Urgency and Goals

This weekend I was talking to a friend (and advisor) about my goals for the next month and year. (Mostly financial.) One thing he talked about was the feeling of urgency within goals. I’ll paraphrase a bit of what he said here:

You can have all sorts of goals and dreams. That’s great. The thing is you have to differentiate between goals that you want because they’ll be great to have but have no specific deadline and goals which have specific deadlines. The difference between the two is that while the first may eventually happen, there’s nothing driving you towards it, nothing saying “hey, this has to be done now”, the second says in no uncertain terms “this has to happen now,” so it’ll push you out from your comfort zone. In other words, the second goal — the goal that will get you out of your comfort zone — is one in which you feel an urgency to complete. That’s the difference: urgency.

There are two ways to build up urgency. The first is to be tied in and become close with people who’ll create that urgency and drive within you, where you’ll make things happen out of pride as well as other personal incentive. The second is where something has to happen or something very bad will happen instead, such as making enough money to pay for your mortgage: your goal is to make it happen (via whatever vehicle), and if you fail then you’re out of a house. Another way to think about this second type of urgency is a fat guy that is told by his doctor that he needs to lose weight or he’ll have to face certain consequences. Of course, most people don’t do anything until after something happens, but that just drives the point home, their urgency heightened.

Think about it: why do people go to a job every day? Most people don’t dislike it, but they don’t like it either. Still, they do it anyway. Why? A sense of urgency, a need. They’re driven by this basic fear: no work, no paycheck. No paycheck, no food, shelter, or transportation. The problem is that most people get trapped into the feeling that you go to work at the beginning of the day, so you can pay your basic bills, and after you “do your time”, you can get out nine or ten hours later at the end of the day and have a little of fun. After all, you deserve it, right?

Other people, however, see that “fun” time like money, as capital: they can use it now or invest it for later. For these people, instead of taking their fun time capital then, they invest their time, limiting their fun time for the weekend (if that), but knowing that their real fun time will come when their goal is attained. This goal may be building a business, going to school to get a better job, or doing odd jobs to save money for a car or a vacation. The point is that they invest that time to get something the regular 8-5 job can’t get them. To this kind of person, urgency is created by a desire.

So there are two types of urgency: fear and desire. Whatever your immediate goals are, whatever deadlines you put for yourself, they have to be directed by either fear or desire.

As always, after talking to this guy, I went home and thought. Fear versus Desire. Are my goals driven by these? Most people, I venture to say, rely more on fear than desire for their goals — examples: bills and health concerns — but are still affected by desire. For example, those who say “I’m doing this because in the end, in two months, I’ll have enough money to pay for that vacation I’m dying to get” are driven by desire (as well as faith that if they do X they’ll get Y).

Here’s something I’d like to know from any readers: when was the last time you thought about your goals? Were those goals — and your actions to get them — driven by fears or desires? What drives you? (Any really good answers I get I’ll turn into posts.)

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