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Aligning My Priorities and My Goals

If we were going to take a survey among people in every profession and business about what was the biggest, most frequent reason goals are not met, certainly one thing would be mentioned time and time again—distractions. Distractions will never go away. You set your goal, and then another exciting opportunity for a different project comes along. There are the ever-present emails, texts, and phone calls that interrupt your process. Perhaps even the job requirements will change--you name it, there are many things demanding your attention and piquing your interest. Knowing your big goals clearly, and then learning to establish goals with clear outcomes, setting with key milestones, measuring progress and outcomes are key to handling those distractions and delivering results consistently. Over time, evaluating your priorities to align with your goals will become a life skill you can’t do without.What exactly are priorities? How do they differ from goals? Priorities are what is most important and meaningful in your life today — activities, values, beliefs, lifestyle, principles, standards, hobbies, integrity, etc. — that you are not willing to compromise or sacrifice in pursuit of something else, a goal.A goal is a future-based, anticipated expectation, possibility, end result, or experience that you are working towards creating, achieving, or bringing to fruition, which has not yet been realized. Priorities are in the present; goals are in the future. Priorities deal with what is now; goals deal with what might be in the future. When they are not aligned, but ion conflict, a person will experience stress and dissatisfaction.For example, Sue was married with 3 kids, junior high through college. She was completing her master’s degree program with a group of teachers who had started with her. Her classmates, all younger by quite a bit, loved her and it had been a great experience growing with them. But now they were on their last leg, and all of the young ones, none of them with children and only a few married, were taking extra hours and pushing through the summer without a break, in order to be done in the fall. Sue signed up excitedly to do it with them. But as the reality sunk in, her joy dissipated. Her son was home from college, and this would be 3 months of the entire family together---but the big push on going through the summer would make it impossible for her to have any kind of quality family time through the summer. She didn’t understand why she felt so miserable and encountered resistance from herself and others while attempting to achieve this goal.Sue had to create a personal strategy and a routine for achieving her own larger goals — ones that supported her own lifestyle and priorities without asking her to sacrifice what mattered most — she was able to reach those goals and enjoyed the process even more when she wasn’t feeling guilty.Keith Rosen, skilled management consultant, counsels, “The fact is, these should-based goals do not support your priorities or personal vision. So if you are unsure whether the goal, activity, or task classifies as a should, take a look at your lifestyle, values, and priorities and see if they are all in alignment. If the goal doesn’t support them, it’s a should. At the end of the day, your goals need to be aligned with your priorities. Honor the priorities in your life by making them non-negotiable. Before you map out your goals, determine the priorities in your life that you’re not willing to sacrifice. This way, you can identify the activities in which you need to engage and determine what you are willing to give up today — which may even include a conscious, short-term sacrifice of certain priorities — in pursuit of a bigger dream tomorrow.”When you evaluate what you are doing and make sure your goals are aligned and balanced with your priorities, strengths, and talents, you will find yourself enjoying the journey. You’ll be calmer, purposeful, maintain your integrity, and experience greater peace of mind and fulfillment.When your life is priority ordered, you’ll have fewer goals that either consume you or make you miserable in their pursuit. If you daily design your life and your work around what is actually most important to you, you’ll avoid becoming unhealthily driven or hooked on something that looks “better”. You will maintain a healthy and happy quality of life that pleases you and the people about whom you care.It’s a simple fix for you personally, but certainly not easy. When your own life is aligned, you can move on to organizationally lining your goals and priorities. Here's a simple flow for thinking about organizational alignment:

  • Align the employee with the role. There’s nothing worse than having the right person in the wrong role. As Jim Collins says, it’s not only important to jhave the right people on the bus—you need to have the people in the right seats Ask your people what motivates them, why they’re doing what they’re doing, where they see themselves in three years and what might happen if they don’t get there.

  • Align employee roles within the team. One of the performance requirements for groups and teams is clear roles and responsibilities. Accountability on either side is impossible if neither they or you are certain what they do. Aligning team roles prevents territorialism or the “that’s not my job” lack of team play.

  • Align the team with other teams. It doesn’t matter how great a product your organizations innovators have created if your marketing teams fail to get the message out, and vice versa. Research also shows that companies with aligned marketing and sales teams experience an average of 20% growth in annual revenue. It stands to reason that is duplicated in other areas as well.

Organizational alignment doesn’t come easily either. It takes time, courage and candor to have the conversations needed. It’s just easier not to. But get started. Everyone will benefit. The quality of organizational life will please you and the people with whom you work.

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