Strategy

19th January 2017

Specificity

At this time of the year lots and lots of people will already have abandoned their good intentions (New Years Resolutions) and I was pondering why that happens. I am no exception. I have a tendency to do the same thing and I wondered why that should be.

I think that very often when we set goals, or intentions, they aren’t really goals. They are things that we would quite like to have; things that might be ‘nice’ if we could get there; things like being richer, being thinner, being more relaxed. But we don’t really, really want them.

As I was growing up my dad used to say, “Son, you can have anything you want as long as you want it badly enough”, and he was right. You can. But it must have taken me over 30 years to understand what he truly meant by, “want it badly enough”. I became an expert at wanting stuff, badly. First it was toys, then friends, then girls, then cars and bikes and so the list went on. But it seemed that wanting it badly enough wasn’t a very powerful plan. It seemed to lead to more frustration and dissatisfaction than anything else. And so I got more frustrated and angry.

I wish that someone had been there to explain to me that “want it badly enough” meant being prepared to do the hard work that was necessary. You can have whatever you want, if you want it badly enough to be prepared to do what needs to be done, and that generally involves quite some effort.

As I grew older and went to university and into the world of work, I learned the importance and the joy of hard work. I began to enjoy it and found some pride and dignity in achieving what I could achieve through hard work. It took me some time longer to begin to learn that working hard was a good plan but on its own, was nowhere near as wise a plan as working hard in the pursuit of something worth working hard for.

Often resolutions and intentions fail because they are just something that we would quite like to have. They are trivial and ephemeral and don’t really mean that much to us. Perhaps if we were more bold, more ambitious, more specific and more daring, those resolutions would be more meaningful, more powerful, more compelling and therefore strangely more achievable. In fact they would be promoted from resolutions to goals and from goals to action plans.

In setting my plans for 2017 I stumbled across the same exercise I did two years ago for 2015. Foolishly I haven’t really looked at the goals in the two years since and was surprised to see, despite that, how many of the goals have been achieved and surpassed. They were specific and compelling, so although I haven’t been diligently checking each week or month those outcome goals have been lodged in my brain, at a below conscious level and I have been gently crafting away at the process goals needed to deliver them. If we don’t know where we are going, we are, by definition, going nowhere.