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. 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.
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.
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.
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?
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