Recently, I had the opportunity to see Angela Duckworth speak in person about grit. According to Duckworth, grit isn't just about persistence...putting your head down and persevering over the long term. It's also about passion...persisting for the things that matter most to you. I've worked with many athletes who tell me they don't want to quit at something because they're not a quitter; when they make a commitment they see it through. But what if the thing you're not quitting at is not what you should continue to pursue?
This got me thinking about my perspective on goals. My students always laugh at me when I tell them that I'm not a big fan of goal setting. They inevitably can't understand how someone in the field of sport psychology doesn't believe in goals. This isn't what I mean. I love goals and I think that they are very important. However, not only do we often set and use goals in ways that don't best serve us, we also tend to not have complete control over whether or not we achieve our goals (side note: for a great read on goals and how to use them for success check out Heidi Grant Halvorson's book Succeed).
Goals are important; they help us know what we are trying to achieve and what direction to head in. Goal plans are even more important because they create a path of action steps to move us in the direction of our goals. But in my years of work with individuals and groups, I haven't met too many coaches, athletes, exercisers, performers, or teams who don't know what they are trying to achieve. What they haven't thought about or are less clear on is why they want to achieve those goals. And they often haven't thought about who they are or who they want to become throughout the process or as a result of their goals.
In Simon Sinek's well-known book, Start With Why, he talks about the importance of starting with identifying purpose before thinking about what you want to accomplish and how you are going to do it. I would take this one step further and say that we have to think about both purpose (what's most important to us) and identity (who we are or want to be) before we can think about what we want (goals) and how we're going to go about trying to accomplish those things (plans, processes).
Here's how to put this idea into action...
1. Brainstorm or review a list of values (ex: hard work, commitment, passion, confidence, quality relationships).
2. Identify from this list your core values, the ones most important to you (I suggest no more than 5 or 6).
3. For each core value, define it and clarify what it means for you (what does this value look like in action? how will you demonstrate to yourself and others that this value defines you?).
4. Check in consistently with your values. Are you aligned with what's most important to you? Are you being or becoming who you said you wanted to be?
There are many things that frustrate us, but two that really drive us crazy include: 1. incongruence = when we feel like we aren't or can't be who we think we are or want to be, and 2. feeling out of control = it's easy for us to focus on all the things we don't have control over which serves to just keep us stuck right where we are. So regardless of whether or not you are currently achieving your goals, if you focus on being aligned with your values, it will help you continue to be gritty in your pursuit of the goals that are most important to you.
"Clarify your purpose. What is the why behind everything you do? When we know this in life...it is very empowering and the path is clear." - Jack Canfield