Goal Setting (and Changing) at the School of Play

3 minutes

If you read this blog often, you may notice I am very interested in why human beings do what they do.  Perhaps that is not as true as it first appears:  I am interested in why people don’t do things that they say they want to do.

January is a great time to study this, being stuffed full of New Years Resolutions, Dry January, Detox January and other such things.  Then of course there is the quiet return to business-as-usual for almost everyone before the month is out.

If we were true logical beings, change would be easy:  we would just make a decision to do so, driven by a personal desire to be better in some way.

But we aren’t logical beings most of the time.  Most of the time we are on a sort of auto-pilot, with occasional brief periods where we force ourselves to make an actual, proper choice.  Such choices use will power, which has a high cognitive cost to our brain.  It is very appropriate to think of will power as a finite resource, which replenishes when we sleep.

Habits Rather Than Will Power

This is why habits are hard to build and hard to change.  We must fight over and over again, against our very nature and with limited resources, to make change happen.

But…do you remember a time when you changed a habit overnight with almost no problem at all?

Maybe it was a long time ago, when you were a child when you stopped sucking your thumb.  Perhaps it was in your 20’s when you decided to stop smoking and never looked back.  Or was it in your 30’s when you went gluten free?

It is curious how a few changes can happen in an instant, and seem to require no real effort on our part- why is that?

We know some reasons this can happen.  For example a big, perceived ‘crisis’ can make new behaviours much easier to adopt or change.  This is true both for individuals and for organisations too.  But it’s hardly an effective model we could use for every change we want to make!

It’s Time For a Mini-Quest

So every December / January time, I go on a mini-quest to see what ideas people have for setting new habits.  Over the last couple of months alone I must have read more than 20 different blog posts about how to set goals, or make changes to the way we live our lives. (This is currently my favourite blog post of this type this year.  Thanks to Melisa Collett for finding & sharing it with me).

Most posts, I have found, repeat the same stuff I have read before.  The problem is that it only works for a small percentage of readers, leaving most to fail and feel frustrated or despondent.  I’m fairly sure that this is not a good thing, or ‘part of the process’.

So I search on, looking for something that makes sense and has scientific grounding.  Most importantly, I’m searching for something that works for most people not just a very few.

I am writing next week about how we did personal goal-setting with the scrum master team at NVM.  I am basing the exercise with each of them around my experiences this weekend with the most lovely Portia Tung.

Portia TungEnlightenment at The School of Play

Portia runs the School of Play, and last weekend I joined a dozen or so people at the Carpe Diem, Carpe Annum Goal Setting workshop she ran.  It was a blend of interesting experiences (for example, I’d never had a ‘Sound Bath’ before).  It also included practical activities, and frivolous fun distractions. Of course, I was surrounded by interesting and inquisitive people and that certainly helped too!

The core of the workshop was very practical, and inherently familiar.  I suspect this is because it is based on things Portia has worked successfully with and refined with her agile background.

The really cool and unexpected bit was around the way the play aspect relaxed my brain.  As I focussed on my values, goals, priorities etc. things became clearer in surprising ways.  I think that because my brain was not expecting difficult things to be hidden in with playful stuff, it relaxed.

And I was not alone in having a bit of a revelation about my goals and what I believed I wanted from 2017.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened, and I am still a little dazed to have had my focus shifted so firmly to goals I hadn’t previously thought much about.  At the same time, I know this is much more ‘me’.

I have no idea whether this will affect how well I deliver against these goals over 2017.  It is interesting how none of my big goals feels so daunting anymore though.   They each feel like a huge amount of work, for sure, but some how, it doesn’t matter so long as I’m progressing towards them.

This is a very serene and calm place for me –  do hope it lasts!

What have you committed to this year?  Have you got a system that works for you?  Or do you not set goals at all?  (Some people hate to do it as the feel restricted by them).

Let me know what works for you.

Helen.