Setting inspirational goals

‘Tis the season for goal setting, at least that has always been the case for me this time of year.  In fact, my wife turned to me last night and said “so, what are your goals for 2012?”  Before I share with you my answers, let me share with you my perspective on goal setting.

I’m a big believer in annual goals.  I think they provide a great way for each of us to stay on track and to measure / monitor how we are doing along the way and how we did during the past year.  I’m an even bigger believer in setting “inspirational goals.”  What do I mean by inspirational goals, you may ask?  Let’s go back to last week’s post.  The word “inspiration” is from the Latin “inspiratus” which loosely translates to “breathing in the spirit” (Online Etymology Dictionary).  When we feel inspired it feels like our spirit is fully alive inside of us.  Inspirational goals are the goals that get us to stretch closer to who we are… closer to our spirit.  They are the goals and accomplishments that we dream of but we get too mired in practicality to ever take them on.  If achieved, they are also the goals that can spark inspiration in others.  Think of inspirational goals as tombstone goals – you would want others to remember you and your life by how you took these on. 

Look back on the two posts prior to this one (Have you forgotten who you are?  & What if you had one year left to live?).  With some good answers to those questions in hand, you are ready for some serious goal setting.  One note on goal setting: In addition to the standard stuff that we all know about good goals – specific, measurable, actionable, etc…  I would add a quote from a mentor of mine: “change is hard, what is the easiest way you can make it happen?”  Keep your goals to a minimum, the fewer the better.

Consider the following categories for your “inspirational goals”:

  1. What is one dream that you could start in 2012?  This could be a work related goal (opening a restaurant, becoming a novelist, etc…) or non-work-related (running a marathon, traveling the world, losing 50lbs., learning to paint, etc…).  I remember when I turned down a lucrative consulting job offer to start my own practice, I was feeling nervous and scared, wondering if I should wait until I was ready (did I mention I had a 3 year old and a new born at the time?).  Then I remembered all of the entrepreneurs I had ever heard speak.  Not one of them ever said “I wish I had waited.”  If anything, they lamented that they waited too long.  Things get harder with each passing year… not easier.  Start today.
  2. What is one career stretch goal you could take on in 2012?  Maybe it’s going back to school or going for that promotion.  Or maybe it’s repositioning yourself where you work – rebranding yourself.  Whatever it may be, make it your goal to reinvent yourself next year into the person you want to be at work and in your career.
  3. What is one relationship you want to improve upon in 2012?  Every year I set a goal to improve one relationship in my life.  It could be with a family member or a co-worker.  Up to you who you choose, but I encourage you to only pick one relationship to work on.  Picking only one makes it front and center in your mind and increases your likelihood that you’ll do something with it throughout the year.  An odds are that you’ll have to be the first to make a move in whatever relationship you pick (you’re not gonna pick a rockin’ relationship… it’s likely gonna have some degree of distance or estrangement).  It will require effort, risk and a twinge of fear – a perfect recipe for inspiration!  Trust me, if you take this on, you won’t be disappointed.

Do you have your answers?  Going back to my wife’s question to me last night, here are my answers.  I know you’ve been dying with suspense.  I’m working on that book project I always dreamed of.  I’m going to make a T.V. pilot happen (doesn’t the world need more workplace therapy?  Move over Dr. Phil), and for my relationship goal, well I’ve got one, and would normally be happy to share (drop me an e-mail if you really want to know), but that person may be reading this right now.  In fact, it’s probably you.  Send me an e-mail and I’ll buy you lunch.

Overall, it’s a lot for me to take on.  I get that.  But I know that if I can pull them off, I’d feel good about way the way I lived 2012.  And more importantly, I’d be modeling the life I want my kids to live – A life of courage, risk and inspiration.  After all, isn’t that what we all want for our lives at the end of the day?


What if you had only one year to live?

What if you had only one year to live? I know… what a depressing thought, but hear me out. Let’s just say, solely for argument’s sake, you were told that your days were numbered and you only had a year left. What would you do? Who would you spend time with? What would you change? How would you live your last year?

“O.k. Timeout. What does any of this have to do with inspiration?” you might ask (after all, inspiration is the topic of the month)? Plenty. But before we can go any further, let’s look at the definition of inspiration. Whatever resource you consult, the general definition of inspiration usually looks something like this “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity” (Collins English Dictionary, 10th edition). And while I wouldn’t disagree with that definition, it lacks something. But if you go all the way to the root of the word, you begin to find its true meaning. Turns out, inspiration is from the Latin “inspiratus” which loosely translates to “breathing in the spirit” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Now that’s more like it. When we feel inspired it feels like our spirit is fully alive inside of us. So, what does that have to do with death? My point is simple. If you are feeling uninspired, you need to breathe in the spirit. You need to strip away the unessential and reconnect with who you are and what really matters to you. In that place lies inspiration. What better way to do that than to look death squarely in the eye and know that your days are numbered.  After all, aren’t they?

