Goals are an important part of professional development and life in general. We wouldn’t do much without goals, even if we are not conspicuous with ourselves about them. Goals are interesting because they are a means and an end. What we set to achieve is our goal (the end), and research shows that how we use goals (the means) makes a difference in our ability to achieve them.
In this post, I will review three aspects of making goals useful. They are:
- Positively Frame Your Goal
- Frame Your Goal as Deep as Possible
- Find Your Activation Point
I will use a recent goal I had around skiing as the context. First, some background. I have been skiing since I was seven, and have been an advanced skier for pretty much my entire life. I wasn’t getting any better the past couple years until I set a goal and got a lot better the last few weeks of the season.
I have had a tendency to curl my toes in my boots when I ski, which leads to less control and decreased efficiency. In other words, you can’t turn as well and your muscles get tired more quickly. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to make a conscious effort to avoid curling my toes.
Positively Frame Your Goal
The problem with my goal was that it was negatively framed – “don’t curl your toes”. It never works to not do something, you have to figure out what it is you do want. Therefore, avoiding curling my toes was not the proper way to frame the goal. Spreading my toes out, radiating them outward and even upward (the exact opposite of curling) – that is how I positively framed my goal.
Frame Your Goal as Deep as Possible
As I started skiing with this positively framed goal, I first focused all my attention on my toes, and as soon as I noticed them starting to curl, I radiated them outward. Then I realized that radiating did not start with my toes. I became aware that all my muscular strength radiated from my core, through my legs, into my feet, and poured through the entire surface of my feet and into my skis. My goal was going deeper, it was now to take all my strength and radiate it through my body in the act of skiing.
I quickly realized how this channel of energy and strength was quelled when my toes were in a curled position. This makes sense physiologically, because with my toes curled there was less surface for my body to exert force on my skis. Hence, you have to use more strength to move your skis the same amount.
Find Your Activation Point
Once you have the goal positively and deeply framed, it helps to have an activation point, or trigger, that alerts you to the fact that you have a goal and starts your internal process to achieve it. In this situation, it was noticing my toes were curled. This activated me to extend my toes, and start the process to engage my core and extend all the way through to the skis.
Before long, all thought about the goal and the process disappeared and I was gliding and flying down the slopes, through the bumps, over the ridges, wherever I was on the mountain. It was exhilarating! At times I even burst out laughing from the pure joy of it – the sound muffled by the wind of my downhill speed.
With my newly framed goal in mind, a couple days of practicing yielded a greater improvement in my skiing than I had seen in the past ten years. It was also the most fun I’ve had skiing in the past ten years. I brought myself to the experience of skiing which created a new sense of freedom.
It started me thinking about other areas in my life where I am not using goals as effectively as I could. It begs the question how has that impacted the quality of how I bring myself to the challenge in front of me. And how when I’m learning and getting better, I have more fun.