by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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We all know the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Curious little Goldilocks stumbles upon an open house in the middle of the woods and proceeds to eat the bear family’s porridge, sit in their chairs, and sleep in their beds. Each time she comes across a new item in the house, she tries out all three options, one set for the little bear, one for the mid-sized bear, and one for the big bear. Each time, two of the options are not satisfactory – the porridge of the big bear is too hot, the porridge of the middle bear is too cold, but the porridge of the little bear is just right. While we are familiar with this fairy tale and have heard it plenty of times, I wonder how many of us have thought about how this tale relates to our goal setting processes.
When we set goals for our professional or personal lives, there is a process we go through in figuring out which goal to put in front of ourselves. Sometimes we choose a goal that is way beyond the possibility of achieving. While many refer to these as long term goals, they are in reality more like dreams. Using an example that so many of us are familiar with, if a person wants to lose weight, be healthier, and get in better shape, setting a goal of losing 100 pounds in the next few months is a long shot. Yes, is it possible to achieve a long-term goal, but how much work is it going to take and how many smaller goals will be needed to set up and achieve in order to get there? These types of goals are similar to the big bear’s too hot porridge; they are simply too much for us to handle at this point and it will leave us feeling dejected when we don’t hit that huge goal for a long time. This can often send us off the path as we become frustrated and eventually give up when we don’t achieve the goal. Similar to Goldilocks, we should leave this bowl of porridge, the dream, off to the side and go after different goals. I am not saying give up completely on the long term goal or dream, but instead keep it in mind and develop a set of more manageable goals that can help you take one step at a time to achieve the dream.
In a similar fashion, many of us set easy-to-accomplish goals that do not push our growth. These small goals are often more like ‘to-do-lists’ and do little to help us get to the long term goal. We often will write these out on our whiteboards or cell phones and then check them off as we accomplish them. For example, if we want to get healthier and lose weight, setting a goal of working out today will help us for one day, but leaves us without a goal for the next day. We may be able to celebrate the single day of working out, but we need a succession of winning days like that one to move towards a true goal. Similar to the middle-sized bear’s porridge that is too cold, these types of short-term goals/to-do-lists, while they help us to feel accomplished, are simply too easy to count as goals. Just as Goldilocks did with the too cold bowl of porridge, we should leave these small term goals off of our goal list and instead recognize them as aspects of achieving true goals.
In each of the situations Goldilocks faces, she ends up choosing the little bear’s porridge, chair, and bed because they taste, feel, or fit just right. When we are setting goals, we should be focused on setting goals that fit just right, with the ability to push us to grow, and yet achievable over time. There is a place for dreams and to-do-lists in all of our lives, but setting goals that fit just right will have the greatest impact on our success and growth. In the example used regarding in getting healthier and losing weight, setting goals such as to work out 5 days per week, to lose 2 lbs per week, or to limit soda intake to just one per day will fit just right. They will balance the difficult push that we need with the ability to achieve. Then as we achieve those goals and get in better shape, we will be able to extend our goals to greater difficulty and we inch every closer to our dream. This Goldilocks process can be used for our goals in any aspect of our life, not just our health, but in our personal and professional lives. So as we move closer to the season of goal setting, take a few minutes to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and then examine your goals to see if they are a bowl of porridge that is too hot, too cold, or just right. And then sit down with that bowl that is just right and feed off of the growth and success you will achieve!