Emergent Wisdom

Thoughtful Observations from Business and LIfe

Goal-Finding questions

Most goal-setting systems presume you already know broadly speaking what your goals are, or that professionally and personally at least, you already have a pretty good idea what they are. That’s not always the case – sometimes we are completely on the wrong track and we haven’t realised it, or else we just aren’t sure really what we want to achieve. As your goals determine your whole direction, it makes sense to take extra care to make sure you have ones that really motivate and will fulfil you.

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Here are some questions I originally developed for a workshop on a more left-brain / unconscious mind approach to help you find out what goals you want to achieve. ie, not based on intellectual stuff, but more taking a peek into your soul.

For these kind of questions, it nearly always works best to nominate someone else to ask them of you so you can just deal with the answers while they make notes and push you if they think you aren't delving deep enough on a particular question. It needs to be someone who supports you totally and wants the best for you. I suggest you specifically allocate time for it and designate it as a proper goal-finding session so that your friend is aware of the role required of them in advance. After all, working out which direction you may be going in for the rest of your life is quite important, so worth putting some effort into it to make it work well.

These questions are not necessarily easy to answer. They’re not meant to be easy, they’re intended to help you change the direction of your life if it needs changing, and that is inherently likely to have a degree of discomfort about it. I’d spent up to an hour going through it with your friend or friends, on an occasional basis. Eg, yearly.

Note that the questions start off uncomfortable, but they become more comfortable as they go on. You can [rokdownload menuitem="56" downloaditem="2" direct_download="false"]download a PDF file [/rokdownload]with all the questions in.

1) Is your life going to be an example or a warning? Bearing in mind the opportunities and possibilities you have had, on your current trajectory, taking into account your feelings inside, is your life going to be more of a warning of what happens if you don’t get things right, or an example of what happens when you do?

2) If you read now what your obituary is likely to be at the end of your life, would you be happy with that? What would you want as your obituary instead?

3) Just imagine for a moment you are a very old person, still with all your marbles but not much mobility or strength, and while sitting somewhere with a pleasant and familiar view in a rocking chair you look back over your life. What do you regret not having done years ago when you had the chance to make a different decision at an earlier age?

4) If you had only six months to live with the same financial resources as you have now, what would you regret not having done at the age you are already? How would you spend that six months? And if you would do those things differently, or do different things, why aren't you doing them now?

5) If a genie granted you three wishes, and you took the first wish to look five years ahead on your current trajectory, what would you be doing in reality? How would your life be? Is it that how you want things to be? If you took your second wish to look ten years ahead – What would you be doing based on your current trajectory? And how would you feel about that. If you used the third wish to ask the genie to tell you how you had to change about what you believe, what you aim for, and what you do, what would the genie say? You might also ask the genie to tell you what needs to change about your environment, the people around you, and how to use your time more effectively?

6) If a genie granted your request for one skill or ability that you don’t have, what would you choose? In that case, are you absolutely certain you don’t have the capacity for that skill already, or have you just failed to give yourself an opportunity to express it?

7) Is there something you've always wanted to do, but have been afraid to attempt? Where could you go to help you either overcome the fear, if it’s just you?  Or where could you learn how to do it or go to do it in a much lower-risk manner, if it really is something genuinely potentially dangerous?

8) Is there something you’ve been meaning to get round to doing for ages, but the problems of everyday life have repeatedly distracted you and you’ve never quite got round to it? How would you feel if you never got round to it? How close are you to it being too late to start to stand a realistic chance of ever succeeding?

9) If you won enough money to retire now in comfort, what would you do differently? And if you would do things differently, why aren't you doing them anyway? Among the happiest people seem to be those who have won millions but don't really change what they do because they are already doing what they love.

10) In which area of your life do you persist and succeed, regardless of obstacles that would stop many others? Is there something that you push other things out of the way in order to do?

11) What interest do you always manage to find time or money to spend on it, no matter what?

12) What do you pay to be able to do, or would pay if you could afford it or got round to it? If you’re that passionate about it, do you have some expertise around it that you could turn to your advantage?

13) What are you really passionate about?

14) If you have someone you really look up to, whose advice you feel you could trust, and they were to give you some advice, what would it be? If you were to step in their body with all their understandings, beliefs and attitudes, and to watch you for a day through their eyes, what would you spot through their eyes that was different to your own understandings, beliefs and attitudes?

15) What would you do if you knew in advance that you could not fail and were guaranteed to succeed?

16) What is your purpose or mission?

17) What would you like to contribute to that you know could not be fully achieved within your lifetime, but for which you would like to have carried the torch at least part of the way? ie, that you use to navigate by like the North Star, some goal that you could never reach it but you could use as a guide in your lifetime and would make it easier for subsequent generations to achieve.

18) What legacy would you like to leave behind for others? If you wanted to make a difference 100 years after you were gone, what would you do now?

19) Is there some time when you absolutely loved what you were doing? – something that you couldn’t help smiling about when you were doing it, or when you think about it?

20) What gives you energy?

21) What task or activity gives you the greatest feelings of satisfaction and pride after you’ve done it?

22) Imagine feelings of deep fulfilment. You may perhaps just get the feelings first, before any image or sounds appear. Just focus your attention on imagining or remembering if you can, a feeling of deep fulfilment. When you have that feeling, what images or sounds begin to form. What are the circumstances in which you feel deep fulfilment?

23) Is there some subject on which people tend to ask you for advice or assistance?

24) Is there something you find easy, and you cannot understand why it isn’t obvious to others? Is there something that you is easy for you and you’re baffled why others either struggle to grasp it when it’s explained or just can’t seem to do it as well as you?

25) Is there anything you do about which people say you should be professional? Or something that you enjoy doing that others regard as work?

26) Is there something about which you just know that the mainstream ‘experts’ are wrong on this? Would others benefit from being made aware of this?

27) Is there something about which you seem to have acquired an encyclopaedic level of knowledge or exceptional ability without really trying?

28) Ask ten people who know you, from a variety of different contexts, what you are better at than most people. Explain to the people you ask why you are asking and ask them in this sort of way: “If there was something that in your opinion I am better at than most people or even exceptionally good at, what do you think it would be?”. What you may find is that a pattern emerges from the answers you get that you may not have been expecting.

The answers to some of these questions may be hard to come up with immediately. Ask your unconscious mind to keep the questions in mind and for your reticular activating system to point out relevant answers to you when they come up. You can do this by just making a statement, as stupid as it sounds, “Unconscious mind / non-conscious mind / other-than-conscious mind / brain, [use whichever feels most comfortable for you], please keep a look out for the answers to these questions and bring them to my attention when they come up.


#3 100 day challenge 2014-02-21 16:46
Once that happens, the goal falls 100 day challenge by the wayside.
Here aare 5 steps you'll want 100 day challenge to read more study skills tips.
I had just small taste of what many people do not even start with this most basic goal
setting step.
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#2 Roy Aylmer 2011-04-15 09:57
Hi Mike;
Thank you for this wonderful insight into a question I have often pondered but never asked myself. What are my goals and why?
Hope you don't mind but I have added your video to my own blog, with appropriate back links
All the best

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#1 Rob 2011-02-08 21:38
Awesome, I just shared your article with my meetup group.
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