Saturday, June 14, 2008

Where Are Your Goals Taking You?

When you come to a fork in the road, how do you know which one to take? The well-known quotation from Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" addresses this question so well:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don't much care where.

The Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.

Alice: long as I get somewhere.

The Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

As we live our lives, we are constantly making decisions about which fork to take. Every day we make decisions that will impact where we are a year from now, five years from now, and further on in our lives. How do we make sure those decisions are taking us where we want to go?

This short little snippet from Alice in Wonderland addresses a couple of very basic, but important, steps in achieving goals. Two? Yes, knowing where we want to go and being motivated to get there. Without these, setting goals is useless.

Where Do I Want to Go?

Alice has reached a fork in the road. She has to decide which fork to take, so she asks her friend for help. We often reach these forks too. Someone goes off to college and has to choose a major course of study. Someone else has been working in one job, starting a career and decides it's the wrong career for him or her. Maybe someone loses a job and needs to find a new one. All of these raise the question, "Which way should I go from here?"

People often make these decisions based on reasons other than where they want to go. I remember a friend telling me about how, as a senior in high school, he was asked by his guidance counselor what he was going to study in college. He didn't know. The counselor said well you do really well in math, you would probably do well in electrical engineering. My friend asked if electrical engineers made good incomes, was told they do, and his career was chosen! (If you don't know where you want to go...)

Now my friend had a goal! Guess what? He did really well in his college work, graduated, and got a job at a major high tech company. As time went along, he wasn't satisfied because he could see that his income was limited by what his company would pay him. He couldn't do a lot to impact that, and he didn't really want to spend the rest of his life working in a cubicle! In other words, he had set a goal and achieved it, but it wasn't a goal that took him on a path he liked. He needed to rethink where he really wanted to go. Then he could set goals and follow plans that would take him down the path he wanted.

The good news is that we can make our own forks in the road if we want. He did and was very happy with the result!

Why Do I Want to Go There?

The cat told Alice that which fork to take depended on where she wanted to go. Her answer was that she didn't really care. In other words, she didn't know why she wanted to go one place or another, so long as she got somewhere.

I wonder how long Alice would be happy with the new direction she chose. Would she get bored with it? Would the hills get too steep and discourage her, making her want to go off on another path? Would she find the scenery to be too bland and unexciting and lose her interest?

These are the kinds of things that can happen if we aren't really motivated to reach the goal we have chosen. We really need to understand why we want to go there.

Remember my friend, the electrical engineer? He was fortunate. The course work in college was not so difficult that he got discouraged along the way. He said he was able to squeeze a 4-year program into five years, but he made it. Obviously the motivation the counselor gave him ("Yes, you can make a lot of money.") was enough to sustain him through those five years.

But, do you remember what it was like in college? You didn't have to make a fortune when you graduated for it to be "a lot of money"!

I think my friend's experience tells us something more about understanding our motivation. He reached his goal and was receiving the reward, but he found that it wasn't what he really wanted.

When we answer the question, "Why do I want to go there?" we need to have a clear, complete picture of what it will be like when we get there. Is it really something that will last? The more we understand what the "there" is, the more we can envision ourselves in it. Then we can make a better assessment of whether it's what we want...and why.

It's the "why" that's important. What is the vision? Does it motivate you? Good, then you've chosen the right fork in the road!

One Last Thing

Remember how Alice finished her answer? "I don't much care where, so long as I get somewhere."

And the cat replied "Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough."

You are going to "walk" for the rest of your life. You will get somewhere eventually. But, it really does matter which fork you take. This reminds me of another short quote; I think it's a paraphrase of this little story about Alice and the cat.

"If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up someplace else!"

Choose your goals carefully, but do choose them. You're going to end up someplace, one way or another!

By Dale Stuemke

Dale Stuemke has learned that dreams and goals are achieved with a good plan, focused effort, good mentorship, and commitment. Humans are designed to be achievers. Visualizing the future and setting goals is uniquely human! Dale is still setting goals for his future. To receive Dale's FREE 29-page report, visit: 6 Letters to Launch Your Goals: CHANGE. Visit Launch Your Goals Blog.

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