Skip to content →

Tag: goal setting

A goal: that’s the task you are already working on

Goals make work refreshingly easy

I am sure you have noticed that when you set a goal, and measure your progress, you tend to achieve your goal. And much more quickly and easily than you expected at the start.

You can look at the science; but try the wise words of poet Goethe

I can point you to much published literature on goal-setting showing the effects of goal-setting. But why when German poet, Goethe, already said the same, and so much more beautifully.

Until one is committed,
there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation,
there is one elementary truth
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas
and splendid plans:

that the moment one definitely commits oneself,
then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events
issues from the decision,
raising in one’s favor
all manner of unforeseen incidents,
meetings and material assistance
which no man could have dreamed
would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can,
begin it.

has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.


A goal is what you are already working on right now and you committed to finishing

A goal is simply what you are so determined to finish that you have already started.

Even though you don’t have all the resources and know-how you need, you are so keen that you got started anyway.
What are you actually working on at the moment?



Leave a Comment

Management theory is reconsidering is philosophical rots

Offer your problems to God, and they may open opportunities that you never imagined.

I am not religious, and if they haven’t clicked away already, my friends who are ‘evangelical atheists’ will think I’ve taken leave of my senses

Management theory is reconsidering its philosophical rots

[Yes, I did mean roots but the typo is apt.]

I heard the idea of presenting one’s problems to God from a Rabbi on Radio 4 today and it is an idea that has been forgotten by management theorists for a long, long time.  It is being actively and vigorously revived though, and if you want to be involved in modern management education, “opening yourself to the imagination of the universe” is an idea that you have to get you head around.

Old school management sucked the life juices out of us

“Old school” management is goal-oriented, and fundamentally arrogant and negative.  It goes like this. “I define the goal and until you have completed it, you are not up to scratch.”

We might even say that old school management is evil. It is even evil even when we are setting our goals for ourselves and not others.  It’s  arrogant to believe that we know what is right, not only for today, but for tomorrow whose shape we barely know.  It is very arrogant to believe that we know and the other does not.  It is evil to undermine the worth of other people and to daily put ourselves and others in situations where we are not up to scratch.

But how do we open ourselves to the imagination of the universe?

For all my exploration of modern management theory, I am still a psychologist and I want to know “what am I going to DO?

“offering a problem to God”, as I understand it, does not mean letting go.  It means beginning where we are, with our sense that the present does not meet our sense of what is right and wrong.   We begin by accepting our negative evaluation, our arrogant assertion that on this matter we believe we are right,  and our overbearing willingness to judge others.  We accept that this is ground we stand on at this moment.  This is our reality at the minut.

Then, we put this evaluation on the table, probably privately, it is offensive after all.  And at last,  we listen to what the universe has to say.    What does the universe have to say about this problem?

We’ve raised the flag.  We’ve said we will hear.   Now we listen!

But are we predisposed to listen?

The difficulty is though, that in this mood, when we feel the world is wrong, and we are right and that we are allowed to tell others they are wrong, in this mood, listening to anyone is far from our minds.

Positive psychology, an overlapping school of positive organizational scholarship, kicks in now and has a lot to say on how to reach a point that we can listen and hear.

We begin by reminding ourselves that it is quite natural, housed in a human body, to feel alarmed when we notice something is wrong.   Our biology is programmed that way.  It is natural .  .  .  well .  .  . to exaggerate.  When times are rough, and we reel from trauma to trauma, or just from hassle to hassle, it is not long before we begin to shut down and focus solely on what threatens us, or simply annoys us.

Positive psychologists help us stay out of this zone of despair, cynicism and negativity.  We look to them to keep us in that positive space where we can notice that something is wrong (or a least not to our taste) and listen to the universe.  It is a tough balancing act.

Positive psychologists are not our only resource, though. Most world religions have rituals to manage this emotional housekeeping.   Balancing our ‘alarm systems’ and listening to others is such an important skill that all cultures have ways of explaining the challenge.    What is saying a brief prayer before a meal but a momentary regaining of balance where we take stock in an appreciative not panicky way?

In our secular world, we explain every thing more wordily but we are not necessarily wrong.  Just ploddy.   Two other very important factors in maintaining ’emotional tone’ are exercise and friends.

