Avoid the Killer Coco!

Avoid the Killer Coco!

As personal and social development specialists we often work with people who are ‘off track’. Our role is to help them re-consider their priorities and make more effective decisions.

One reason people and organisations lose their way is because they fall into the trap of ‘confusing concepts’, something we refer to as a ‘coco’. These are concepts, which sound similar but are in fact very different such as:

  • Confidence/self-esteem
  • Punishment/discipline
  • Motivation/inspiration
  • Content /satisfied etc.

Cocos can lead to personal problems, social issues and organisational failure.

A problematic coco which is very common is purpose / goal. The simplest way of clarifying these two concepts is to recognise that ‘goal’ is an identified target. Examples can include raising £10,000, running a marathon, throwing a party, selling a business etc.  While ‘purpose’ can be better understood as why we do things. Examples can include, to live a stress free life, to be healthy, to have a happy family, to contribute to society etc.

People set goals in order to meet their purpose but if they fixate on the goal the purpose can suffer.

Take the cyclist who wants to experience the sense of achievement so sets himself the goal of becoming the world champion but not being quite good enough takes illicit drugs to win. Or the mother who wants to have a happy family Christmas so buys all her children the toy of their dreams but overspending builds stress and she ends up screaming, auguing and crying.

Whole organisations can fall for the purpose/goal coco. Take for example the school founded to encourage children to enjoy learning and lead fulfilling lives.  But the pressure to achieve exam results leads to teachers becoming stressed and putting pressure on the young people to pass exams. The children learn to hate attending the school and become averse to all future learning.

Governments often believe that setting targets will get results but where they go wrong is not sharing the purpose behind the targets with the delivery provider. A few years back the government wanted a better deal for rail customers and therefore set targets for trains to be on time. This resulted is over 95% of trains being on time. Great? No! What happened was that as soon as a train was going to be late the train company would take them out of service. Literally taking all the passages off a perfectly serviceable train which was 10 minutes late so that they could get the next train which was an hour later but on time!! In our experience if your team, your partners or your providers share your purpose they will usually find a way to succeed but if you impose a target without a shared purpose it usually results in a them and us situation which leads to bureaucratic policing, stress and poor results.

Don’t let your goal kill your purpose! If need be change your goal in order to meet your purpose.

Say your purpose is to care for and enjoy time with your dog. You set the goal to take Rover for a walk every evening. On the third night however the weather is awful! You can meet your purpose by playing with your living room on this evening or you can stay fixated on your goal and drag the poor dog into the blizzard.???

So in order to make effective decisions:

  1. Make sure you understand the difference between purpose and goal
  2. Ask yourself what is the purpose behind this goal?
  3. Decide is this the best goal to meet my purpose?
  4. Adjust your goal if necessary.

Follow these steps and you will have a far better chance of success. That is as long as you don’t fall for the most dangerous coco of them all! Confidence/Self-esteem!! But that’s another blog!!!

Paul Oginsky

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