Friday, December 05, 2008

Thoughts On Goal Setting for 2009

Note: The following was written, relatively stream of consciousness, during an airline flight home from a road trip with traders.

It’s that time of year when traders and portfolio managers begin to look ahead to holidays and the winding down of their trading years. That inevitably brings thoughts of the year ahead and the goals that greet a fresh slate.

Too often the look forward is not accompanied by a sober reflection on the year past. An excellent place to start with 2009 goals is to revisit the visions for 2008 and the degree to which those were realized. Properly formulated, goals are a bridge between the real and the ideal, psychological devices by which one keeps feet on the ground and eyes on the horizon. To the extent that goals guide daily and weekly efforts at development, they keep us grounded. If they also provide us with wide horizons and a view of ourselves at our best, they also keep us energized. When we revisit the goals of 2008, we can determine the degree to which they generated perspiration and inspiration.

Sadly, most goal setting fails at both of these functions. Goals are not specific enough to truly influence daily activity, nor do they speak to our greatest strengths. Items on a checklist that bring a temporary lull of satisfaction, such goals are orphans soon after New Year’s passing. Many a coach is hired to adopt these goals and serve as their minder. That, however, won’t do. To be realized, any goal must be internalized. Lose the horizon and you also lose the grounding.

Did Hercules seek adventure because he was a hero, or was Hercules a hero because he embarked upon adventures? What sustains a heroic consciousness, providing the daily adventures that bridge real and ideal? Can one sustain the pursuit of heroic annual goals while mired in a state of daily emotional and physical mediocrity, will as flabby as the midsection? The New Year calls for a new self, a fresh start. For a few luminous moments, when we define the goals that capture our most cherished horizons, we are alive to ourselves. To sustain that consciousness as inspiration and compass; that is the essence of the heroic.