Approaching the conversation around goal-setting with clients brings up a lot of questions. Shouldn’t all my goals be SMART? Which goals are most important for me right now? Why is it worth focusing on this, rather than that? Isn’t there something bigger here?
In an effort to offer somewhat of a framework around the way you orient yourself around and clarify your goals, I (Beth) am putting forth the idea of there being “levels” to goal exploration.
We’re not talking about short-, long-term and lifetime goals. We’re not talking about looking at goals in terms of your health, relationship, career, etc. In our perspective, there are three goal types, or “levels,” that are driven by increasingly deeper desires, aiming for different results.
Those three types of goals I believe exist are:
Let’s dig into them, starting at Level 1 and going deeper.
Achievement goals are the typical goals you’ve set before using a SMART format, looking for a particular and tangible end goal that you can measure very clearly. For example: achieving a promotion, saving up for a house, or setting a 30-minute-a-day exercise regimen.
You know, very clearly, that when that promotion comes, when you buy the house, when you are regularly exercising 30 minutes a day, that those goals have been achieved.
The drivers behind Achievement goals are mainly ego-centric. The ego is the part of you that wants to be seen a certain way and wants to be important.
This isn’t a bad thing! You can develop from an immature to a mature ego depending on how connected you are with what YOU truly want and what is truly of value to you, how much your fears and outside influences impact what you see as worthy to achieve, or how much attachment you have to that outcome, such as expecting that achieving that outcome is equal to achieving happiness.
The next level of goal, I’ll call Transitional.
Transitional goals might have a SMART format, but it may be modified to fit the desires that they’re driven by.
These goals are marked by the desire behind them to CHANGE something about your current life circumstances.
A great example of this is Anthony and my transitional goal to live location-independent lives and to see more of our family than we were at the time that we set this goal. Transitional goals are strongly connected with what is truly important to you, such as family and freedom for me and Anthony.
When I hear someone who has a transitional goal, I want to know the WHY behind it. Because transitions are harder than achievements. I already said transitional goals are next level because they’re deeper, but they are also next level - and I’ll use the metaphor of a nesting doll - because like nesting dolls, there are many Achievements WITHIN transitional goals, and that can be daunting if your WHY is not front and center driving you toward them.
Transitional goals may not be time-bound or even very specific because your Achievement goals take care of that part, but they SHOULD be measurable (meaning you know where you’re headed), actionable, and realistic.
Again, in order to grow more resilient and capable of facing failure on the way through these transitions, it is crucial to connect to the reason WHY you want this transition. What making that transition will give you in life. How getting that will impact you.
So, instead of asking clients to put their transitional goals into a SMART format, I ask them to consider what needs to happen to move toward that transition, and to set SMART goals around those things.
For example, to get to our transitional goal of living with more freedom to travel and be with our families, first I took Anthony on his first international trip and we committed to traveling at least twice a year. Next, we sold our house and used the money to pay off the rest of our student loans and start this business. After that step, we planned our move to Arizona for the winter, our first snowbird season. We didn’t even KNOW our ambulance would come into play until this February, though it was a topic we talked about for a while.
So we are taking the next step. And we’re keeping this transition we set out to make at the top of mind so that we can continue to make decisions and set milestones that move us closer instead of farther away.
So that brings us to our deepest level, our Transformational goals.
If you have a transformative goal, there is likely no end point in sight for your goal. I also almost called these “Way-of-being” goals, and I like to throw that in there for deeper understanding because transformative goals are what you consistently and constantly aim to grow to BE.
When we talk about identifying your values and taking time to learn what they truly mean for you and your lifestyle, we’re digging into transformative goals. How is it that you want to BE in this lifetime? Who you want to be and what you want your life to be.
For transformative goals, it is essential to not only know the answer to those future-oriented questions, but also to know where you are right NOW.
Perhaps if you want to be an active and kind person, and you already work out and tend toward kindness, then the actions underneath that are not too difficult to identify.
However, for us, when we learned that what we WANTED to be location-independent, cause-championing, family-oriented, relationship-driven, and adventure-seeking people, we also realized that what we were at that point did not quite match up. We were instead location dependent, buying cheap and easy goods and talking about what we cared about yet not taking action, living near two of our family bases while barely seeing the one in Arizona, being selfish with our time, and just NOT really traveling.
Do you hear all the transitional goals that needed to happen within the transformative goal? We have that big old top-level nesting goal now. And again, within each transitional goal there are a ton of achievement goals.
This is the DEEPEST and HARDEST level of goal because transformational goals come from your ego having matured enough to fix to your soul. Once you’ve connected this deeply with your WHY, your PURPOSE you want to live out, you become more motivated and committed. Once you have that commitment, you’ll clearly see the truly difficult transitions that lie ahead of you, but you won’t be able to turn away. As Bill Plotkin says in his book Soulcraft, “If you say yes to the call, you’ll feel…that you are standing at the window watching a great storm arrive. And you’ll know there’s no way to flee this storm…you know you must open the door and walk straight into the tempest.”
To make all of this tempest-tossed path manageable and to stay on top of transformative goals, you may want to take this little by little.
Keep a pulse on where you are NOW and where you want to be, or your values, which DO change over time, if only slightly. I recommend annual checkins. You can then use those values as a measuring stick next to every lifestyle transition and achievement decision you set out to make, thinking - does this line up to who I ultimately want to BE?
To do this process, Anthony and I started a new process this new year. We have an excel spreadsheet outlining all of these values as transformative goals - how we want to live more into those values in a broad sense. We wrote down what we’re doing now, versus what we want to be, and what concrete actions or achievement tasks have to take place.At the end of this year, we’ll do the same, and we’ll continue transforming as we move forward.
The most important part of making transformative goals SMART, is being specific about the ways you want to transform and things you want to achieve IN ORDER TO transform. It’s also important to give yourself the ability to measure your progress, and to put forth attainable and realistic steps for yourself in the near future.
But with each measurement, annually or monthly or whatever you choose, if transformation is taking place, the attainable and realistic actions will keep changing and moving you forward.
So as you’re looking at your goals, I’d encourage you to envision them as nesting dolls. What is your biggest transformative goal you’d like to make now? Within that, what are the transitions that need to start taking place? What achievements lie within those transitional goals?
So, YES, this is all HARD. This is not only digging deeper into your SOUL, but at the same time it’s a transcendent process that is unlike most of our current ways of living.
But if you’re holding just the little baby nesting doll, doesn’t the whole toy get more delightful and alluring when you discover all those layers that you can place around it? I personally love nesting dolls because I love seeing how small the smallest piece can get.
Anyway, the HARDEST hurdles for you to jump are transitional and transformative. That’s what I feel I’m here for. To help you connect with your purpose, believe you can do it, and gain the courage to set up achievement goals for yourself. I firmly believe that once your purpose is clear, the achievement goals are obvious and the easiest things to move toward.
Then Anthony gets into the technicality of it all. Through all these three levels there are likely going to be transitions and achievements you haven’t faced before and you might need to brainstorm what options you have, what resources exist and where to find them, or hash out some action steps that make sense chronologically for you.
I hope that helps to clarify your goals, where you’re at now, and how we’re here to support you!
Please comment with your thoughts and where you think you are with your goals right now - I’m excited to hear them!
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