The contribution of positive psychologists

Positive psychologists advocate a simple ritual of a gratitude diary.  A few brief notes at the end of each day makes the difference between believing that we have to solve every problem ourselves and “hearing” what the universe has to offer.

Offer your problems to the universe and allow yourself to be delighted by opportunities you never imagined.

And to my evangelical atheist friends, if you are such an objective scientist, try it before you knock it.

One Comment

Take the first step, don’t look back, and the universe will conspire to help you

On Commitment


Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,

the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,

there is one elementary truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision,

Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings

And material assistance which no man could have dreamed

Would come his way.

Leave a Comment

Beautiful New Year Resolutions: Follow the beauty you discovered in 2009?

New goals to focus the new year

2010 is upon us.  2009 has gone fast.  I began the year overloaded.  I was stressed out in January and was working hard to limit my goals.  That’s the purpose of goal setting, right?  To reduce the number of things claiming our attention.

Do you achieve your goals?  I sincerely hope not!

In the end, I over-achieved some of my goals and under-achieved others.  Why?  Why can’t we arrive spot-on?

Because that is not our job.  Really it is not.

Events, dear boy, events!

Our job is to respond to events.  Events, dear boy, events, as British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said.  Or as the military say, no plan survives meeting the enemy.

Our job is not to press on regardless.  Or job is to be aware of what is happening around us, to understand what is valuable, and look after that.  We’ve had a good year when we’ve attended to who and what is important.

To be ready for unfolding events, it is a good idea to plan.  Plans mean we have information at our finger-tips and we find it easier to read evolving situations and understand what we need and want to do.

A good year is when our goals unpack themselves and we discover what is ‘good and true, better and possible”

But our job is to learn.  A good year is a year in which our goals unfold.   A good year is when our goals unpack themselves.  We come to understand the richness of the world and gaze upon it with respect and more curiosity bordering on reverence, not to forgive its wrongdoings but alive to what is ‘good and true, better and possible.”

So as we open our diaries for 2010, what has changed for us during 2009?  Putting aside the farce of bailing out banks to the tune of more than half out annual GDP and politicians who rifle the petty cash, for farce is what that is, what changed for us during 2009?

Looking around the world, what do we see that we never used to see?  What poetry & song did we hear this year, yet never heard before?   Whom do we know whose style and approach to life we truly admire?

What brings us alive and takes us bubbling with enthusiasm towards 2010?

Take your first small step that may be the giant step needed by mankind

Often what brings the light to our eyes is deeply personal. We don’t want to expose what we love to the harsh glare of spotlights and public scrutiny.  What we share is not for the sake of sharing.  It is for the sake of nurturing what we feel is beautiful and it is for the sake of encouraging what we would like to see more of.

Of the many beautiful things we have discovered, which are we able to move towards?  Which are we able to do more?  Where and how can we take part and in the process make them more beautiful?

We may have the smallest role to play in their beauty.  But it may be our role in creating a beautiful world.  That small step on the edges of our existence may be a large step for mankind ~ if only we would take it.

Leave a Comment

Live the questions now. Live your way into the answer.

Last night, I stumbled on a wonderful collection of poems. Do bookmark this link and keep it for a moment when you want to relax.

For this morning, at a time when the economies of the UK and the US are about to become very turbulent, it is good to read a poem from German poet, Rainer Rilke.

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903

in Letters to a Young Poet

It is so hard to think about living without a clear goal.  We’ve been taught to be wilful rather than curious.

Maybe the first question is what it would feel like to turn all my goals today into questions?

What would it be like to get up?  What will it like to have a shower?

Just to ask a series of questions?

Enhanced by Zemanta
Leave a Comment

Get a big job done twice as fast using the psychology of goal setting

We love goals that simplify what we have to do

We are a hopeless species! Give us a goal and we cannot help ourselves. We chase it.  But if the end is not in sight, we feel tired and we stop.

Hence the three rules of goal-setting.

  • Make the goal definite and visible.
  • Show our progress to the goal in real-time
  • Make sure it is doable before we get tired.

Blog migration

My predicament

I have been writing this blog in for two years. Now that is is established, I want to move it to a self-hosted site using software from

I am going to move to a magazine layout which means that the last post from each category will be visible on the front page. And the reader is able to click to a category’s index to see everything I’ve written in chronological order.

The big task

My difficulty is that I have dozens of categories. I eventually settled on a format that uses 5 categories and I have chosen the categories.

