You set so many goals but you never reach them all. Those undone items on your to do list make you feel bad. Surely they’re a sign of failure?
But what if I was to tell you that having uncompleted goals is actually a good thing? That it’s a sure sign that you’re setting your expectations at the right level and recognizing what really needs to be done?
Aim High, But Not Too High
When we set goals, it’s important to set them at a level that is just tips us out of our comfort zone. If we’re completing everything on our to do list then chances are we’re setting our sights too low and only completing mundane and unimportant tasks.
Worthwhile projects often turn out to be more complex and multi-faceted - and therefore require more work than we originally anticipated. So it’s not surprising that they often run over schedule.
Rather than tear our hair out, it’s important to recognise this as part of the process and readjust our expectations when necessary.
Normally over time, we get better at assessing how long a certain kind of work will take but, as healthy creatives, we’ll constantly be setting ourselves new challenges. We need to anticipate that these learning curves will sometimes cause us to fall behind.
The reverse is also true. If we set our sights too high and don’t achieve more than a tiny fraction of our goals, then we’ll end up demoralised and feeling like a failure.
Evaluate Your Goals Regularly
A key practice for getting the right balance of ‘hard, but not too hard’ is to implement regular weekly, monthly and yearly assessment and planning sessions to evaluate how you’re progressing with your goals.
If unfinished projects are piling up, you can look at what to let go of. Likewise if it’s all looking too easy, you can add in some challenges.
Be Prepared to Pivot
You might be surprised to know that the most successful entrepreneurs are not those who head unwaveringly in the direction of their goal, but those able to change direction quickly when new information makes them recognise a more lucrative and sustainable direction to head in.
This is also the case for creative work. New opportunities present themselves. An unexpected commission, a surprise guest-post request or information from peers about an exciting exhibiting opportunity or residency. We’d be crazy to continute doggedly towards a lesser goal when something more worthwhile beckons. (Although we have to beware of being caught in New and Shiny syndrome!)
A pivot requires that we keep one foot rooted in what we’ve learned so far, while making a fundamental change in strategy in order to seek even greater validated learning.”
The key lies in being able to honestly assess where we are and how far new opportunities that present themselves would benefit us. Again a regular time to check in with yourself about how you’re feeling is crucial.
Journal Regularly to Keep in Touch With Your Life Purposes
Use a regular visual or written journaling practice to keep connected to your subconscious wisdom about the direction you want for your work. This will help you judge each new opportunity that arises in the light of how it will serve your life’s purposes.
So if you’ve finding yourself aiming for 120% and achieving less than half of that, it might be time to adopt the 70% rule.
This post was inspired by Kevan Lee's post, All About OKRs: How to Set Them, Achieve Them, and Track Them in Trello