A few years ago, I had a Goal to run a marathon. Then I registered for one. Suddenly, I had a Problem: Somehow, I had to train my body to run 26 miles in a row in the 4 months. 

The want shifted to a necessity.

When a theater audience tells a group of improvisers to do a scene about aliens landing during the French Revolution, they’re not giving the cast a goal. They’re giving them a problem to solve.

A goal isn’t what got me across the marathon finish line, solving the Problem did.

I think “Goal” has become one of those words we use so often, it’s lost its meaning. 

Goals quickly become the equivalent of New Year’s resolutions with the same amount of actual resolve attached to them. Often, they lack aspiration and are just predictions based on our already established trajectory.

Problems demand action and imply urgency. Goals often become wall art.

So this year—instead of Goals—my work team is choosing some Key Problems. Not problems that are happening to us, but Problems we want to create for us.

(Bonus: Choosing Problems as the focus of the change you want shifts your response when the problems you didn’t choose inevitably show up. Instead of them feeling like unexpected enemies to your goal, they are familiar cousins that can be dealt with in the same manner.)

photo credit: Puzzle pieces via photopin (license) Puzzle pieces


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© Andy Zimney and Leading Off the Cuff, 2015.



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Andy Zimney is a Senior Advisor and Team Performance Coach at Employee Strategies, Inc., a boutique firm that partners with leaders to develop highly effective cultures that drive outstanding results. Contact ESInc to learn more about how they can assess your current culture and design customized and effective development experiences for your team. Or reach out to Andy directly.