeds during the pendency of their case. Between having to engage in emotional negotiations and adjust to a new normal with a new living situation all while maintaining high performance at a job, parties may feel overwhelmed and unclear on what they should focus.

That is why working through what a successful outcome would look like is critical at the beginning of the case. Each person’s goals may be different. But knowing what your desired outcome is allows you to have a better idea of where you are trying to go.

One of the reasons I enjoy collaborative law cases is because a collaborative case starts out with the parties stating out loud their goals and concerns as the lawyers write them on a whiteboard so everyone can see what they are. This can sometimes be uncomfortable for both parties because the attorneys and coaches are asking them to say in front of a group of professionals who they do not know very well what they want to accomplish and what their fears are as they enter into one of the most unsettling and frightening processes of their life.

They are not asked to engage in such an exercise because the attorneys and coaches wish to torture their clients. Rather, it is essential to the process that they become vulnerable enough to truthfully state what they want to accomplish and what they are fearful about going forward in front of everyone. As a result, the professionals are able to get a sense of what the parties are thinking in terms of both what they hope to achieve and what they hope to avoid. This is critical to a needs and interest based approach to the case as opposed to “traditional” positional bargaining.

By establishing authentic goals based on a personal vision of success at the outset of the case, both the attorney and the client have a compass to guide them during the matter, especially when the weeds get tall and difficult decisions have to be made.