Goal setting- do you only set professional goals, or personal goals too?

Do you set personal goals for yourself?  If you do, are they only for work?  Or do you set goals for your personal life as well?  Are you focused on the journey or the destination?

I have noticed with clients that they are often focused on setting goals for their business or career. Less so do I notice clients taking their personal life in hand and asking the question “What do I want to achieve in my personal life?”  When I realised that, I took a look at my own life and noticed that I had few personal goals outside of my business and almost all of those were long-standing and no where near being achieved.  It was a slap in the face.

As a result, I brainstormed ideas and goals that I would like to achieve that had nothing to do with work.  It was tough at the start.  Eventually I got into my stride and the list got really long: holiday destinations, charity work, new learning experiences and skills, building plans and so on.  It was a wonderful and joyful experience.  It continues to grow, and I tick off things off the list on a regular basis.  Life feels more fulfilling, fun and enriching.

Let me share with you some of the things I have learned by setting and striving for personal goals in general and one in particular: climbing Helvellyn via the Striding Edge route.

Expectation and Anticipation

In this instant, have-it-now modern culture, it’s quite a rare experience to have to wait for something.  There is a mounting pleasure with delayed gratification.  I set the date 8 months ahead in early June and did some early planning in a fit of enthusiasm.  But then, I had to wait.  It drifted to the back of my mind, but every now and then, something would happen to remind me, and I got excited again.  I asked friends if they wanted to join me- another reminder and a sharing of my dream and passion.  There was also the feeling of acceptance and rejection as people committed, said no, changed their minds, said may be and made stipulations about details.  I bought equipment, maps and booked accommodation, planned the route.  It all added to the anticipation and expectations.  It was a very joyful journey to June 8th, 2019.

Alone or together

I made a commitment to go, happy in the knowledge that I could do it alone. I had practised map reading and using a compass and I had all the equipment I needed for a solo trip.  In spite of that, I asked people to join me- it honours my values of friendship, connection and inclusion.  I was also honouring the values of solitude, down time and getting away from it all if no one accepted my invitation.  So, I was happy either way.  When I asked people to come, I still experienced the feeling of vulnerability.  I am a relational, people person and thrive in good company.  I also get energised by time alone, so I organised my trip to The Lakes with a day walking and exploring by myself as well walking with a friend. Does that make me an ambivert (both an introvert and an extrovert?)

It’s not all in my control

Weather is highly changeable in The Lakes.  The higher you go, the more extreme and changeable the weather.  We had driving rain and 80 mph gusts throughout.  For safety and self-responsibility, I had to be OK with committing to the trip in the knowledge that I may not be able to achieve what I had set out to achieve.  Committing to goals and at the same time being able to let go of them if something more appropriate comes along is a hard lesson for me to learn.  Getting too attached to an outcome may not deliver the best results.  Events beyond my control may intercede.  I then have choice about how I respond to the situation.  For me, this is the real meaning of responsibility- to be able to respond consciously, thoughtfully and in a centred way.  Not unconsciously, reactively and out of a sense of habit or rigidity.

The famous Striding Edge is an exposed, rocky ridge leading to the summit of Helvellyn

Danger

The famous Striding Edge is an exposed, rocky ridge leading to the summit.  People have died on it.  In fact, the week I committed to the trip I saw a poster at a local café that said that the owner’s son had died on Striding Edge that year in high wind while doing a charity walk.  The father was raising money for the charity in other ways and to commemorate his son’s death, charity and bravery.  It was a sobering thought.  And I committed to it anyway.  Goals require some risk and sacrifice.  In order to say “yes” to something you have to be able to say “no” to others. You may have to let go of others- perhaps even your life.  Extreme I acknowledge, but it tests your resolve and makes the journey more vivid and achieving the goal more delicious.  I think I enjoy the journey more with this mind set, rather than fixating on the destination.

Patterns

Doing something different reveals your patterns and where you feel comfortable and safe: exposed to the elements rather than in the security of home or work environments; spending time in the company of people I know less well or completely new to me; different food to fuel me for the long walk as I listen to my body tell me what I need to eat rather than my head saying what it thinks I should eat; being more active rather than sedentary; rugged hills of the North rather than manicured countryside of the South; camaraderie and friendship with fellow walkers; developing a new level of relationship with the friend I walked with; the glory of a cup of tea after a long day in the hills; a really deep sleep after a strenuous day on the mountain; noticing where my body is weak and strong; where my mind takes me when I am tired, lost or cold; missing loved ones.  Exposing these patterns can be revealing and you can use them as a growth edge in your development if you choose.  I’ve been listening to my body about what and when to eat ever since with remarkable results.

