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« An Easy Challenge Revisited | Main

Vague Goals

A question I am often asked is how to set a goal when one is not really quite sure what one wants. As an example, someone may know that they want to get out of the work they are in at present, but have very little idea what they can do instead. A goal of “Get out of present job” isn’t really going to be very effective. “Find new career” may be a good starting point but is far too vague to help one to take effective action in the present (which is what all goals are about).

The problem most people have in this situation is that they have too much choice. There are thousands of different new careers out there and they can’t pin what they want down any more closely.

The important thing to realise here is that there is no one right job for them. There are probably loads of possible answers, which would satisfy them. The key here is to identify the things which must be in the final result if it is to be satisfactory. You don’t need to know everything about the final result, but what you do need to know is what is going to make it a satisfactory result rather than an unsatisfactory one.

So start asking yourself some questions about the new job. A good place to start is by writing down all the things you don’t want it to be, e.g.

I don’t want it to be in the city; I don’t want a long commute; I don’t want to have my boss on my back all the time; I don’t want to earn so little I can’t pay the bills, etc.

Then turn them round into positives: “I want to work in the country; I want to live close to the work; I want to be in control of my own work; I want to earn at least £x a year”

This can give you quite a detailed description of what is important to you about the job. You can then test out what is essential by asking yourself questions like “If everything else was right about the job, but the pay was the same as I’m getting now, would I be happy?”

You may have to go back and forth a few times, but this will give you the essentials of what you are looking for.

It’s really important to ask yourself these types of questions whatever you goal is. For instance if your goal is to write a book, is it important to you whether the book is a best-selling book or don’t you mind if only your friends and family ever read it? Obviously your answer to this question is going to make a lot of difference to the type of book you write and the action you are going to take in the present to start achieving your aim.

Remember that the whole point of goals is how they affect your actions in the present!

Reader Comments (2)

A related approach is to write what you DON'T want; it is often easier to have clarity about what is NOT wanted and what you want to get AWAY from. This at least gives a direction of TOWARD as implicitly the opposite. Creation proceeeds from the vague and foggy to the clear. "How can I make this vague and foggy feeling of what is wanted clearer?" is a useful reflection question here.
October 24, 2013 at 14:27 | Unregistered Commentermichael

<< A related approach is to write what you DON'T want; it is often easier to have clarity about what is NOT wanted and what you want to get AWAY from. >>

Isn't that exactly what I said?
October 24, 2013 at 23:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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