Just a few weeks ago, I stumbled across my name tag from Leadership Corpus Christi in 2000. As our first assignment, we were to share what was most important to us. Mine had a picture of my young daughter, a basketball goal, a sailboat, and the word “driven.”
For as far back as I can remember, I’d identified with that word.
Whether it was as a student seeking a particular grade or degree, a manager or entrepreneur reaching for a certain revenue or profit mark, or as an runner aiming for a specific mile pace, I’d identify a goal and then go after it intensely. I’d seen reasonable success with that method and saw it as a useful approach.
Recently, I was asked to complete a similar exercise – a dreamline. Essentially, it’s a modern method to goal-setting and purposeful lifestyle design. It asked me to identify three categories: things I wanted to be, do, or have – and then put a number on them. After identifying what it would cost for each of those items, the sum would be my “number” – a monthly cash flow needed to achieve my dreams.
There was only one problem: I simply couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t even get started. After several attempts, I couldn’t think of one single thing that I wanted to be, do, or have where I thought money was an obstacle to attaining it. Not one.
The “Kendra” I knew would have breezed right through it, knowing exactly what the next goal was and how close I was to achieving it. I was driven.
After a few weeks of prayer and reflection, and about 20 hours of driving, an explanation came to me.
I realized my old motto was an incomplete sentence: I was driven – by fear.
All of those previous goals (grades, degrees, revenues, salaries, times, employees, partners, etc) were motivated by fear. I had to achieve them because I was afraid of the alternative.
But that wasn’t me anymore. Somehow, I’d changed.
The really odd part about all this is that I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t set out to make myself un-driven. I wondered if I would still be able to accomplish things without the fuel I’d always relied on. That alone was pretty scary. It wasn’t that I’d magically achieved a higher level of security – financial or otherwise. My situation and environment hadn’t changed at all.
The only explanation that I can offer is that I finally took my own advice. I changed my habits, and they changed me.
Three months ago, I started reading a proverb every single day and saying a positive affirmation out loud. Tiny changes. They take less than 10 minutes each day. But it led to something more.
Over time, I was spending more time in my Bible, exploring other passages and thinking about how I could apply them. I listened to hours of podcasts from amazing leaders. I followed through on group studies. I was also paying more attention to my self-talk, gently adjusting what I thought about and told myself.
It was so subtle that I never realized it while it was happening. In fact, the only outwardly visible proof is how I handle recurring situations.
In the past, I would get visibly anxious and frustrated at long meetings. Now, I’m told that I’m patient.
In the past, I would become very concerned if those in authority didn’t handle a situation the way I expected. Now, I’m content to do my best and trust their judgment.
In the past, I was pre-occupied with whether my peers and colleagues thought I worked hard enough. Now, I realize that’s not my concern.
More than anything, I had accidentally stepped off the treadmill of selfish ambition and was learning the power and joy of focusing on others.
I learned to keep score differently because I could enjoy other people’s successes as much as I had my own.
I wanted to share ideas and lessons learned so other people could benefit too – and that meant I had plenty of material for writing and coaching projects.
When I paid attention to the questions other people asked, I knew exactly which products to develop to meet their needs.
It is a beautiful paradox, one I never dreamed possible.
I wake up every day energized, never at a loss for projects to work on.
I have a peace about the future, even when situations seem uncertain.
I realize that I’m on a journey, and that alone is the goal.
I’ve let go of striving for a particular result.
I just move in the direction of my purpose each day, some tiny steps, some bigger.
Oddly enough, I’m getting further faster than I ever had before. And I’m really enjoying the adventure.
What about you? Have you ever set goals this way?