Friday, 15 June 2012

What is converged vision?

Today I want to shed some light on the theme of my blog, and the direction I want to take my blog, software and life in: converged vision.

Goals often fail to materialise for a number of reasons, among these reasons are:

  • Failure to follow through 
  • Failure to take action 
  • Having so many goals we don't know what direction to go in 
  • Having goals that don't turn us on or have no compelling outcome 
  • Having goals that are unrealistic 
  • Having goals that are too easy to achieve and don't stretch us: we may achieve them, but they don't benefit us as much as they could. 
Now I have an idea which I'm sure is not new or unique about why our goals sometimes fail to become realities: we set goals that are divergent. That is, we set goals that do not support each other which divide our focus and have us running around like chickens without heads. For example, setting a goal to earn £50 000 a year and then setting a goal to buy a new Ferrari in the next year. You may find that the cost of maintaining your new car is half your targeted income. 

When it comes time to set out goals we have to get real and do some research especially when it comes to the cost of our "thing goals". If I want my company to earn £100 000 a year but set a goal to buy a £750 000 house next year, I may well achieve the first goal, but am likely to fail in the second as it is going to be based on my income which I've targeted at £100 000. The bank in very unlikely to give me a mortgage of 7.5 times my annual income. So, how do I resolve these in-congruent goals? I still want a mansion, but am not earning enough!
Simple really: your goals have to be convergent. You have to have a converged vision of your outcomes that are supported by all your goals. All your goals should work in concert to achieve the vision you have. Goals that do not work towards this vision should be discarded, reworded order erred till your vision changes. I'm not a particularly religious guy any-more but I used to be quite a serious Mormon. They have a way of expressing the single-mindedness required of church members: you must press forward steadfastly with an eye single to the glory of god.

Well, I'm not saying you should become a Mormon or have your eye focused purely the glory of god, but what I am saying is that your goals should be designed to be convergent on your vision. Note that I say designed, not randomly brain-stormed. I know many times when you set goals they are a list of things you want to have, do, go to, see or be and they are normally stated almost randomly as you think of them. In fact, a lot of goal-setting books, audio books, seminars and courses will help you think of the things that you want to achieve, have, or do by encouraging you to list a bunch of things that come to your mind, then select the top three from the list and think of ways to achieve them. I think this approach is a mistake as it often results in divergent goals that do not support the vision of the life you want to live and the person you want to be.

I believe that when you have identified the things you want to do, own or be, you should choose the ones that all focus on your vision of who and what you want to be. These goals, and the pursuit of them will shape your life for the next few years, so make sure they a the goals that will support your vision of a life well lived and your general happiness. Design your goals to support each other and your desired outcome. That way you will press forward with an eye single to your desired outcome (or vision), rather than have a bunch of divergent goals that eat your energy and are possibly counter-productive, or at least so in-congruent as to guarantee your failure.

So, looking back at our examples, if I want to earn at least £100 000 and live in £750 000 mansion in the country, I have to have a few very specific goals:

  • Save £300 000 in the next 5 years 
  • Earn £100 000 per year 
  • Buy my house in 5 years 

  •  Earn £200 000 a year and buy my house next year!
Now to figure out how to make that kind of money; but that's a subject for another post.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Goals and risks

I've spent quit a bit of my career as a risk management software developer in the realms of enterprise risk management. You've probably heard a lot about risk management in the news as the financial crisis of the last 5 years was caused mainly by bad risk management and a lack of risk management. In enterprise risk management a lot of time is spent identifying risks and setting up controls on the risks to prevent events and to mitigate the damage of events. Additionally companies spend some time trying to analyse the impact of these risks and the likelihood: time not well spent (in my opinion) unless you have access to the mountains of actuarial data that insurance companies have.

What has this got to do with goals? Well goals are things you want to do, have, be, achieve, see, experience and so on, while risks are things you don't want to have, experience, suffer. Risks are simply anti-goals :) Anti-goals are useful because they tell us what we don't want. How many times have you told yourself "I never want to be like that...", "I never want to go through that...", "I never want to do that...". At the heart of what I call personal risk, is the desire to avoid some outcome. At the heart of risk management is the desire to avoid some event. Risk management would identify controls that can be put in place to avoid or mitigate risks.

When I identify personal risks, I also identify the positive outcome I would rather have. For a few years of my life while my marriage was breaking apart I focused on bad things and bad outcomes and they tended to become real. For about 3 years, a lot of horrible things just happened in my life. I believe that what you focus on becomes real: "As a man thinketh in his heart", so is he (Proverbs 23: 7). This has been my experience, so lately when I think "I don't want to be overweight" (just an example :)) I change my thought to what I want instead: "I want to be healthy, fit and good-looking". That way I can identify steps I can take to achieve the goal rather than just focus on what I don't want. Focusing on what you don't want is like walking backwards with your origin in sight and not being able to see your destination: you never know where you are going in life and probably end up right back where you started, at the place you wanted to avoid.

So personal risks, or anti-goals should be identified, but then overridden with more positive statements about what you want. In fact, emotionally it may be well to keep both your goal and anti-goal in mind as this will help you to strive for your goal while avoiding the risk. Keeping both in mind will help you leverage off your emotions to get what you desire while avoiding what you don't. It's much like asking yourself "how will I feel if I achieve this goal?" and "how will I feel if this risk takes place?" Let those feelings drive you to create a goal that motivates you to succeed.

Goals stated in this way should create a compelling force that will drive you to achieve them, and give you a fantastic reason to celebrate when you do.