Go for the goal! No, it’s too big!

Open air paintingGoals are often so lofty that they overwhelm us. The choices seem to be all-out pursuit or nothing. Often we take the “nothing” option rather than face the enormity of the task. Here are some ideas for a broader list of alternatives.  As I’ve said before, you always have more than two options. Try these.

Go for it completely
Go for a more accessible version of it
Go for an intermediate goal
Go for a different goal with similar satisfaction
Do a trial run without committing
Do nothing

Let’s look at these more closely. As an example, imagine you have a good job, but you always wanted to be an artist. What can you do about that goal?

—Go for it completely

One obvious choice is to pursue the goal fully, setting aside everything else. 

  • —  Quit your job, rent a studio and devote your life to your art

—Go for a more accessible version of it

Is there a scaled-down version of your goal that gives almost the same amount of satisfaction without the sacrifice? Yes, I know this goes against all the motivational speakers and writers who tell you to shoot for the moon. But do you really want to give up many of the other important aspects of your life to work toward something you may never reach? In our example, rather than working toward becoming an internationally acclaimed artist for the ages, it might be almost as good to get a local following.

  • —  Keep your job and devote your weekends to your art
  • —  Get to know the local galleries

—Go for an intermediate goal

Your first action in achieving the goal may be to reach a key step along the way. Think about what you will need to do to reach your goal. Any of these may be satisfying goals in their own right. In our example, to become a great artist you will need to hone your technique, produce art and get it seen.

  • —  Take art classes in the evenings or on weekends
  • —  Seek out places to get your work seen by the public
  • —  Devote your weekends to producing art

—Go for a different goal with similar satisfaction

Think about what it is that you find attractive about your goal. Can you get that same satisfaction some other way without disrupting your life? In our example, you may be able to steer your current job in a direction that better uses your artistic capabilities.

  • —  Seek a transfer into the graphics department of your current company

Do a trial run without committing

Rather than jumping into the goal with both feet, you may want to put your toe in the water first. Go after the goal, but make sure you can get back to where you were, if it does not turn out as you would like.

  • —  Take a six-month leave of absence from work to pursue your art

—Do nothing

No matter what all those motivational speakers will tell you, this should always be on your list of alternatives. You have a choice. You may have moved on since you set that goal. In our example, perhaps you now have a family and find spending time with them more enjoyable and rewarding than creating art. It’s OK to choose a new goal over an old goal. People will accuse you of letting your dreams pass you by. Let them. You know you’ve made a deliberate choice by comparing the costs and rewards of going for the goal. Free yourself from old or unreasonable goals.

Opportunity knocks. What do you do?

Sign this contractPeople faced with an opportunity usually figure they have simply a decision of yes or no, take it or don’t. The challenge here is to come up with a richer list of alternatives, built around the opportunity and variations of it. As with all decisions, there may be even better options out there if you open your mind to them. Before you try to choose, give yourself a rich list of choices. Here are some ideas to get you started when you have an opportunity.

—Run with it

Taking the opportunity exactly as offered is clearly always an option. Here’s an example. You’re an independent consultant and you enjoy the flexibility and the chance to work in a variety of industries. Susan has just offered you a full-time, permanent job with a financial institution. You have one clear alternative:

  • —  Accept the job offer as is.

—Use part of it

Are there pieces of the opportunity that are attractive, without committing to the whole thing? Perhaps you see a little nugget in the larger opportunity. Perhaps there are parts of the opportunity that you’d prefer not to pursue.

In our example, maybe you’d like to pursue the job, but maintain your independent status and the chance to work in other areas.

  • —  Accept a part-time, temporary or on-call position

—Negotiate a variation

Is the opportunity all you want? If anything is lacking, can it be added? See if the opportunity can be enhanced to meet all your needs.

In our example, you may seek more money to compensate for giving up your consulting practice, or you may wish to maintain the amount of vacation you have been giving yourself.

  • —  Accept the job if Susan meets your salary demands.
  • —  Accept the job if Susan gives you five weeks a year of vacation.

—Pass it on

If you decide that you have no interest in pursuing the opportunity, would it be of interest to someone else? Someone else might find it the perfect opportunity and you would be doing her a favor to tell her about it.

  • —  Tell one of your colleagues about the job opening

—Do something related

Does this opportunity suggest other opportunities that might be even better? If this opportunity comes from a surprising direction or an unexpected area, what else is out there? You may want to do some exploring before you commit. In our example, you may never have considered financial work.

  • —  Seek out consulting in the financial field

Do something with a similar payoff

What is it that you find attractive about the opportunity? Are there other ways you can get it? Think about each attractive aspect in turn.

In the example, you may not have considered full-time work before. It’s attractive because of the steady paycheck and administrative and marketing support.

  • —  Investigate other full-time, permanent positions

— Use it as a springboard to other opportunities

Even if you don’t take the opportunity, it may lead to further opportunities. In our example, Susan has contacts who may be interested in hiring a consultant. She clearly respects your work and so could put in a good word for you.

  • —  Thank Susan and ask her to let you know if she hears about any consulting opportunities

— Do nothing

Ignoring the opportunity is always an option. Make it a conscious choice. There’s a huge difference between failing to seize an opportunity and actively choosing to let it go. The first case indicates laziness, cowardice or obliviousness. The second shows that you’ve taken charge of the decision and determined that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. In the first case you may feel regret or helplessness or that the world is passing you by. In the second you feel empowered.

There is an important reason to include the do-nothing option as an alternative in any decision. Every choice has drawbacks and that often makes people afraid to make a choice. Considering doing nothing as a choice forces you to examine the drawbacks of the current status and pushes you toward action.

  • —  Turn down the job offer

What else?

What other options can you think of for taking advantage of an opportunity?