Now I need to reclassify 500 or so posts into the 5 categories.   At a handful a day, this could take me a year to do!

Clever goal setting is motivating & doable

I’ve finally found a way to do the transfer that is motivating.

  • I look down my categories list, pick one with few entries, and resort the posts. Eventually the number becomes 0.
  • Then I delete the category from the list and the categories list grows shorter!

It will still take me months but eventually

  • I will have a blog with all the posts categorized under 5 topics
  • I will have reread everything I have written in two years and done some light editing
  • I’m bound to have write some more summary posts
  • It will be easier for me review my own posts and find the questions that I have answered well and should answer soon!

The trick has been to arrange the work so

  • I can see where I am going
  • I have a constant sense of progress
  • I can organize the work into chunks that I can finish before I get tired.

Great goal setting!


We set goals to give ourselves control. My blogging story shows how.

2 months to go in 2009!  Are you on target to meet your goals?

One of my goals in 2009 was to increase my blog traffic.  In January, I reviewed my blog and what I had read about good blogging and bad.

As ever when we have a big push, we often achieve what we want, and learn that quite different rules apply than ones we had previously thought. This is my story of how my blogging goals shifted as I coped with the ebb and flow of 2009.

The received wisdom in blogging amount to

  • Stay at the top of people’s feed readers
    • Have an RSS feed so people can subscribe
    • Post often
  • Be found in search
    • Choose keywords for which you want to be known
    • Include them in the title and in the body of the post
  • Great content
    • Write scanable short posts
    • Show the benefits of post to the audience
  • Comment on other people’s blogs
    • Your interest in their work is your best advert
    • Your comment provides a permanent link back to your blog which humans follow and which Google counts for page rank

These are the blogging rules I would add

  • Comments
    • Cut out the elaborate logins with Disqus etc.  People will leave comments if you let them do it quickly
    • Have an RSS for comments as well the post and have it next to the submit button
  • Take search seriously
    • Alexa rankings will tell you what percentage of your traffic is from search
    • Mine is low – less than 10%.  Obviously I could improve that.
  • Great content
    • Write for yourself.  The pros do write great magazine pieces.  Write normally and develop your own style.
    • Alexa rankings also tell you the bounce rates, the number of pages each visitor reads and the time spent on site.  I have a very low bounce rate (below 25%), high number of pages (above 5) and high time on site (more than 5 minutes).
    • Google Analytics also gives these numbers.  I use which doesn’t allow a link to Google Analytics
  • Get recommendations
    • Your real goal on the internet is to get people to recommend you.
    • Visiting your site is a recommendation.
    • Commenting on your site is a recommendation.
    • Commenting on other people’s sites is a recommendation (even though it is made by you!)
    • Also Stumble your post and use tags from their basic list of categories.  You will get 50-100 hits from your own recommendation.  Among those visitors some will give a thumbs up.  Your traffic and your chances of another thumbs up goes up exponentially with each thumbs up.

My Results for 2009

I started well in 2009 driving up my traffic upwards each month to 5 000 hits a month which was my modest goal.  Then I got busy on other things and my blog suffered.  In September, I got back to blogging and began to blog more than once a day to catch up.  I also started to use Stumbleupon better.

I probably won’t make 60 000 for the year, but better still, I’ve discovered the art of getting 10K a month.  Such is the result of making a big effort. We learn.

And our goals change accordingly.  Ultimately we set goals to give ourselves control.

In what areas of your life are you in more control than you were last year?



Enhanced by Zemanta

Do you live restlessly in the shadow of adrenaline-inducing goals?

This is what I did not know in my 20’s. That I would come to dislike the adrenaline-rush that made me feel so good.

In our twenties, we feel competent

We have smashing time. Suddenly we have a little money. We set ourselves up independently.  We take on responsibility at work.  We feel omnipotent.

We are in, a way. We have more energy than our jobs demand. And we throw ourselves into everything with gusto.

Until one day,

.   .  .  the story changes. We burn out.  We wake up in the morning so tired that the only thing to do is to sit quietly in the sun, if we can find it. We are too tired to read.   We are too wearied to put up with the banality on the TV.

From that day forward, we are wiser, if sadder

We resist the adrenaline-rush.  We put off being totally involved in anything because we know the withdrawal is not worth the excitement and the buzz.

