…goals shift and change as their values and beliefs emerge in the coaching sessions. That’s normal and healthy. It’s not ‘giving up’ or ‘quitting’ or anything like that, it’s just making adjustments to your course as your journey progresses.

I’m a bit broken right now. I strained my ankle a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t been able to run or do Crossfit WODs (Workout Of the Day) with it as is. It’s swollen and immobilized enough that I can’t even squat fully right now. I’ve had to scale back my walks, carry less stuff and use a pushchair to get my daughter about. I am not loving it.

But what to do?

Goals are an interesting tool. They’re there to challenge, focus and help us keep to a decided course designed to make things better, and they do a really good job of that. Brian Tracy’s right, goal-oriented people just get more done, and do better at the game of life.

When my clients are learning to set goals (Yes, not everyone sets goals yet and it’s not as easy as all that!), their goals shift and change as their values and beliefs emerge in the coaching sessions. That’s normal and healthy. It’s not ‘giving up’ or ‘quitting’ or anything like that, it’s just making adjustments to your course as your journey progresses.

Navigation is a good metaphor for working with goals. Navigation relies on adjustments made depending on weather, currents and myriad other things you can’t know about at the outset of your journey. The same is true of air travel and probably of land travel, though I don’t know of anyone who’s looked at that. So, without making constant adjustments, you simply wouldn’t be able to travel. Navigation works like that, and the metaphor extends right into the constantly changing landscape of life. The thing is, sometimes, even though a goal was right for you, you may get to a place where it isn’t any longer.

If you keep on keeping on with an inappropriate goal, just like a ship in the navigation metaphor, you’ll founder. Things will happen that you don’t want to happen. Some difficulties may be made worse. You will not be ‘winning’ because your persistence overrode your ability to reflect and listen.

When a goal becomes inappropriate, even if it’s only temporarily, you need to swap it up. It doesn’t mean your previously held goals were wrong or misguided; things were different when you set them. They were the right goals for you at that point in time, and chances are, the overall goal(s) still holds merit, if only for the feedback you’ve gained by holding it in your mind and heart for the time you did.

So what does swapping it up look like?

Well, I’m not making progress in my Olympic lifting because I can’t squat. I’m losing fitness because I can’t run or do WODs. I tried going out on the bike, but that doesn’t seem to work either. I’m not getting fatter or anything, because I don’t rely on exercise to ‘burn calories’, but I’m just not loving how limited I am right now. I had been making such good progress; I’d hit 60 kilos on my snatch! That’s now in jeopardy.

So what should I do?

If I look carefully at the long-term goals that I hold, they’re based on my values and evolving beliefs about myself and the world. The long term goal that Oly lifting, running and WODs fit into is really my value for security. Bizarre, I know. For most people they would fit more into ‘being attractive’, winning, ambition or something like that.

What I’ve worked out, is that for me, I’ve got to nest my goals in terms of being safe and secure. Odd for a guy who free dives, hikes up mountains and throws himself into foreign cultures to sink or swim, I know, you’d think adventure would have trumped ‘security’. But all of that fits into me being the best I can be, for myself and my family. My health and fitness goals are designed to make me as safe and secure as possible.

So, I’m aiming to get as strong as possible, as robust as possible, as healthy as possible, which means my goals don’t NEED to be Oly lifting, running or WOD related. They’re great when I’m able to do them, but with a sprained ankle, I need another focus. This isn’t failure: it’s feedback. I’ll have to adjust my course accordingly, work on my upper body strength and skills for now. Hmm… Gymnastics rings?

All goal-oriented people face these situations. Leaders in particular will encounter the need for adjustments; so being aware that all course adjustments are not necessarily flaky, and may in fact be incredibly helpful is pretty useful.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you need to adjust course:

  1. Stay calm.  There’s nothing to be gained in freaking out or indulging in catastrophy thinking.  The world is not going to end because the wording of your goals needs to change.  The most important thing about goal setting is that you become a goal-oriented person.  A goal-oriented person is constantly thinking about the future in terms of goals.
  2. Think about (your) values.  The wording of your goal might need to change, but have your values?  Do you know what value(s) your goal worked for?  What are some other things that might suit that value that look like your original goal?
  3. Reset a new goal.  Remember, it’s got to be SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.
  4. Play the NLP game of imagining the future.  I first encountered this technique when I did Tony Robbins’ Personal Power (2?).  In the technique, you go forward into the future 5 years (or whatever timeline suits) and envision, really experience being there, with the goal as you had it originally, having been pushed through.  You may not like it… So try it again with your adjusted goal.  How does it suit?  Remember, you really need to BE there, sights, sounds, smells, feelings, thoughts, relationships, what are people saying? Etc.  The higher the fidelity of your vision, the more powerful your motivation will be to fulfil the new goal.

What goals have you had to adjust because of changed circumstances?  How do you think about your changes?  Leave a comment and let us know!