When I first started my transition to self-employment 9 months ago, one of the first things I did was to set out quarterly goals. It intuitively felt like the "SMART" thing to do after years of corporate experience working through and being measured against performance goals. I had limited knowledge about running a business then; needless to say, the goals were arbitrarily set. I felt like putting something out there was better than nothing. As a driven and ambitious person, I very quickly started to experience overwhelm and frustration. I wasn't hitting my goals; in fact, I was so far removed from them and it felt like all the resources I was putting in wasn't leading to results. Obviously, goals that were not well thought out were nearly impossible to achieve. Being completely new to running my own business, I underestimated the amount of learning and time it actually takes to set up the foundations, to build an audience and a message; and I did not create buffers for all things unplanned, complex and unpredictable - which are mainstays in today's environment.
It was important to me that I remained committed to this experience and that I enjoyed it everyday so I needed to rethink goal setting completely. I started to focus on intentions as my anchor instead.
What I very quickly realised was that I started to feel lighter and more successful working off intentions, rather than working off goals alone. Don’t get me wrong, I still set my goals and am not less committed to them. But the difference was massive.
For me, intentions have created:
ownership over how I respond to circumstances around me
focus in the moment and the ability to be more present with myself and others
greater alignment between what I do and what I value
more motivation and energy
more options as to how I approached my goals, instead of feeling stuck to a specific process
more flexibility to adapt my plans due to changing circumstances, while still staying true to overall direction
resilience when things don’t go according to plan
more focus on the greater impact I wish to have on others
a deeper connection to my WHY and who I want to BE as a person
Some examples of intentions I've been setting for myself these days:
I will time box tasks related to research and writing to not more than 1 hour per day (this avoids that I spend way too much time in the internet minefield or end up in a perfectionist hamster wheel with my posts)
I will always begin my work day with the most important task that ultimately serves my clients (this ensures less important, administrative tasks are delegated later in the day when my energy also starts to drop)
I will choose and commit to at least 1 activity per week that falls into my "Makes Me Happy" category.
As we hit the mid-year period, we may well be reviewing our personal and professional goals, having performance conversations with our leaders and teams, and experiencing different emotions and thought patterns related to these.
I invite you to take an intentional pause to take stock and think about this from the perspective of intentions instead, and notice if it makes a difference for you.
If you are looking for a place to start, I’ve put together a set of questions that might be of help.