3 Principles To Harmonize Your Work And Personal Goals In 2014

I've come to think balance is probably a mythical and aspirational state of being, invented right around the time that it became normal for both parents in a family to have careers.
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My family and I have just finished our goal-planning session for 2014, or Mega-Awesomecast 2014 as it has come to be known. Since we have done this for two years in a row now, I guess it is safe to say it has become an annual thing and is making its way toward tradition. The reason we did it today is simple: it worked wonders in our life last year and we achieved a ton of cool things, individually and as a family.

As with any working couple however, my wife and I are very conscientious goal setters: we both love what we do and want to create awesome work in 2014, but we also want to make sure we keep the other parts of our lives healthy too. Here are some principles that presented themselves along the way which I hope will help you put together your very own Mega-Awesomecast 2014, or whatever you may choose to call it.

Balance Is A Bust

What is a balanced life? I've come to think balance is probably a mythical and aspirational state of being, invented right around the time that it became normal for both parents in a family to have careers. I expect this applies equally to all career-minded folks, whether they have children or not because it is a simple law of nature that whatever we get in life comes at the expense of something else. And so, we seek a compromise: harmony.

Work, family, hobbies, socializing and friends, staying healthy: these are all noble and important demands on our time. Letting go of the idea that they could ever all be in perfect balance is incredibly liberating. Think of your life as a piece of music and all of these priorities as notes in a chord being played by an orchestra (you). Is the volume of the notes being played on a piccolo likely to be in balance with the notes being played on a trumpet? In a beautiful piece of music, the goal is harmony and so too it goes with life's priorities. Each note is bound to be a bit louder than the others from time to time and so the goal becomes making sure that they still sound good together.

Goals vs. Systems

In 2013 I read a couple of very persuasive articles about goals vs. systems, most recently and notably this piece. The idea is that we should do away with goal-setting and focus on creating success systems in our lives. For example, the article says,

"...If you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results? I think you would."

One compelling reason the author gives for abandoning goal-setting is that having goals can reduce our current happiness by making us feel as though we are fundamentally lacking or incomplete right now. That's a toughie for sure: systems are incredibly important to achieving what you want in life, especially in business, but the fact remains that goals are still going to be how we drive and measure progress in work and in our lives and therefore goals are what drives the creation of and ongoing necessity for all systems.

So I propose a truce: be aware of the importance of having systems that make you produce more of what you need in your work and life. In fact, if you have trouble achieving what you want and what you need, perhaps it's time to stick the goals on time out until you have found a system that works for you. The system then serves as a way to make sure your life and career unfold in the ways you want them to by helping you to achieve your goals.

Start With Why

Our 7-year-old son was really heavy on the material goals this year. I mean, aspiring rapper-heavy. He wants to buy a snowmobile, an ATV, to live in a mansion with a glass floor and to be rich. There is no way we are going to refuse to document anyone's dreams during one of these planning sessions, and so as he sets off to attempt to bring these things into his life this year, we issued a challenge: why do you want these things?

Taking the time to understand your personal values and the values of your organization is a crucial step to answering some of life's big "whys" as they come along. For example, wanting to be in great shape so that you can be a fitness model is a very different why than wanting to be in great shape to serve as an example for your children. Likewise, wanting to meet your sales goals in order to buy a boat is a very different business driver from wanting to meet your sales goals because you are excited that your product can make a positive difference in the lives of your customers.

Your methods and results will vary a great deal based on your why, so always take the time to get to the root of this important question.

Standard Considerations For Planning A Great Year:

  • How are you helping your organization (and yourself) stay healthy?
  • What are the tools you need?
  • Do you know where your gaps are?

Recommended Reading For A Great Year

  • Start With Why, Simon Sinek

  • The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey
  • How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen
  • The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen
  • If you have any tested and true tips for having a great year, please leave them in the comments section below. Also, if you have any suggestions for helping my 7 year old with his mansion-with-a-glass-floor thing, I'm all ears.

    This post originally appeared on the 360incentives blog.