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From goals to tools: reducing the stress of achieving at any cost

Svetoslava Stoyanova, a career and growth coach smiling
Image credit: Svetoslava Stoyanova
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Svetoslava Stoyanova is a career and growth coach, speaker, and partnerships strategist. Certified professional ICF coach and NLP practitioner, she accompanies business founders and corporate professionals in their unique journey to fulfillment, as well as for-profit and for-impact organizations and teams. She does so through coaching, mentoring and HR consulting on professional development.  

The end of summer is the perfect timing to re-search within yourself what you want to accomplish in the next months, to reflect instead of reacting towards the mountain of work that is waiting for you behind the corner (of August), and to employ intention and purpose in your work planning for the next month or year. 

BEFORE GOALS

Whether consciously or not, every day, we strive to achieve something. Some of us move directly to make our desires reality, others are just meandering and happy to explore. Or just the opposite: blaming ourselves for wasting valuable time. In fact, the pace we give ourselves to clarify our goal is almost half of the success. 

Before we formulate something as a goal, it is just a desire in our head: ‘I want to be more confident, ‘I want my startup to make it to the next level‘, ’I want to take better care of my health’ are not goals. They are not even desires. They are thoughts that cross our minds for a micro-moment under the influence of a situation. For instance, a billboard advertising sportswear or healthy practice, news of the launch of a new venture fund”, etc. For a thought to become a desire, you need to concretize it for yourself. ‘I want to be more confident’ turns from thought to desire when you specify that you wish to be confident when communicating with people who can positively influence your business or career. 

DISTILL THE DESIRE TO A GOAL

Unraveling a desire and what lies behind it can create goals in several ways:

– Behind the request to be more confident could be the realization that to “impress people of power” you need to be able to offer more – that is, you need additional qualifications in your professional presence. And then your goal would be to improve your expertise and acquire specific skills within a certain period of time. 

– Behind the request to be more confident could be the realization that you are an introvert, and it takes a serious effort to have a conversation with a person you have just met, no matter how beneficial it could be for your business or career. Then your goal would be to find out what you value in communicating with others, what is unique that you, although as an introvert, can offer, and build on it a strategy to increase your comfort in communicating with new people;

– Behind your request to be more confident could be even the realization that focused on your business routine, you now weigh 8 kg more than a few years ago and that you tie confidence to appearance and to how you perceive yourself, not only how others see you. In this case, your goal would not be to accept yourself as you are, but rather to address a health problem, overcome resistance, laziness, apathy, and eventually change the way you look.

WHEN WE FORMULATE SOMETHING AS A [FUTURE] GOAL

Once formulated, a goal is more achievable because of its clarity. If you have to hit a ten, it will be much easier when there is a target in front of you. Dividing it into circles 1, 2, 3,… 9, 10 is important: not to get angry when you hit 7 or 5, but to arrange the pictures of what is around and before your goal. With the example above, we can say that in zones:

1-3 resides your desire to be more confident; 

4-6 is the clarity in what situations or which aspect of your life you want to be more confident in and why you need to; 

7-8 is clarifying what this confidence will give you when you develop it, and 

9-10 is the brief moment of joy and celebration of success, after which you must move on.

WHAT GOALS ARE WORTH THE EFFORT?

Achieving our goals is a process of materializing our intentions. There are goals for the sake of goals. Such a goal leads to nowhere and the joy and benefit of what has been achieved are too short-lived to be worth the effort. What are the goals that move us forward? Those connecting us with the better version of ourselves, with the people we want to be. To be connected to ourselves means to be in harmony with ourselves. And we are in harmony with ourselves when our desires and reality coincide. By pairing the two layers – desire and reality, we achieve what we long for. 

Consider it from the perspective of something I call a “journey from goals to tools.”

FROM GOALS TO TOOLS

Our goals yesterday should be our tools today. Our goals today will be our tools or means to achieve new goals tomorrow. You can easily imagine this with the aim to learn a specific technical skill or another language. Chinese for example. These are goals that, once achieved, automatically become tools for you – and a means by which you achieve your further goals – entering a new professional field or the Chinese market with your product. 

This transitional moment is the starting point of the path to ourselves in achieving our desires – when we look at our desire as a bridge, rather than as a ladder. A bridge that leads us to the next important thing we want to accomplish. The benefits of seeing our current goals as future tools are at least two:

– it reduces the stress of achieving goals at any cost; we start to perceive success not as the act of climbing a steep path but as a way forward;

– the perception of achievement as a bridge we cross to move forward is also something that reminds us that joy is not necessarily in the arrival, but most often – in the journey itself.

WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?

So, what do you want to achieve for yourself, for your startup, or your career by the end of this year or within the next one? Is it to close a deal, to shift in your business, is it more free time for you, to think strategically about your business, or is it a new quality of the relationships in your life? Think of the goal you are pursuing as a future tool, as something that will then be a tool for you, and see how it shifts your energy and grit to make it happen. 

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