Where do I begin? How to set goals that matter

Over the years I have heard a lot of debate about the best starting point to use when setting  goals. Begin with the ultimate vision? Begin with an analysis of current conditions to identify opportunities? Like a ship’s sail in fickle winds, the prevailing view has shifted one direction, then turned back again.

"Bindu Wave" by artist Paul Heussenstamm, puzzle by Connections

"Bindu Wave" by artist Paul Heussenstamm, puzzle by Connections Puzzles, photo by Margaret Lukens

I thought of this recently as I worked a jigsaw puzzle.

When working the puzzle, I could pick up each piece and compare it to every other piece until I hit a match. But what a laborious, boring, and inefficient process! We work puzzles by looking at the big picture on the box, the ultimate goal, then organizing our small actions to promote that larger goal.

The same is true of our businesses. We perform a “gap analysis”. We address the questions:

  • where do I want to be?
  • where am I now?
  • what do I have to do to cross the gap?

Last week I led a group in learning to use the tools of Get Clients Now, the book by master coach C. J. Hayden. An essential step in the program is to determine how much business you have now, consider how much you really want, and then map out the steps needed to cross that gap.

  • Know where you are.
  • Be clear about where you’d like to be.
  • Identify steps you believe will advance you over the gap.
  • Measure your progress.
  • Adjust your plan based on your findings.

As they say on the shampoo bottle, lather, rinse, repeat.

What’s the picture you’re  aiming for? What pieces do you have to work with? What steps have you taken? What steps would you like to take next? Comment here.

(Note: the puzzle pictured is available at Jigsaw Java, a very nifty puzzle and coffee bar. Owner Mary Albitz welcomes fellow puzzle fanatics as well as the occasional puzzle enthusiast – like me- at her shop in downtown Redwood City, CA. And puzzles are available by mail. This particular puzzle, by Connections Puzzles, is part of a chakra series by artist Paul Heusssenstamm.)


5 comments so far

  1. Mary Albitz on

    Thank you so much for the great words of support. It’s amazing how many analogies can be made in life from jigsaw puzzles. And the puzzle is beautiful!

    Margaret writes: Thanks, Mary, for checking in! Love Jigsaw Java, and I hope to see you soon.

  2. Susan Tiner on

    Thanks for the tip on Jigsaw Java. The process you describe makes sense to me, that is, if you know where you want to be. Sometimes I think I know, but the picture keeps changing.

  3. Janet Barclay on

    One difference is that with a jigsaw puzzle, there’s only one way to put the pieces together, whereas there may be many possible ways to accomplish our goals.

  4. […] Where do I begin? How to set goals that matter, Margaret Lukens reminds us that whether you’re helping an organizing client or building your […]

  5. […] How do we set big goals? Should we start with the “big picture” and work out details, or maybe start with a clear-eyed view of where we are now, then plot the way forward? A jigsaw puzzle suggests the answer. […]

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