Surprises

Walking in the high mountains of The Lakes, I came across benches that commemorated Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

However much you plan things, you will always be surprised by the ultimate outcome.  Things will never be exactly as you imagine them.  Walking in the high mountains of The Lakes, I came across benches that commemorated Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.  People must have carried these benches up mountains, over styles and finally positioned them so that they were safe to sit on and enjoy the views.  They went to tremendous trouble to bring pleasure to unknown walkers and in honour of the sovereign.  I think that is wonderful and extraordinary.  It is a legacy.  A reminder that things are bigger than you.  That your actions have a consequence for the future.  What do you choose?

Letting go of rigid control of the plan allows things to unfold organically, naturally and as they will.  Imposing your will only leads to tension, resistance and discomfort.  It is a fine balance to set your intention, allow things to unfold and flow and be a willing co-creator in the process as it unfolds.  Some of the greatest moments of my life have been when I have played an active role in creating something and allowed others to create it with me as equal partners.  I used to run martial arts sessions for 12-13 year olds on extra-curriculum days at a local school.  Each session was different as the children created with me what they wanted to perform to their peers.  It takes humility and responsibility.  I often stumble upon it by accident and find it hard to do on purpose.  I think coaching sessions are the closest I get professionally.  Travel and social situations in my private life provide beautiful platforms for such connections.

Completion

There is something satisfying about achieving a goal- or even seeking to attempt it without success.  When you get to the end, do you celebrate, reflect and learn from the experience?  Life moves on at a pace, and it is all too easy to move on to the next thing without savouring the experience you have just had.  Part of the journey is to come to the end, stop and rest.  All cycles go through this rest period (like the four seasons, Winter is a time to rest, rejuvenate and assimilate what has gone before).  As a culture, we are less good at the resting part, eager to move on to the next thing.  But we lose so much because we do not savour, integrate and process the experience.  Talking it over, looking at photos, considering what could be done differently and what you would do more or less of.  These are valuable exercises is embedding the experience and how it enriches your life.

Over to You

So, there you have it.  Some of the learning from setting personal goals and trying to achieve them. What do you learn from setting personal goals?  How might you do things differently?  Do you focus more on your personal goals or professional ones?  If you’d like that to change, how would you go about that?

Pass it on

Why not pass this blog post on to a friend, family or colleague?  Additionally, like and share the social media posts and spread the love.  Thank you.

Seven steps to Presence

You are about to go into a challenging meeting or give a public talk and you can feel the butterflies in your stomach. The saboteur voices are loud in your head telling you that you are not good enough, who are you to be doing this, what if they don’t like me….. and you are listening!!! What confidence you had is draining away, your throat gets tight, your tummy tense, your breathing is quick and shallow, and you are finding it hard to make eye contact with people in the room.  You are about to race into whatever prepared speech you have with nerves, anxiety and fear.  And then you remember that you have a choice about how you show up in this moment…… and you choose to show up with confidence, power and presence.  You take deep, calming belly breaths, centre yourself, take in the room, make eye contact, pause……….. and then begin.

Confidence, presence and power

Perhaps this scenario is familiar to you?  The details may look a little different- it may be a challenging conversation with your partner or children or a potentially unpleasant conversation with a work colleague; perhaps it is an e-mail that has you reacting from fear and frustration and you want to snap back a rapid reply; or maybe it’s an unkind comment that has your saboteur giving you a hard time.  Whatever the scenario and whatever the reason, you can choose to react from fear and anxiety, or you can choose to respond with confidence, presence and power.

In my experience, confidence and power come with presence.  Presence is the foundation or corner stone of your confidence and power.  This is the place where everything works really well, and you do your best work and show up with the best version of yourself without effort and with an easy grace.  But what is presence?  Do you have it?  How do you lose it?  And what can you do to get it back?

The Power of Presence

Children and animals are always present and shining their presence.

If you want to know about presence, there are two easily accessible places you are guaranteed to see presence- animals and young children.  They are always present and shining their presence.  There is an aliveness, curiosity, spontaneity and playfulness to them.  They are alert to what is here and now, be that around them or within them.  Awareness with an ability to dance with whatever comes up in this moment.  The aliveness of seeing animals and children playing in the park.  The curiosity they had as they discover, explore and experiment.  The alertness and spontaneity as they switch in a moment from tears to joy, or from sleepiness to wakefulness.

It is a beautiful place to be.  There is a keen connection with your experience and the world around you.  So that rather than shrinking away and disengaging from the event, you are actively engaging and co-creating with the event itself.  Steering it, guiding it and creating it with everyone else involved.  As adults, we may know this experience when we are in flow.  Common examples of flow might be performance related like in sport or public speaking, intimate moments with loved ones, an awareness and connection with the vastness of nature as well as your insignificance, or when you are at your edge (at the limit of your ability) and all your senses are tuned in.

