It should go without saying that it does not matter how well you plan or create a goal, if you don’t put them into action and keep working on them, they will be nothing more than a great idea.
Over that last month I have fallen behind on my goal to write a new blog posting each week. In fact, I find it somewhat ironic (and trust me, this was not planned), that the last posting was about putting goals into action. I had put my goal into action, however I lost momentum quickly and did not keep the process moving. In my last posting, I spoke about how a journey may start with a single step, however the second step is probably the most difficult. Well, I had started my blog post journey, managed to write about eight postings. Then when I reached the one about putting goals into action, I complete the posting – but didn’t take another step. The first eight blog posts were planned out, I had made a schedule, and I simply wrote and then posted the pre-planned topics for each week as scheduled
Guess what happened when I reached the end of my planned schedule – you guessed it, nothing happened. The blog posting stopped. Why? Because I did not have a scheduled plan and I did not have any form of “consequence” for not doing it. Think about it – what is the worst that could happen? There is not a new blog post for me to push out into the world and hope that people read and pass along within their social network. There was no consequence for not doing another blog post, no matter how motivated I may have been. At least I didn’t feel a consequence.
We are all different people when it comes to consequences and how motivating or not motivating consequences are. For example, over the summer my wife and I had our children participate in a YMCA program. We could drop them off most anytime we wanted each morning, and for me it was normally somewhere between 7:30am and 9:00am. Most days, I would drop the kids off when it was most convenient for me and I would allow certain activities to take more priority such as checking emails, researching a topic, or just streaming one of the shows I have been enjoying. At some point I would think “probably should bring the kids to the YMCA” or the kids would wear out their ability to get along or they would start to become antsy looking for something to do, so it would “snap” me out of what I was doing and we would head off to the YMCA. The point is, I did not feel any real consequence to not dropping of my kids before a certain time – except Wednesdays. Wednesday was normally fieldtrip day and if you were not there by a certain time – no fieldtrip. Suffice to say, Wednesdays we were there before 800am as there was a consequence for not arriving on time.
So how do we set consequences that speak to us and that we will feel when we don’t do something? I don’t know that there is a way to do that – well at least a way that works for everyone.
First, I want to define consequence in terms of motivation. Consequences provide motivation for completing a task or activity as we want to avoid the consequence for NOT doing something. With that said, there are many methods and systems out there that say they will motivate you, maybe we can identify with a certain amount of social consequence that can motivate us, and I will not claim to discredit the motivation from consequences related to our work such as deadlines, KPIs, benchmarks, and so forth. There are many consequences that provide motivation in our daily lives.
What about consequences for activities such as our goals, plans, aspirations, dreams, and visions that are not related to our jobs or work duties? How do we remain motivated for these personal achievements, and what are the consequences for not following through on them? I don’t have an answer to that either that works for everyone, but what I do know is that we need to find both the motivation and the consequence for each goal, plan, vision, or dream that we want to embark on.
When looking for motivation and consequence, consider both short-term and long-term results. Ask yourself some simple questions:
“What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do this today?” Now you need to find that worst thing, identify it, recognized it, and don’t say “nothing”. The more you tell yourself that nothing bad will come of it, the harder it will be to see the “bad that will come of not doing it.” For every goal that you want to accomplish, there is also a “worst thing” to go along with it when you don’t achieve your goal.
“What would my life look like in 3-months, 6-months, 2-years from now if I stay on this path?” Guess what, that time in the future will come and you can’t stop it. When you reach 3-months, 6-months, 2-years from now, you can either say “I am what I wanted to be” or tell yourself “I could have been something by now”. My sister lived this very situation. In her mid-twenties she said she wanted to be a Doctor, but it would take 10 years to complete and she would be in her mid-thirties by then. Answer – your going to be in your mid-thirties anyway, wouldn’t you like to say you are a Doctor when that time comes? She became a Doctor.
“If I don’t do everything I wanted to do today, am I a failure?” Fear of failure is strong and we all handle it differently. In some cases, the fear of failure can be crippling and stop us from trying at all. I would be first to admit that some days I look at what I wanted to accomplish, start to lay out a plan and schedule to do it, and then realize I don’t have enough time to do it all. Is this a failure? Sometimes it is; but I try to think of the failure not in terms of my not being able to do it all, rather that I am trying to do more than I should or are able to do today. This question can correlate with the “worst thing” question previously, but I like to think of it separately. The consequence of failure can stop you from trying – and that can be a pretty powerful “worst thing”. Rather than not trying in this case, consider trying to do less, in which I mean identify a few highly impactful tasks, and delegate or eliminate less impactful tasks.
Staying on track with our goals, plans, aspirations, dreams, and visions can be challenging. I believe that finding both the motivating factors for accomplishing and the consequences for not accomplishing the tasks related to our goals and dreams is important to keep us on track. One without the other will either cause us to freeze in our tracks like a deer in the headlights or result in our randomly flitting about like a balloon when we let all the air out. Motivation and Consequence provide balance for each other.
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