February 20, 2020
The year is now in full swing. Allow me to confront you with a simple and obvious question at this stage, one which you may not be keen to hear, particularly if you have been slack on the subject. But perhaps this is the question that we all need to hear. Lest I digress too far, here is my question: have you had the first piece? Borrowing from another popular adage the question can be posed differently with the same meaning by saying: have you taken the first single step? In case I have lost you by now, you have all heard the metaphorical question “how do you eat an elephant”. We are all familiar with the answer that an elephant is eaten one piece at a time. We are equally familiar with the saying that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
The question I ask seeks to instigate taking stock of the most critical part of your goals i.e. the start. I believe there is no perfect time to do that or to simply remind ourselves of our goals and why we have them. My colleagues and I have at one point or another referred to the goals that we set for ourselves as individuals, organizations and businesses. In most instances we set goals without fail in the form of New Year resolutions, performance objectives etc. I am certain that most people have set goals for themselves.
I have observed the difference between two types of mindsets, which can be explained in descriptive terms by using the analogy of a pest problem. I am sure that many people will relate to my observation. When confronted with a pest problem the one mindset will react by reaching for a pesticide and deal with the problem. The other mindset will investigate the source of the pests including the behavior of the pests and use the information as a point of departure in dealing with the problem. Quite frankly I prefer the pesticide mindset. However, the latter approach reflects prudence as it is based on the understanding of what you are dealing with.
It is important to understand why we set goals. Maybe before we even embark on them. Perhaps we have come to accept that when you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Therefore, we must aim at something. The aim being a means to our goal. Sometimes we need not ponder on past failures which discourages us. Sometimes all we need is to understand the value of setting a goal (I do not trivialize the importance of earnest efforts to achieve goals I am merely emphasizing the point of having goals). The words “vision” and “objectives” amongst others, may not technically be synonyms for “goal” and one may breach the rules by using them interchangeably, but they equally describe the many forms that the important exercise of looking forward to something takes. I believe that goals are a “compass”, they take you somewhere!
Many people would be wary to become part of something which aims at nothing. Hence it has become, at least in my view, a standard for leadership in business and any other formation to have goals. The same should be true at an individual level. You must be wary to follow yourself if you do not have a vision (goal).
Perhaps I should refrain from entering what could be the preserve of esteemed philosophers and get back to my question and the moral of my story. Your goals may be the size of an elephant or a journey before you may be of a thousand miles. Bite the first piece. Take the first step. Do not underestimate the importance of small beginnings. If I may give advice, the trick is never to stop. If you have endured the first piece of the elephant and have taken the first single step of the journey, never stop. It is the small beginnings which lead to the destination. For the remainder of the period of your goals do not stop.
Joseph Leotlela | Director