Accessing Presence

So, how can you access your presence in everyday situations.  How can you avoid falling into the fear and anxiety of your saboteur and instead find your presence and the confidence and power that brings?  As with so many things, it is down to practice.  Yet, you do not need to practice presence- it is a natural state that comes intuitively.  You are born with presence and born to presence.  What we all need to practice is getting there and staying there.  We spend so much time in the past and the future, being present almost totally eludes us.

Past and future are not the present

You know the experience- you’re daydreaming about some past event or thinking about the future.  Or you’re worrying about something you said to someone and the impact that might have on your relationship or career.  Or you’ve done something you regret and think about how you might put things right.  These are not bad things in and of themselves.  But we tend to make a habit and a lifestyle about thinking of the past and the future.  And not being alive to what is present with us here and now.  We miss special moments with loved ones, magic events that may enrich our lives.  And theirs.  We lose connection with the present and so lose our presence, power and confidence.

All you need do is get that connection back.  Fortunately, there are thousand of ways to reconnect to the present and therefore feel your presence.  Here are 7 simple exercises to practice that I use regularly:

Breathing

Breathe to the wall. Before a presentation or meeting or when you are about to speak, practice breathing out to the far wall.   Feel that connection between you and the wall and notice how your awareness expands to fill the space between you and the wall.  You can also do this with a person- you will become more present to them when you do this, enabling you to listen and engage better in the conversation.

Expanded listening

Broaden your awareness to the sounds around you. First, the sounds in the room (the voices, the clock ticking, the air conditioning unit).  Then reach out to the noises in the room next door or the corridor (muffled voices, footsteps, the humming and whirring of machines).  Lastly, listen to the sounds of the world outside (traffic, bird song, dogs barking, construction work).  How does it change your presence to be more alert to the broader sounds around you?

Expanding your visual focus

Rather than laser focused vision which our lifestyles encourage, soften and expand your focus instead. Focus on a point on the wall in front of you. Now expand that focus to the right and left of that point as far as you can go.  Can you get to the corner on both ends?  How about even further round for full 180o vision?  What impact does this have on your presence?  How are you more present to the room after practising this?

Exercise

Raising your heart rate and breathing, releasing those feel-good endorphins and focusing on an intention to run a certain distance, lift a certain weight, perfect a specific move or improve on your time all bring you to greater presence. How much more productive, creative and present are you after a workout of some kind?

Play

Something as adults we tend to do very little of except with our children. Yet, play is an excellent access point for presence.  Try an improv class or have some spontaneous fun with the kids.  You will be more present with the people you share the experience with.  What does it feel like to play?  Frivolous?  A waste of time?  Enjoyable? Alive?  Foolish? Fun? In a way, all these strong reactions are a sign of presence. The more you practice play, the more you will notice the positive impact it has on you and the people around you.

Centring

Spend a minute focusing on your breathing. If you are anxious and overwhelmed, and you want to calm down, focus and lengthen the OUT breath.  Conversely, if you are withdrawn and disconnected, and you want to engage more, focus and lengthen your IN breath.  Try it now and see how it brings you to a more centred and present place.

Walk in Nature or around the streets of your neighbourhood or work environment

This one includes a version of all the others if you allow it. Don’t just walk from A to B, head down, getting it done as fast as possible.  Allow yourself to connect to the experience.  Feel your feet on the floor, the wind on your face.  Look around and take in the sights, sounds and sensations.  Feel your attention expand and welcome the input.  Notice what impact this input has on your presence.  How much more present do you feel to yourself and the world around you during and after your walk?

What is alive within you?

Then once you are present and feel your presence and power return, you are in a stronger position to take action.  Rather than act from your worried place of the past or from fear of the future, act from the power and presence of the present.  Connect to what is already alive within you- your authenticity, uniqueness, talents, qualities, skills, values, heart, soul, spirit.  Bring all of that present to this moment. You will create and give great presentations and performances from this place.  Conversations will be so much more powerful, alive, authentic and productive.  And your relationships will take on a flavour of honesty and openness that will of great benefit both personally and professionally.

Over to You

What impact is presence having on you?  How do you get into presence?  How do you stay present?  When you are present, what difference does it make to the quality of your work and relationships?  What brings you out of presence?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below or interact on social media (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) or by e-mail.

And if you’d like more support in achieving presence for personal and professional growth, I will be running an event in Cambridge around the topic of presence in business (for both people in employment and self-employed).  You can find out further details and book tickets here. If you’d like to know more you can e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk.

Pass it on

Found this blog useful?  Why not send the link to friends, family and work colleagues?  Most of us would benefit from stepping into our presence more often and more deeply.  It could make a huge difference to someone you care about.