Welcome to Read to Lead, Lincoln’s complimentary bite size monthly update with the very latest in leadership topics for the world wide veterinary community. 

From the desk of Paul Ainsworth, Lincoln’s Founder

“A Lack of Motivation or a Lack of Clarity?”

Goal Setting…

Setting the Right Course

Lincoln’s focus on goal setting this month isn’t only attributable to our desire to help you with your now fading new year’s resolutions, but also to help you get on track in what we’re seeing as a sustained ‘post 2020’ assault on the industry – massive demand for your services, exhausted teams, a shortage of qualified team members and a need to double down on staying ahead of the game with your teams’ welfare and patient standards of care.

Setting the right course or Goal Setting is central to this. 

However, it has an inherent problem – the ongoing battle between immediate and delayed gratification.  You know the great feedback you get when you bite down on your favourite high cholesterol food and the stroke comes much later – versus the grind of daily exercise, waiting painfully for the high when you finally start to feel fit.

In order to sustain our motivation through the daily grind, James Clear (Atomic Habits) says that we need to create ‘feedback loops’ – rather than hoping that we can sustain our motivation towards a long-term goal. 

This might look like a cross on a wall chart every day that you maintain a habit that will ultimately get you where you want to be.

I’m reminded of the brilliant marketing ploy adopted by Instagram. Watching painfully as my perfectly intelligent 19-year-old daughter scrolled through her Instagram feed at a speed that only a software program could detect in order that she receive a computer generated ‘well done’ for maintaining a deep connection with 1500 of her closest friends! The cynic aside, ‘streaks’ (for those not up with the lingo) are a very effective feedback loop, reminding you every day why you should do exactly the same thing the following day.

Speaking of motivation, Clear goes on to say that we often think that we lack ‘motivation’ when in fact we simply lack ‘clarity’ – or maybe we had it, but it’s slowly disappeared over time.

Clarity comes from getting Specific (the first element of a S.M.A.R.T. goal). It requires that we develop a dual focus – firstly, where do we want to get to or what is our end goal and secondly, what do we have to do now, to get started.  You can think of this as ‘how do I make it easy to start?’  Thinking about my early morning gym sessions (5.15am alarm), I’m never really focussed on the end goal of physical fitness and health – they’re way too far away to provide any motivation to drag myself out of bed.  My focus is on putting my feet on the floor, because I know that once I’ve done that tiny step, the rest will follow.

In order that our goals are Measurable (the ‘M’ in S.M.A.R.T.), we need to measure what matters. This goes beyond ‘feedback loops’ which definitely give us something to aspire to each day (a cross on a wall chart). It extends to our end goal and knowing when we’ve arrived.  Sometimes we need to think more laterally. Let’s say that you aspire to improving the mental health of the team – not a bad goal right now!  The challenge is what do you measure? It’s hard to quantify some things, but you could quantify the number of well-being training sessions that the team have attended in the next month.  The number of times that team members have received feedback on the successful execution of their role.  These things are all entirely measurable and are pointed to the end goal of improving the well-being of the team.

Speaking of Achievable (the ‘A’ in S.M.A.R.T. goals), have you not only broken down your goals into specifics but actually thought through the extent to which you’ll be able to create the habits necessary to get there.  What ‘rituals’ exist in your life that stand in the way and ask yourself, ‘what’s going to get in the way of me achieving my goal and what can I do to alleviate the roadblocks’.  I know that if I set a goal to walk the dog each day, if I didn’t do that in the morning, on most days, I’d be overrun with work and it wouldn’t happen.

When considering the extent to which a habit or a goal for that matter is Relevant (the ‘R’ in S.M.A.R.T. goals), think about the extent to which your daily habits are leading you towards your end goal. I used to go to the gym and do cardio in the hope I’d lose weight. Cardio gave me such a hunger spike, I ended up consuming more calories than I would burn.   Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that cardio is up there with quitting smoking in terms of health benefits – that’s not my point. My point is that my habit or ritual of doing cardio was working against my end goal.

Time (the ‘T’ in S.M.A.R.T. goals), is last but not least.  A goal without a timeframe is really only a dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but don’t confuse it with making progress.  A regular daily habit or ritual that leads to an intermediary goal which gives you the feedback that you need to keep going towards an end goal (with a timeframe) is the sweet spot of eventually achieving those things that matter to you most.

There has never been a time to get focussed on what matters. Use the SMART model to help you execute on your plans and get ahead of the game with respect to maintaining a healthy and vital team.

Paul Ainsworth

Founder, Lincoln Institute

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