Down With Goals – Set an Intention-Direction Instead!

This time of year is traditionally a time for setting goals, especially in the business world.  There’s plenty of evidence that people who set goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t set any at all.

And yet this doesn’t account for the numerous people who seem to get where they want to be without setting any goals, like Rosemary Harris, award-winning actress, who said “I’ve only ever paid attention to what was in front of me, making decisions according to the opportunities available and what I would most like doing.”

And Louise L. Hay, who has never set a goal in her life, and laughs when asked about it.  She did something very similar, simply knowing where she was going based on where she was at, at the time of decision-making.

So this year I invite you to set an intention-direction, or ID.

Your ID is the general direction in which you would like to go this year in your business.  It’s an intention because it’s got a focus, and it’s a direction because when you are running a business, you need to keep it pointed down the road you want it to take.  Otherwise it’s only too easy to get lost in numerous cul-de-sacs, dead ends and going round and round roundabouts.

So just what is an intention? Well, I think of it as a focused statement with blurry edges.

That may sound a bit odd, but let’ s compare it to a goal.

A goal is pointed, and you will either reach it or not. If it’ s a goal, according to the SMART mnemonic, it will be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  There is no room for anything other than reaching exactly what you said you would do, or better.  If you don’t attain the goal, you have failed.  No two ways about it.

There’s nothing wrong with goals.  They can be brilliant motivators.  But just as often I see them as demotivators, when you don’t achieve them.  It’s just too easy to fall into self-blame (‘I just didn’t think positively enough, that’ s why it didn’t happen’), or fault-finding (‘If only that other company hadn’t pinched those clients, I would have been much better off), or shame (‘I feel really embarrassed; I said I was going to make that goal, and I’ m still miles away from it. How could I do that?’).

An intention, combined with a direction, gives a general path down which to go.

For example, this year my intention is to provide as many people as possible with opportunities to become more at ease with the idea of death as a natural part of life. My direction is to offer my Before I Go workbook for sale, and also several courses based on that workbook to individuals, groups and organisations.

There’s no deadline, no numbers, no specifics. Goal enthusiasts will throw their hands over their heads here!

With goals there are often measurable steps to be taken, so you can see how you are progressing.  With intentions, yes, you check in from time to time to see how you are doing, but you also

allow space for movement and change.

This means that events that have occurred which might affect your intention get an airing; you are able to adapt your intention to fit in with these without feeling guilty that you are changing your goal, instead of achieving it; and perhaps most importantly, there is space and time for miracles and magic to show up.  With a tightly focused goal, there is little space for this.

So this year, have a think about how having an ID (intention-direction) might benefit your business. Ask yourself the following:

  • What intentions do I have for my business this year?
  • Where do I want my business to be going this year? (Your direction)
  • What is the aspect of it I am most passionate about and would like to be doing more?
  • How willing am I to show up in each situation, trusting that I will be guided to the next best step for me? (measure this on a scale of 1-10; if if your answer is less than 8, then recheck whether you really are doing something you are passionate about!)

If you want help with any of this, then take the opportunity of a free Spirit in Business Strategy Session, by completing this form here.


Intend or Plan – what’s the best?

I spent last weekend in a glorious renovated Victorian hunting lodge way up in the uppermost part of Scotland, amongst the heather, lochs and the deer, celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday party. It was a time full of conversation, walking, fine food and wine, and simple, ordinary pleasure.  Here’s a pic:

Tim Slack Appreciating People croppedThe man I’m sitting next to is Tim Slack of Appreciating People . He told me about the idea of Commander’s Intent, a military term used to describe what a successful mission looks like, and it’s not about having a plan and sticking to it.  It’s about having an intention.

Commander’s Intent fully recognizes the chaos, lack of a complete information picture, changes in enemy situation, and other relevant factors that may make a plan either completely or partially obsolete when it is executed. The role of Commander’s Intent is to empower subordinates and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changed battlefield environment. Commander’s Intent empowers initiative, improvisation, and adaptation by providing guidance of what a successful conclusion looks like. Commander’s Intent is vital in chaotic, demanding, and dynamic environments.

If we transpose the word ‘successful leader’ instead of commander’s intent, it reads

A successful leader fully recognizes the chaos, lack of a complete information picture, changes in situation, and other relevant factors that may make a plan either completely or partially obsolete when it is executed. The role of a successful leader is to empower others and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changed environment. A successful leader empowers initiative, improvisation, and adaptation by providing guidance of what a successful conclusion looks like. A successful leader is vital in chaotic, demanding, and dynamic environments.

You may not recognize yourself as a leader, especially if you are not employing others in your business. But you are – you are the leader of your own organization, even if it is just yourself you are leading. Remember Louise L. Hay, founder of Hay House Publishing, who was 88 just the other day.  She began by self-publishing her ‘Little Blue Book’ way back in the early seventies and running her first workshop for a handful of people in her living room.  She started leading herself, and slowly and steadily, step by step, employed others to help her get her message out to many more people.

So do you have an intention for your business, or do you have a plan?  Perhaps you have neither, of course. The only challenge with neither is that it is very easy to get distracted with tempting opportunities that may lead to you never completing anything, not following up with someone, or ending up wandering around with no sense of accomplishment or purpose. Not that that is bad, of course, but it may be somewhat dissatisfying.

But a plan according to Appreciating People is at the other end of the spectrum, and  too limiting. However, an intention allows for flexibility, clarity of purpose and simplicity.

Which falls in line with the blog post I wrote a while back about ID’s (intention-directions)

Finally, remember Eisenhower’s quote: ‘Plans are nothing, planning is everything’.

So I ask you today – what is your intention for your business over the next three years?  Remember, keep it simple, clear and flexible.

If you can say it one sentence all the better – it can always be padded out. Mine is to enable many more thousands of people to tap into their own Wild Wisdom and use it to affect their businesses and the lives of others in a positive manner – I have various ways I’m currently operating to do that, but in essence that is it.  What’s yours?

How to Stay Focused in 2013 (An Exercise)

Time to get out your pen & paper!  Take a few minutes to write your answers to the following questions and see what insight you gain.  Once you’ve written your motto (#8), post it, and any other answers you want to keep in your focus, somewhere where you’ll see it everyday.

1.  Write 5 achievements Continue reading

What’s the Point of Plans?

It takes a lot of courage to not have plans in your life and business. The traditional way of doing business is most definitely to have a plan, in fact it’s even called that, a business plan.  It sets out your intentions with your business, where you want to go with it, and how you think you will get there.  If you need funding to help you get started, or take your business to the next level you will almost definitely need this kind of plan. That’s understandable, as someone offering funding most likely will want to know what you ‘plan’ to do with it.

The thing about plans though is that they often don’t happen as planned! Continue reading