So often when we are trying to make a decision we focus on the options at our disposal, weighing up the pros and cons of each and mulling over each one’s merits. We focus on the evaluation stage of a decision, skipping straight over the part where we figure out what we really want.
Setting really robust goals has to take account of both sides of this equation: knowing what we want, and knowing the routes to get there. A desire without options is a wish, not a goal. A set of options without a desire is just a dilemma.
To get to an achievable goal, we first need to be honest with ourselves about what we, ourselves, actually want. Not what we think we should want, or what we think is realistic, or what fits in with how other people see us. Not every whim is going to turn into a goal, but being truly honest about what our real desires are is the only way we can start forming a goal we actually have the motivation to achieve. Margaret Lobenstine in her book “The Renaissance Soul” points out that there is no point in pretending to have different desires or different personal values than the ones that we do have: that’s just leading someone else’s life.
Once we have a clear picture of what we really want, we need to go deeper: it’s not enough to know just what we want to do for setting our goal, we must also know how we want to be different as a result of achieving our goal. Understanding the value of the goal will help us be motivated and committed on the pathway to achieving it–and may uncover new options for how we can achieve the desired state through different means. This requires us to be in tune with our own values, our sense of who we are, the core aspects of ourselves that make us tick.
Once we have a robust understanding of what we want and what that really means to us, that’s when we can do the best brainstorming about what our options are: this is where a wish can truly transform into a goal with a plan to get there. By delaying our option-designing until we really understand what we want, we can create goals we’re actually motivated to achieve.