The Importance of Indirect Goals

One of the most immediate contributions Neuroscience makes when it comes to difficult change is in how we define goals. The very way we define goals is critical to our ability to adopt change into practice...

#difficultchange #changemanagement #neuroscience #Coaching

Goals. It's the starting point and end point of any change effort. For better or worse the way we set goals at the onset creates the focus of what we will aim to improve. That's not new. What is new is the Neuroscience-based understanding that the very way we define goals increases or decreases our chances of achieving desired outcomes.

Traditional change models help us identify future-oriented objectives. We look at the new systems, processes, structures as well as behaviors, thinking habits, and response patterns that we need to create or adopt in order to achieve a future-state desired outcome. In addition, Neuroscience reveals a set of "indirect" goals we should most definitely focus on but often ignore.

To get an intuitive sense of what I mean, let's define 3 types or layers of goals and look at them in the context of planning to climb a mountain:

First Layer: End Goals

This layer defines the desired outcome.

  • What do you want the end result to be?

  • Which mountain will you climb?

  • How far up do you plan to reach?

The first layer is our ability to define, outline, and imagine a desired point in the future and what it will look like exactly when we reach it. For example, a good example of an end goal for someone who is overwhelmed could be seeing himself making time to manage and plan, instead of being bogged down. The end goal, or desired outcome should paint a very clear picture of what that desired end state will look like in the future, and in particular, these goals should be defined in a way that allows us to assess and evaluate if the desired outcome was achieved (there are many great models for this type of goal setting like the SMART goals model which you are probably highly versed in already :)).