Let’s not talk about setting goals.
Do you care?
I know it’s the beginning of the new year and traditionally our conversations turn to what our New Year Resolutions will be or what goals we have for our organizations. And I agree that having a direction is important but as I study performance, I don’t think resolutions, goals, or visions are what set the achievers apart from the nonachievers.
Do you think that every little boy or girl who had dreams of being on Broadway, made it? Do you think that every child you picked up a guitar and aspired to win American Idol, made it? Do you think every manager who desired to be a CEO, made it?
It is not as simple as just having a dream, a goal, a resolution.
There are many different factors, like the proper skill set, like having a system, like putting in the work, like connecting with the right people, like following the correct path, like having the proper education.
But today, I am going to focus on what underlies them all. Our Personal Energy.
Maybe that is a bit new-age for you but bear with me. How much energy we have dictates whether we are making the right behavioral decisions for our long-term goals.
Let me give you an example.
Imagine yourself at the end of a long day of work. You are tired, worn out, and maybe a bit frustrated with the lack of progress you made. It’s almost dinner time and your two kids are waiting for you to get home so they can eat. What do you do? Are you tempted to stop by the fast-food restaurant on the way home even though you know it isn’t the healthy choice? Do you drive to the health food store and pick up groceries to make a meal?
Your personal energy reserve will most likely make that decision for you.
As humans, we make better long-term decisions, when we have the highest level of personal energy. When we are tired, stressed, overwhelmed, frazzled, swamped, we tend to make poor decisions or in other words, we do not realize our goals, resolutions, or dreams.
Instead of asking ourselves, what do we resolve to do, we should be asking ourselves how will we create the energy we need to make those resolutions come to fruition?
Our personal energy reserves are two-sided. Those activities, people, thoughts, and things that give us energy, what we call motivation. And those activities, people, thoughts, and things that take our energy away, what I call life-frictions.
Motivations can be both extrinsic (rewards, recognition, pay) or they can be intrinsic (accountability, ownership, enjoyment, curiosity, progress). Motivations give us energy; they give us a reason to continue a task or a responsibility.
Life Frictions, on the other hand, take energy away from us. They reduce our desire to handle a task or a responsibility. It is those activities, people, thoughts, and things that wear us down. Maybe it is that negative neighbor who never has a nice thing to say about anyone in your neighborhood. Maybe it is monotonous of a particular task, like checking data on a spreadsheet. Maybe it is the lack of encouragement we receive at work. Maybe it is our self-talk that holds us back.
If we want to be successful, we should create an environment in which our personal energy reserved is consistently refilled. The first step is to take care of ourselves; sleep and eat well, exercise regularly, get out into nature, and be social. All of these have been well researched, if you want to learn more go here.
The second step is to become more intentional. We need to be more aware of what gives us energy, what motivates us to keep pursuing our dreams. We also need to be more aware of those things that drain us. With awareness, we can start making better choices. If we know, for instance, that talking (arguing) with our parents is going to drain us, we know that we can save those conversations when our energy reserve is highest, i.e., not right before the big meeting with the boss.
The third step is once we are more aware of what gives and takes energy from our personal reserve, we should make decisions to eliminate (as much as possible) those activities, people, thoughts, and things that steal our energy. In Marie Kondo’s best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” she asks, “Does this bring you Joy? If not, why do you have it in your life?” She is asking her clients, to remove Life-frictions from their closets. I ask that you remove them from your life.
The other part of the third step is we should make decisions to add (as much as possible) those activities, people, thoughts, and things that fill up our reserve. The challenge with this step is that the behavior may not give an immediate payoff. In James Clear’s best-seller, “The Atomic Habit,” he writes about the importance of creating systems that give you a boost to continue positive habits, as he says, “We must fall in love with the act of practice,” if we are going to be successful.
The final step is to use our energy to help us reach our goals, i.e., focus on what is most important to us. This brings us back full circle to understanding what our goals are, what our dreams are, what our resolutions are. But none of that matters, if we don’t have the energy we need to get to where we want to go. It is always easier to buy fast food than make dinner, rarely though is it the best choice.