Pitfall Alert: Discover How Congruence Can Make or Break A Goal

by Brad Isaac on December 5, 2006

I get a lot of “why” questions.

apothecary scaleI am often asked “why” if someone took all the right steps, they could still fail to achieve a chosen goal. After all, if you set a goal, devise a plan and work the plan you should succeed right? Often the answer is “yes.” Successful outcomes are the result of knocking out the steps that logically lead to a goal. To simplify it, suppose your goal is to get from Washington DC to Los Angeles.   You follow a series of steps to get from your location in DC to the airport where you board a plane to go to LA.   Then, you simply fly to LA.

So if following steps is all we have to do to achieve a goal, why do we sometimes fail?
The answer is usually because of congruence.

Congruence is defined as the quality or state of agreeing or corresponding.

When you are setting goals, congruence is important to consider.   we want goals that agree with our emotions, ideals and personalities.

Finding congruence in your goal list will likely take major soul-searching.

When you choose your #1 goal congruence is even more important to consider.

Let me explain with an example…

Imagine a librarian who deep down has a love of books and knowledge, yet has pushed being a multimillionaire to the top of her goal list.   If you look at goal setting as an apothecary scale, you can put your wants and desires on one side and your goals on the other.   Do they balance?   If you look back at the librarian, and see she has the weight of her inner needs pulling down on one side of the scale.   Her emotions and personality control that weight; if it’s a strong feeling the weight becomes greater.   On the other side of the scale is the goal of being a multimillionaire.   That might be a great number one goal for someone else, but it doesn’t speak to the librarian’s inner being.   It doesn’t pull her emotionally.

You and I both are motivated by our emotions and our personalities.   We can’t just switch them off and say “My number one goal is to ________ ” without considering if the goal fits into our lives.   Many set high priority goals involving large sums of money when money isn’t consistent with who you are as a person.

If this sounds like you, take heart.   Plop your goals and wishes onto the scale and see if you can balance it.

Your primary goal should be as close to balanced as possible.   This is where the ease of reaching goals happens.   You don’t have to work hard if you love it.   Or better phrased, you might work hard, but it’s fun and enjoyable work.

Back to our librarian example.   She’s emotionally and behaviorally motivated by reading and gaining knowledge.   Working on financial spreadsheets, business plans and stock portfolios will be hard work – she’ll tire easy because it is unnatural for her.   It is also likely she’ll fail at her goal, or if she does become a multimillionaire, she’ll ask “Is this all there is?!?!”

Many wealthy professionals get to age 40 and feel this way.     They chase a dream that isn’t really theirs.   The success can feel like failure because the congruence was never considered.   The emotional needs were never fulfilled.

If instead the librarian continued following reading and knowledge, the millions might still one day come when she gets her PhD and writes her own book.

Speaking of books, there’s a book Do what you love and the money will follow. In the case of congruence, that is a wise statement.

So, when you are reviewing and reprioritizing your goal list, make sure you’ve got your scale handy.   Make sure your top goals(s) can pass the congruence test.   If not, see if there is a different goal that is more emotionally satisfying that may one day lead to the other one.

To conclude, I know an artist whose congruence has paid off.   He’s not rolling in money per se, but he does well.   One day I asked him and his girlfriend about their lives.   He said, “How can we not be happy?   We’re doing exactly what we want to do.

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December 6, 2006 at 12:46 am

Thanks for this post. Of course, it’s harder to find what you really love. Some people can get motivated really easily… for a short while. I start so many projects, but never finish them. I’ve started a million of jobs, but quit them within a year. I’ve tried to find the thing(s) I love doing in various ways. It seems like I can get motivated only for a few weeks or months, never finishing what I’ve started unless it takes a short time to do it. Effectively, it takes me nowhere.
Any help here is greatly appreciated. :)

Brad Isaac December 6, 2006 at 3:20 pm

Hi Eric,

I have a few ADD/ADHD friends who complain of moving from project to project, job to job…

Here’s what I tell them.
1. It can’t be all fun and easy. Work is work – if you find what you love to do it seems less like work.
2. If you started a project 6 months ago and it’s now you aren’t doing it, what were the reasons for you starting it in the first place?

It could be you are still searching, but consider…do you avoid work that seems like work? For instance, I love running this site, but there are certain parts I outright hate with a passion. (editing mysql errors for instance.) But the long term plan is still important and exciting to me. I had a ton of REASONS for starting the blog last year and most of those reasons still influence me to continue – even when the going gets tough.

December 8, 2006 at 12:35 am

Hey Brad,

Thanks for the reply!

There are always specific reasons for starting a new project. Might be the thrill of just thinking up something new, might be I’m genuinly interested in achieving some kind of goal. It’s not the fact that it seems like work after a while, but I just loose interest. Maybe even to regain interest after a a few months or a year or so. It’s pretty frustrating.

I found out there are a lot of people who are like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767920880 . But, as you say, it could be I’m still searching. You’d think that I would’ve found something by now. I’m not in my twenties anymore…

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. I don’t mean to turn your comment section into a private consulting session. Just something you might consider writing about. :) Keep up the great work.

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