So, back to my questions… You’ve got one year left to live. How do you intend to live it? Consider the following BIG questions:

1. What have you been putting off? Conversations you need to have? Adventures you’ve always wanted to take? Leaps of faith you couldn’t muster the courage for?

2. What would you want people to say about how you lived your life? Were you courageous? Were you inspiring to others?

3. What will your legacy be? What difference do you want to make with your life over the next year?

Here’s my final question, and frankly it is the most important of all of the questions:

What would your life be like if you lived next year based on your answers to the questions above?

Life’s too short. For a both inspiring and moving example, consider Randy Pausch, the Professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007. His “last lecture” video is a great example of how he answered all of these questions before he died.  Live the next 12 months like this and you’ll not only have a life full of inspiration, you’ll be inspiring countless others along the way.


Have you forgotten who you are?

Have you forgotten who you are? I’m not talking about the forgetfulness that accompanies a long night out or the foggy haze that results from pulling too many sleepless nights in a row. I’m talking about who you “really” are. Who you always wanted to be, intended to be and are meant to be. Tapping back into your core is where inspiration lives. So, how do you get there?

Here are two questions you can ask yourself:

1. If you look into my magic crystal ball and see your perfect life 10 years from now, what do you see?

Notice I didn’t say “perfect job.” I said “perfect life.” Imagine what your perfect life is 10 years from now. What would your family life look like? Where would you be living? What would you be doing? Who would be in your life? Now, pretend I didn’t ask you that question. Instead, pretend I asked you to look one year from now and identify what you see as the perfect outcome for next year. My guess is that instead of answering that second question with answers that are more true to what you really want / need for your life you answered with tactical, practical things – a slight increase in your income, a memorable vacation, a promotion, a new car, new house, etc… Now, look at your two answers side by side. Are they pointing in the same direction? When I do this exercise with clients, the vast majority of the answers are typically pointing in opposite directions. They aspire to one day own a restaurant, but no restaurant work is in the plan for next year.  Instead they talk about wanting a promotion to senior pricing specialist for the tire industry.  No wonder my clients complain they are feeling uninspired. They are living a life counter to where their inspiration lies. Looking far enough down the road frees us from the constraints of “practical” and allows us to tap into what we really want. The next step is then to find practical ways to get there.

2. What did you dream for your life when you were younger?

I’m realistic. People change. Circumstances change. The world changes. However, one of the biggest mistakes I commonly see made is treating one’s youthful dreams as absolutes. Either I can have it or I can’t. Either I can be a world famous novelist or I can’t. Either I can be an Olympic athlete or I can’t. Either I can become a doctor or I can’t. Rather, let your dream for your life morph and change as you do. Identify and capture the essence of your dream. Perhaps you no longer see yourself as a novelist, but blogging about life as a new parent would be inspiring for you and for others. You missed your window to be an Olympian, but getting in shape to run a triathlon could be a challenging goal that you never dreamed possible. Maybe organic chemistry dashed your medical school aspirations, but caring for others in times of need could give you that sense of meaning and purpose you always dreamed of having. So, revisit your youthful dreams for yourself and revise, edit it and mold them to shape the life you have today. In them lies who you are and who you are meant to be.

I leave you with one of my favorite scenes from any movie, Edna’s pep talk from the movie “The Incredibles.” We all need the kind of “pep talk” Edna gives every once and a while (complete with the physical contact).  “Fight… Win!”




“I need some inspiration”

What better way to end a year than with a little inspiration. After all, who doesn’t want to be inspired?  I was working with a client recently who said to me: “I just feel flat. Nothing in work excites me, my personal life is just ‘blah’ and I don’t see anything changing. When I was younger, this was not how I pictured my life turning out.” Can you relate? Have you ever felt as though there was an enormous wet blanket draped over your shoulders, dampening any spark you might have once had? Have you ever felt you were just going through the motions, wondering “what is the point?” …Is this you right now?

This month is about inspiration.  Getting it and keeping it.  Amongst other things, we’ll be tackling the following important questions:

    • Have you forgotten who you are?
    • Why does the world need you more today than ever?
    • What if you had only one year left to live? What would you do?
    • What are you going to start saying “no” to?

We’ll be looking at some of the most inspirational stories I/we have come across to not only help us answer some of these questions, but to give us the spark and courage to make it happen. My hope is that at the end of this month you can say three things about yourself and the life you are building:

    1. You feel “the spark” of inspiration inside of you
    2. You can see the path towards the life you want to live
    3. You are beginning to act in ways that are inspiring to those around you

Inspiration is contagious. This is one “germ” you need to catch, feed and actively spread.

So, are you living a life full of inspiration? Do you want one? Hop on board and let’s get there together.

As a teaser, If you haven’t seen Steve Jobs’ commencment address at Stanford, it’s a must.