Working on Other People’s Goals

Today’s post is from SOS Leadership’s Chairman and CEO, Bill Moyer

At SOS Leadership, we share this message regularly with clients: “You are always working on goals. It’s your choice whether they are your goals or someone else’s.”

When we don’t have our own clearly defined goals, we get sucked into helping others achieve their goals. Some of us live in this reality for years. Because we never really know what it is we want from life, we spend our time helping other people get what they want, often wondering when it will be “our turn.” The truth is this: it can be your turn whenever you’re ready. You need to spend the time to clarify your goals and then get to work on achieving them.

When we have clarity and a written plan for our own goals, we choose when and how we help others to achieve their goals. We support other people on our terms in a way that allows us to make progress on our own goals while helping them to achieve theirs.

In my years of coaching and leadership development experience, I’ve found that there are three primary reasons why we pursue other people’s goals and not our own:

1) Fear: We are afraid to fail. Wrapped up in the fear can be serious self-doubt. We aren’t sure we can do it. In some cases, it’s because our conditioning has been such that we’ve been told throughout our lives that we can’t (and won’t) amount to much. Ultimately, we have let other people steal our dreams. We have allowed are past to determine our future.

2) Guilt: Guilt is a brutal emotion. We convince ourselves that our priorities should be elsewhere. I find that guilt is a common reason cited by parents for why they don’t pursue their goals. They tell themselves that they should put their kids’ goals before their own, but what they do instead is abandon their own goals completely and put all of their time and energy into helping their kids achieve. In some cases, their kids are pursuing their own goals, but much of the time the kids are pursuing the parents’ dream, and both the parent and the child think they are doing this to please the other.

This parental guilt can be strong, but I remind parents that their children will learn valuable lessons from watching their behavior. When they see their parents setting and achieving their own goals, they will learn how to do it. If they are being told about the power of goal-setting but see the parent not actively working toward his or her own goals, the kids are getting mixed messages. Ultimately, what speaks louder? Actions or words?

3) Apathy: Perhaps we have reached our comfort zone, and we stay there. We employ an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. Or plain and simple, we just don’t care. Apathy develops for a wide variety of reasons, and it typically leads to either laziness or years of avoidance behavior. We stop making progress, and along the way, we stop believing that we are capable of change.

What are the reasons you’re not pursuing your own goals right now? What are you going to do about it? Today is the day to stop working on the goals of others and start achieving your own. You CAN do it!

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