Doing regular reviews at midyear or yearend with ourselves are a good exercise. Frameworks can help us orient and ask better questions during these reviews. Here I focus on one that emphasizes qualities rather than outcomes.
Mid career can be an especially fruitful period where you are experiencing the heights of your abilities and harvesting the fruits of your labor. It can also be disorienting if you suddenly find yourself realizing what you set out to do was not really what you wanted.
But often it is never that well defined. It is very much in the gray. There is an insidious element to the malaise that creeps up over time.
A high-performer suddenly finds herself getting multiple mediocre performance ratings in a row or finds that suddenly he is not motivated by the typical corporate goals and incentives system.
Just as our cars need regular maintenance, a good inspection under the hood can be equally clarifying for us. A year end review is a good time to reappraise goals and where we are heading.
Qualities rather than Outcomes
While outcome goals can help motivate us, it is also equally useful to understand the quality that we are trying to cultivate in ourselves. What is the underlying value that we are trying to pursue in each of our outcome goals?
Frameworks can help orient our goals and annual reviews in the right direction and open up new insights.But often there are one too many. Some are too simplistic while others are unnecessarily complicated.
This particular one below is a simple but comprehensive one. The list is short but it has enough depth that prompts meaningful questions.
Daniel Goleman cites it in another context, but it serves equally well for our purposes of midyear or year-end reviews.
University of Wisconsin psychologist … Carol Ryff, drawing on Aristotle among many other thinkers, posits a model of well-being with six arms:
Self-acceptance, being positive about yourself, acknowledging both your best and not-so-good qualities, and feeling fine about being just as you are. This takes a nonjudgmental self-awareness.
Personal growth, the sense you continue to change and develop toward your full potential—getting better as time goes on—adopting new ways of seeing or being and making the most of your talents.
Autonomy, independence in thought and deed, freedom from social pressure, and using your own standards to measure yourself.
Mastery, feeling competent to handle life’s complexities, seizing opportunities as they come your way, and creating situations that suit your needs and values.
Satisfying relationships, with warmth, empathy, and trust, along with mutual concern for each other and a healthy give-and-take.
Life purpose, goals and beliefs that give you a sense of meaning and direction. Some philosophers argue that true happiness comes as a by-product of meaning and purpose in life.
Ryff sees these qualities as a modern version of eudaimonia—Aristotle’s “highest of all human good,” the realization of your unique potential.
– Carol Ryff as cited in The Science of Meditation by Daniel Goleman, Richard Davidson
Holistic rather than siloed
One common mistake in goal-setting is to look at areas of our life in isolation. For eg I might have certain goals at work and then separate goals for my relationship. There is nothing wrong with this and it works for the most part. But we also need to look at underlying frameworks.
What this model forces you to do it to look at our lives as a whole rather than in disconnected pieces. Notice how all the categories are equally applicable regardless of what area of life and work you are looking at.
They are equally applicable to getting the next promotion, winning the next game of soccer in the local league, outlining OKRs at work, or planning next year’s vacation plans with your spouse.
Rebalancing our portfolio
This model is consistent with other well-researched theories and at the same time balanced. It covers a decent amount of ground without leaving out any major pieces.
When you sit down for your year end review or setting goals, check against this list to see where you might need some adjustment. For high-achieving managers and leaders, it is easy to lose perspective when we are narrowly focussed. Zooming out a little can help.
This is what Ron Heifetz calls rebalancing your portfolio. Which of the above aspects need some rebalancing? Are the particular challenges we are facing connected with one of these areas?
For an exhaustive deep dive into various aspect of setting goals, check out Effective Goal Setting Using 14 Different Dimensions and How Choice can Turbocharge Goal Setting and Performance.
Other posts where I explore career conundrums include Good Careers Gone Bad - Subtle but Lethal Mistakes in Mid Career and Two Questions when Making a Career Change.
📚 You also get a curated spreadsheet of 100 best articles Harvard Business Review has ever published. Spans 70 years, comes complete with categories and short summaries.