I have been reading a lot about goals and themes, obviously a popular topic for the end of the year. There seems to be a backlash against the tradition of making resolutions. Some sources suggest “themes” as a more effective alternative.
In that spirit, I have my selected my theme(s) for 2010 to be Optimistically Organize and Optimize. This means I will strive to take advantage of opportunities hiding in difficult places (as per Al Einstein’s quote) and pay more attention to organizing my time and activities around my priorities. The streamlining I will do in 2011 will set me up for some bigger goals that I have in mind for 2012.
Speaking of big goals, I loved this TED video for its contrarian view:
Derek Sivers: Keep Your Goals to Yourself. The gist is that once you tell someone else a big goal you are less committed to it because your mind feels satisfaction from sharing it. In other words, our mind tricks us into feeling the same way we feel after completing a goal and therefore we are less committed to it because part of us already thinks it’s a done deal. Sivers, offers scientific studies that back up this theory and also mentions three ways to combat this psychological phenomena:
- Resist urge to announce your goal
- Delay the gratification that the social acknowledgment of sharing the goal brings and understand your mind mistakes the talking for the doing.
- State the goal in a way that will give you no satisfaction: “I am really want to accomplish this task so I need to train and work on it x hours a week. Kick my ass if I don’t, okay?”
I think Sivers is on to something. I have found that sharing a goals doesn’t always help if I haven’t done any groundwork to accomplish it. Simply disclosing our goals is not enough. Telling people our goals is like sharing our star-gazing dreams or sketchy and whimsical first thoughts on things (like what we want to be when we grow up). Few people hold you to these things because we all understand the fragile nature of these initial breaths.
To boost your accountability, you have do take it a step or two farther by deputizing others to keep you on tract. A “life coach” or an“executive business coach” might be one way to do this. Others have used “success teams.” Some might prefer enlisting the help of a close friend to be their “accountability partner”. I neat twist I have stumbled across was a website called www.stickK.com where you can create a personal contract for yourself, recruit accountability supporters, set timeliness for progress reports, and even establish some financial consequences in the off chance you fail to do what you said you would do. Imagine the hurt of suffering through an automatic deposit to the coffers of George W Bush if you failed to stick to your proclaimed goal. Co-founder of stickK, Yale University’s Ian Ayres, talks more about the theory behind this service in his book, Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done.
The key to success for using others to keep us accountable is for the goal setter to give full permission to their accountability partner to hold their feet to the fire and the accountability partner has to take the job seriously and actually carry though with this responsibility. Not easy! Look what Severus Snape had to do when Albus Dumbledore came asking for a final favor.
That said, I think I would be up for the challenge if someone asked me to serve them in this way for one of their goals. And, if you think you could kick my 2011 rear in gear, kindly let me know. I would be deeply honored.