We also become skeptical about what is accomplished while we are ‘high’.  We come to agree with poet, David Whyte. We are not nice people when when we are moving so fast that we trample over people who are moving slowly.

But we are also restless

When we are undecided, when we are still on the plains of ‘wish‘ and are still to cross the famed Rubicon river to the land of ‘intent‘, we feel restless and doubt we are achieving anything at all.

But does our restlessness have good cause?

I am not sure if anything gets done or nothing gets done when we resist the urge to become charged-up and driven. To my knowledge, no one has every compared our output in the two states.

Goal setting research has shown a more limited result. When our attention is focused solely on one goal, the goal is achieved.  Hardly surprising, is it?

We should be worried about more

The bigger question is what happens to other goals when we are focused on only one of the many things that are important to us.  What happens to everything else – including our health and the health of people around us?

In our thirties, we begin to get an inkling .   .  .

.  .  .  that we should pick our adrenaline-rush carefully.

How old do we have to be before we learn to balance our lives?

Do we ever learn the art of achieving balance?

Is it true that we achieve less when are lives are balanced?  Or is just that we feel cold in the shadow of a helter-skelter adrenaline-fueled chase of a goal?

Who is able to resist starting towards an overarching goal that destroys all else?  Who is able to go further and to dismiss such goals altogether and stop them casting a shadow over a life where all our different parts have equal call?


The productivity of procrastination. Yes!

In the good company of entrepreneurs

Are you one of the 14% of UK’s working population who works for yourself.  I am!

And if you are, like me and so many others in UK and everywhere where solopreneurs and the Free Agent Nation are booming, you are probably obsessed with productivity and getting things done.

You also probably beat yourself up for procrastinating. And you feel really bad on days when you just cannot get yourself going?

Is that you? Well, you are in good company. We all feel the same way.

To stay sane, this is what you need to know about procrastination and productivity

1 Keep your to do list simple

2 Accept that some days you need to chill out

3 And for the surprise – procrastination may be a sign of experience

I am not going to write on keeping your to do list simple. Lot’s of people have done that. I also won’t write on chilling out. I’ll do that another day.

Let me stick to the surprise that procrastination is wise

. . . and remind you about Caesar as he sat with his army on the wrong side of the River Rubicon. He knew that once he crossed the Rubicon, he would be declaring war on the city of Rome. And battle would commence.

You are like Caesar waiting to invade Rome

Some times, when we are resisting getting down to work, we are in the same position as Caesar on the edge of the Rubi con. We know that once we cross, there is no going back. We will be causing less strife, but once we get started, we will accomplish this task no matter what.

As Caesar undertook a long march and bloody battles before he triumphed, so will we. We know we face long hours, physical fatigue, frustrations, disappointments, conflict and anger.

We know about the power of goals. Once we get going, we move inexorably toward them. We don’t get care what gets in our path. We trample over it all in our determination to win our prize.

With age comes wisdom

When we are twenty-something, we are very good at crossing the Rubicon because at that fresh age, we don’t really understand the damage we do as we stampede everyone in our way.

When we are older, we resist.  We know that the victory is not always worth the battle.  We know we emerge the other side as a different person. And there is no going back.   At the very least, we want to linger and enjoy the desultory delights of just being with people before battle commences and carnage ensues.

But we do get moving eventually

But we do get moving when battle calls.  We know, rather sadly, that we enjoy the battle even though it has consequences.   We will even make new friends, because undoubtedly once we set forth with a clear mission, the universe does conspire to help us.

Get you things. Dreams mean work.

So we dilly-dally for a while. Half-treasuring the present. Half-summoning up the psychological resources. Is that so unwise?

We will be leaving soon and we must say good-bye properly so we can so hello to a new dawn.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Celebrating my supporters

It’s barely daylight

Today, my mobile phone woke me rudely “It is time to get up: it is 5.30”.  Groan.  Another commute.  Another day.

But I didn’t get up.  I’ve stopped doing that.

I don’t want to stagger through life making someone else’s dreams come true.  I want to make my own dreams come true!

Ah, dreams  . .

Is it possible?  For dreams to be not dreams?

Perhaps not in the blink of an eye.  And certainly not if I panic when I look at the gap between where I am now and where I want to be.

But I can ask myself this question:

Who would like to support me in my quest?  Who would take the greatest of pleasure in helping me along the way?

I smile.  And I hope you do too!