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Avoid the Zombie Mind Goal Trap

November 25, 2022

Another year is ending; a new year is just around the corner. As an employee, you know the drill: managers need to have development plans in place for you for the coming year as measuring sticks for possible bonuses and raises.

Do you have that voice in your head reminding you of all the times you did not meet your goal or how your manager changed the goals to the point they were unattainable? Have you lost the optimism of the newly hired and the grumpy voice of cynicism now has control of the loudspeaker? Do you play the game safe and set the plan your manager wants to see? Or do you expend the energy to set goals that will push you and your organization ahead, whether it be a dollar target, number of clients, or building a useful skill? 

This is when our experience can work against us. We know there can be rewards, or consequences, tied to the goals set. Some of us can see the carrot connected to setting aggressive goals and many know the feeling of missing goals, which translates into limiting our bonuses or raises and increasing our chances of being at the top of the list when cuts need to be made. We quickly learn to make safer goals or to emotionally separate ourselves from the goals because we know we don’t have control over the outcomes.

The Zombie Mind

This type of thinking is demotivating; it could even be called soul sucking. It is a slow drip that dulls our connection to our work and thus undermines any energy or enthusiasm we have, or had, for our job. Soon, we are simply showing up to work, following the routine, going through motions, nodding our heads at the right times, and losing the spark in our eyes.

Re-Light Your Spark

I’d like to propose an alternative way to approach this year’s planning. You may be asked to set goals that describe a dollar amount, or other form of productivity. Do that; give the manager what they want. Then, craft your own goals. 

Gamify an activity related to overall goals that inspire you to act daily. Then measure yourself against that activity. You have done your job enough to know what activities can make a difference.  Which of those activities stimulate or energize you the most when you do them?  What nominal reward will you give yourself for succeeding to meet the target for today? Maybe it is the sense of accomplishment that comes from having done something that makes a difference

The point is to have goals which you can track on a day-to-day basis and that you see accumulate weekly, monthly, and beyond. By focusing on what you can control, you will experience more engagement and energy. You’ll lose the zombie mind and re-light your internal spark. Most likely this will also help you achieve the corporate plans made to measure your performance, but the intent is to keep yourself inspired to achieve goals that matter to you – being awarded a bonus or raise will be extra special.

Setting goals your manager wants to see is familiar. Setting goals that will excite and energize you may feel awkward. Reach out to me and in a brief conversation I can help you identify these types of goals.