Business leaders are no strangers to setting goals. But the complexities of 2020 have had such an impact on our mind and energy levels that we need to rethink how we go about setting goals and in what parts of our lives we set them.
Keynote Speaker and Clinical Psychiatrist Dr Tharaka Gunarathne (or Dr T) has always believed that “when we’re stronger at home, we’re stronger at work – and vice versa.” But when the lines between the two are blurred, it’s even more important to ensure you set the right goals – in your personal life as well as your professional one.
“Rather than just focusing on our company’s bottom line, we need to ask ourselves whether there are any other goals we can set to keep us strong, and ultimately affect how we do business.”
Dr Tharaka calls the management of both these worlds personal-professional life symbiosis.
“The bottom line is, your work and personal life are interconnected,” Dr T says. “When you’re stronger in one, you’re stronger in the other. They live off each other – if you kill one, you kill the other.
“When you manage symbiosis well and get the balance right, research shows you’re not only more energetic, but that you also do better financially and socially.”
Achieving your goals starts with the right mindset
“You can be a source of good news for your customers and clients this year,” Dr T says. “You can break records this year. You can grow your team.”
But achieving those goals requires the right mindset – one that might be difficult to maintain given the uncertain climate we’ve been living through.
“The current climate means we now have a psychological enemy to steward on top of all our usual responsibilities,” he explains. “When you’re surrounded by threat and crises, it puts our brains in firefighting mode.“
To help change a potentially negative perspective, Dr T recommends a simple exercise called “what went well”. It pinpoints a specific achievement or positive outcome in your life in order to draw attention to your victories.
“Shifting the focus towards positive achievements allows our brains to work in a more proactive way. Don’t let the bad news stop you from creating good news.”
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How to ensure your goals are the right ones
“Goals in themselves are fun, they’re exciting. They switch on the mesolimbic circuit in our brain, which means when we attain goals we feel good. We get the dopamine hit.
“But there’s nothing more frustrating than climbing to the top of the ladder and realising it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”
So how do we set the right goals? Dr T’s ‘Pyramid of Purpose’ creates a strong foundation for your goals and helps you actually achieve them.
“Before setting goals you want to set a clear foundation,” says Dr T. “Setting your goals based on a sense of purpose means that you’re setting goals that matter to you.”
Leaders need to ensure they set goals based on the knowledge of who they are and what their business stands for. When we understand a thing or two about our purpose, Dr T says, it gives us confidence that the goals we set are actually funnelling towards your big picture.
Dr T believes we also need to build our goals on the things we deeply care about.
“Values are what you care about – things you’re not going to compromise on. They’re non-negotiables. Now this could be integrity, innovation, teamwork or compassion.”
Now it’s time to actually decide on your current goals. The foundation built by the two points above sets us up to set relevant goals that we truly care about achieving.
After we set goals we need systems in place to ensure they happen.
“Habits actually create neurological roads in your brain,” Dr T explains. “There’s a part of your brain called the striatum which lives in the basal ganglia of your brain. The striatum is what we would recognise as the habit centre. Habits have a physical microscopic appearance deeply buried in the core area of your brain.
“This explains why it’s hard to change your habits – because you have thoughts being carried up and down these roads. You have to use your conscious focus to suppress what’s natural to you and to try and take on something new.
“Goal setting alone is not enough, you need the right habits and systems in place to get there.”
Finally, after you feel you’ve achieved our goals, Dr T recommends actively going back and reviewing how far you’ve come and what you want to do next.
“High-performance leaders absolutely understand this,” Dr T notes. “I’m not teaching you anything new. But the great news is that you can transplant that talent that you have in business to the rest of your life to create a balance that helps you operate to your full potential.”
Setting goals in both your personal and professional life
Taking a step back from your business and ensuring the rest of your life is balanced is a great way to boost positivity and reduce stress.
“Things like sleep, water intake, activity, nutrition and managing your spirituality are all very important”, Dr T says. “The latter is different for different people. It can mean being still or at peace, yoga, meditation – whatever helps you manage your sense of self.”
Keeping up with hobbies can help business leaders maintain a sense of control during times of uncertainty.
“Currently, it’s the world that dictates what we can and can’t do. Perhaps you can't quite plan for your business like you could before. This has an impact on energy and joy and your sense of engagement. But a nice easy way to jumpstart your motivation is to work on areas of your life that you can improve and grow.”
All Dr T’s advice will help leaders “put their oxygen mask on first,” says Dr T. Serving themselves will help them provide a better service to their clients and customers, but also their families – creating the balance both at home and at work that everyone, not just leaders, requires.
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Image: By DedMityay Via Adobestock