Ad Florem Blog

Does your goal include a ‘get out of jail card?’


Ad Florem Blog Post

I’ve been working with a client who was feeling frustrated with a lack of progress in his career.

He found himself with no time to plan, lacked confidence and was losing his creativity. While he watched other people developing and moving on, nothing seemed to change for him.

Despite having lots of good intentions of moving on in his career, as we talked it became apparent he hadn’t actually committed himself to a clear goal and was going round in circles as a result!

Are you ‘trying’ or ‘doing’?

During our conversation, my client talked fairly loosely about his aspirations, yet kept slipping back into the everyday frustrations he felt were holding him back. Without a clear goal, he found more reasons why he hadn’t progressed his career, while the lack of movement affected his confidence and just added to the frustration he felt!

While my client felt the world was against him, I noticed the language he used when describing his aspirations. His choice of words showed he wasn’t fully committed to the task. Words like:

  • Try
  • Possibly
  • Probably

These are all words I term as ‘fluffy’ or ‘non-committal’.

They give the feeling of making a decision without any sense of needing to follow through:

  • I’ve tried to look for opportunities
  • I could possibly move location
  • I’ll probably start looking next year

When I shared this back with him, my client realised what he was doing. He was keeping his true thoughts and feelings to himself, and had chosen not to express them to anyone, at risk of not achieving any of the things he promised to do.

We explored how this lack of commitment also had a negative effect on his confidence and his effectiveness as a leader. He shared an example of ‘trying’ to finish a report by the end of the day. Once again, he kept his true thoughts and feelings to himself; he knew he wasn’t able to finish the report but his fear of confrontation and letting someone down took over.

As we talked, my client could see how he had been using this approach to protect himself, giving himself a ‘get out of jail card’ for if things went wrong.

From Procrastination to Action

For me, ‘I will’ or ‘I am’ aren’t covered in fluff. They’re concrete, with no ‘get out of jail card’ in sight.

When you say that you will do something, as opposed to try or possibly do something, there is more determination and ownership behind that decision.

So, we explored the new concrete terms relating to what he ultimately wanted, and to his amazement, my client verbalised his goal. To protect himself, this was something he had kept hidden for many years!

By using more concrete terms, my client felt committed to the goal, and 100% accountable for achieving it.

The switch in focus from ‘try, probably, or possibly’ to ‘I will’ or ‘I am’ moves you from procrastination and moving in circles to committing and being responsible for taking action.

Think of a recent goal you’ve set yourself. Is it fluffy with a ‘get out of jail card’, or is it filled with determination and ownership? Tell me what your goal is. (I’ll hold you accountable for achieving it if you like.)