All you need to know about getting where you want to be in 2007 can be learned from Alice in Wonderland.
When a lost Alice met the Cheshire cat during her Wonderland adventures, she asked him, “which way ought I go from here?” He answered sensibly, “That depends a great deal on where you want to get to.” Alice replied, “I don’t much care where.” The cat wisely replied “Then it doesn’t matter which way to go.”
With 2007 another year that has shot into the station like a bullet train instead of a leisurely passenger train, we need to consider a different way to approach the complexities, piles, unfinished potential, and general chaos that mark much of our personal and professional lives. Bringing our unique leadership potential into reality requires focused goals set and achieved.
There is no shortage of information on goal setting, with a Google search of instantly returning 1,650,000 documents. The first page of those results alone yield such interesting diversity as “mind tools,” “Powerful written goals in 7 easy steps” and even “GolfPro 6.0” (for those whose main goal this year is a better golf game.)
A different angle on “which way ought I go from here?” this year is just what the Cheshire cat ordered: know where you WANT to go. From there, establish memorable themes and symbols for the achievements you want to make, and then you can apply a system of goal setting.
For example, with Alice, her answer to “where you want to get to” should have been, “home.” The theme for her efforts would be “Map.” Once you know where you are going, just like Alice, no matter what challenging side trips you land upon, you just keep moving forward and you will eventually reach your goal.
Leaders using the “management by theme” approach have established varying symbols for their New Year efforts. Personal icons like “Eagle” (“I’m going to soar this year”) and “The Key” (“I am going to use the keys I have always possessed to open the doors to my goals”) have a simplified goal marker all year. People using this system often like to have paintings, knick knacks, paperweights, note paper, and other reminders that have the image of their guiding symbols.
Professional themes can be a powerful visual symbol for teams setting and achieving goals. For example, one team leader pulled out a yardstick to show her followers their goal theme for the year. “This represents measurement, obviously. We will measure how I am doing as a leader and how we are doing individually as we progress toward our goals, and how the company is doing as a result of our efforts. We will re-measure frequently, making adjustments and providing resources as needed to succeed.”
It is a good idea to have different symbols for personal accomplishment and your career/leadership goals. The focus and needs for our personal lives and professional lives are usually different enough to warrant distinctions. For example, an Executive Director of a nonprofit agency has a personal symbol “Year of the Butterfly”(“I’ll give my painting hobby a chance to emerge this year”), and a “Year of the Lighthouse” symbol at work (“We will get to our destination of better serving the homeless by keeping our eyes on constant values of serving others.”)
So here it is: the Cheshire cat method of goal setting. In fact, a Cheshire cat would be an excellent personal OR professional symbol to represent the first tenet….
1. Know where you are going. We can’t take all the possible paths we would like at once, so we have to focus carefully on what needs to be addressed in a year. The best way to decide this is to look at the gaps between “what is” and “what needs to be” and the needed goals for this year will be apparent.
2. Have a theme. The theme should be a visual representation of your overall desired outcome for the year. It reduces the complexity of numerous goals and sub-goals to a comforting constant along the way.
3. Establish a map. Be specific in steps needed and people responsible for achieving them. Have frequent progress checks along the way to avoid a big disappointment later.
The standard classic of goal setting is memorable and necessary as you consider your path….make sure your actual goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Driven (deadlines and mini-deadlines along the journey.)
The advantage of managing by themes is that we always have a true North reference point when the waters inevitably get choppy. For example with the Year of the Yardstick, we continue to remember our guiding symbol and measure ourselves, our followers, and our organizations against proven action steps.
As we progress toward our goals, we need to consider the key obstacle that usually gets in the way of any worthy accomplishment: fear. We are afraid both personally and professionally to try more, be more, do more…yet these are the only paths to achieving outstanding goals.
Alice provides the answer to the dilemma. On the journey to her goal (home) Alice is detained when the Queen of Hearts orders “off with her head!” Alice had grown larger than the Queen, though, by her relentless actions to move forward. She was transported home when she recognized the threat for what it was: “You’re just a pack of cards!”
By continuing to blaze past our own obstacles, whether self-imposed or real, we will individually and collectively realize the point of goals: ethically making a positive difference in the world.