Jim Rohn said, “If you go to work on your goals your goals will go to work on you.” Jim is right.
Goals are your very own “dream with a deadline”, said Napoleon Hill. Napoleon is right.
Tony Robbins teaches us that when setting goals, the first step is to turn the invisible into the visible. Tony is right.
Goals are good, in fact very good. However, they are just not enough. You need a context for the goal and the reason (or reasons) to accomplish them. There is a powerful addition you must make to your goals that will provide you with a greater level of focus and intensity. Think of this as a headline and the goal as the bullet point that nests under your master idea.
The one thing better than a goal is a theme. Themes are better than goals because they give your goal a context to exist in, they provide meaning to that context, and a bigger reason to be accomplished.
Themes give your goals a context to exist in. If the goal is a bullet point, then your theme is the headline. One might be bold and the other greyscale. One large font, the other smaller. When you can identify the theme, you can choose what goals need to be accomplished within that theme. The goal lives under the theme. When you can nest your goals in a theme that matters a great deal to you, you can more easily see where accomplishing the goal fits and how it can benefit you. The theme never changes (or rarely changes) but the goals change significantly over time.
Themes give you meaning to make sense of your goals. It’s become ‘normal’ over the last few years and the ‘Big Why‘ message rings true for each and every one of us. When you have a clear life theme, it makes sense that what you want to accomplish is your goal under that theme, that there is greater clarity and more meaning. That which has meaning has its own inherent energy and motivation. Meaning gives you motivation.
Themes give you a reason to accomplish the goals. When you can see the reason to accomplish a goal, when you can see the big picture it accomplishes, and you can see the ongoing and enduring benefits, you are more likely to make it a priority. The pay off is bigger, the benefits are bigger, the number of people who enjoy the accomplishment of the goal is bigger.
By theme I mean, an area of your life you believe that you can and must excel in to make the most significant contribution to the world. They reflect your deepest sense of self and your most profound contribution. They transcend your work yet include your work. In the faith world, these can include what you believe to be your spiritual gifts. In other contexts your “strengths” might be the best description. Both are in addition to the primary responsibilities you have in life yet they include them and build on them.
How can you work out your life themes? Here are five simple questions you can use to help you work out what areas of life are really themes for you. When you can identify your themes, goals begin to fall into place under them. Reflect on these questions:
- What do you believe to be your primary gifts or strengths?
- What are your primary responsibilities?
- Where do you see your most effortless and fruitful contribution to be made?
- What do others tell you, you are good at?
- What would you do for free?
List them and share your responses with some trusted friends. Allow time to marinade and reflect on what you’ve written. Be decisive AND take the necessary time. Getting your life themes in place is a BIG DEAL. Once these are in place an adjective in front of that word gives it a sense of feeling, movement and power. Don’t just stop at being clear on your theme, describe the KIND of theme you WANT to be.
Several years ago I clarified my life themes. They are:
- Husband. I want to be an Irresistible Husband.
- Father. I want to be a Generational Father.
- Leader. I want to be an Influential Leader.
- Son/Friend. I want to be a Loyal Friend.
- Communicator. I want to be a Transformational
- Discipler/Mentor. I want to be an Exponential Discipler and Mentor.
These are mine. They make goals matter. What are yours?
#leadsmall – because when you do, big things can happen.