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Drop your goals. Create your strategy.

Stop wasting your time setting ill-thought-out goals. Create A Strategy For Living.

At the beginning of my career, I worked as a strategy consultant. And despite a busy working life, I found it essential to keep investing in my personal development, particularly in the area of goal-setting. Through combining my knowledge in both of these domains, I created a four-part framework that I call A Strategy For Living.

A strategy is a plan to navigate through uncertainty. And do you know what the most uncertain thing in this world is? Life itself.

We all need a strategy to navigate our way effectively along our life path to know when and where to turn left or right. In business, most strategy frameworks begin with asking: “What is our mission or aspiration?” That’s often to be a leader in a particular domain like “Organising the world’s information” (Google) or “Connecting the world” (Facebook).

In life, our mission is the goals we set for ourselves. But I’m not just talking about the growth goals people often think about like “I want to work-out more” or “I want to get promoted” or “I want to learn French”. Goals can also be great experiences like “I want to travel the world” or “I want to go skydiving” or “I want to find love”. These can sound quite individualistic and self-centred, which they are, but continuously growing and experiencing more of our world is crucial for attaining life satisfaction.

However, I believe that to be fully fulfilled in one’s life we also need to focus on something greater than ourselves through impact goals, such as “I want to start a family”, “I want to give back to my community”, “I want to create value in my work”. These are all nice-sounding goals, but the question people sometimes forget to ask is “Why?”. Why is it that I want to achieve these things?

To illustrate, let me tell you a story. In September 2014, I started going to the gym three times a week. It was going pretty well; I felt more energised and stronger six weeks into this change. But then, I suddenly just stopped going. At the time, I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t due to a lack of discipline or time. Looking back now, the reason is clear: I got a girlfriend. To unravel why let’s use my 3-Why method – an adaptation of the 5-Why’s of Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing.

So, why did I start going to the gym? Well, I was (and still am) a relatively skinny guy that wanted to get a bit more muscle. Why did I want to get more muscle? Because I wanted to feel confident and satisfied in my own body – a struggle that both men and women face in our society. Why did I want to feel better about my body? To love myself and that others could love me. Wow, that’s the real reason: love. I now had a girlfriend that loved me, so I didn’t need to slave away at the gym anymore (at least, not for my self-image).

The moral of the story: many roads lead to Rome. And for a skinny guy with a tolerable personality and sweet smile, I’d like to think that it’s simpler to build a loving relationship than become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When you ask yourself “Why?” three times, you start understanding the real reasons you are on this planet, your philosophy of life. I’m learning French not just to have another language on my CV, or to communicate on holiday, but to better connect with other people on our planet. You create Life Goals, principles that can guide your every decision. You’ll find that many of your goals relate to similar things like love, connection, and learning – fundamental human needs. As an example, here are my Life Goals that I have developed over the past few years and guide my every decision.

Now, it’s your turn. I believe that everything you learn about or read should eventually generate an action. Otherwise, you just wasted the past 5 minutes reading this article.

  • Take a pen and paper

  • Set a two-minute timer

  • Write down as many of your goals as you can (forget about Life Goals for now)

  • Select three that are important to you now

  • Take the first goal and ask yourself “Why?” three times and write out the answers

  • Repeat for the other two

  • The final answer for each goal might be the basis for a Life Goal

If we are mindful of our Life Goals, I believe we can achieve greater happiness in our own lives, while realising impact goals that help others! Just follow those simple steps.

Now you’re thinking: “Tom, didn’t you say A Strategy For Living was a four-part framework?” Yes, I’m sorry this post only covers the first, but most important part. You’ll have to wait until my next post, or attend a Strategy For Living workshop to discover the rest! Drop me a mail to find out more.

Because I feel bad leaving you on a cliffhanger, below is a small teaser…

Now, get out a pen & paper and start creating your Life Goals!


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