Whenever I take a trip out west, I try to get some camping in. Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderful place to pitch the tent for a couple of nights and just marvel in splendors of the high desert. During this last trip, I was faced with a rather unique opportunity and a very insightful event.
Before heading out to the desert, I stopped by to visit with my sister in Los Angeles. While there, I picked up Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. I figured I had a few days to kill before heading out to the desert and we would be conducting the two-day seminar in the near future. So I might as well read what Goldsmith was teaching in his programs and discover the similarities to what we coach for in our classes.
The book is an easy read and I got through all of Marshall’s 21 habits and some of the solutions before I had to leave Los Angeles for the desert. While reading the book, I did notice that the 21 habits that Goldsmith talks about are surprisingly similar to the human relations principles that we coach for in our classes.
After the 4-hour drive from Los Angeles, I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park. It was just after 6:00 PM when I arrived. Coupled with the fact that it was now mid-September, I realized that I had a very limited amount of usable daylight to get the campsite set up. So without hesitation, I located a suitable site, unpacked the equipment, stretched everything out and immediately began to pitch the tent.
As I was setting up the tent, a woman from the next campsite next to mine passed by and introduced herself as Loretta. She then started making small talk, asking where I was from, what I did for a living and talking about what it was like living in the high desert. While I was conversing with her, I noticed something about myself. In spite of conversing with Loretta, my mind kept getting pulled back to the idea that I needed to get the tent set up before dusk. In fact, I couldn’t get away from that thought. I needed to get the tent set up before dusk.
After about 15 minutes of conversing with Loretta, she moved on down the dirt road to her original destination and I began the task of setting up the tent once again.
It’s a simple dome tent, and the instructions recommend two people to make it easy. But a single person can set it up with a little patience and a whole lot of agility.
After about 20 minutes, Loretta’s husband, John, peeked over from the neighboring campsite and introduced himself. He made small talk and asked where I was from, explained that he and his wife were up just to picnic and watch the moonrise. Of course, I conversed with him, but again, that single dominant thought that I needed to get the tent set up permeated my mind.
John asked if I needed anything or if I needed any help in setting up the tent. Of course, I said thanks but that it was pretty simple to set up so I didn’t want to impose. He also asked if I needed any food or water, or maybe even a beer. Again, I politely declined stating that I had everything and that I didn’t want to impose.
45 minutes later, I had the satisfaction of having the tent and the campsite set up and it was all done before dusk.
As I sat there eating dried beef and drinking bottled water, I had a discomforting thought. My mind turned back to Marshall’s Goldsmith’s book and I found myself guilty of falling prey to the 21st habit of success. I had been too goal oriented.
Goldsmith credits this habit of being the root cause of all of the habits that impede your progress. There is nothing wrong with being goal oriented. In fact, it probably plays an important role in helping successful people get to where they are today. The challenge arises when it becomes a habit, a unit of behavior and thought processes that gets put into play automatically.
I was in no danger of not getting the tent set up. John had even offered his assistance. But somewhere in my past, the behavioral pattern of being goal oriented had been established and I had been successful in using it. So here I am in the high desert, using the habit of being goal oriented to pitch a tent. And I was successful in getting it set up before dusk.
But at what price?
Here was an excellent opportunity to find out how the local townspeople lived. I had the opportunity to discover what brought them to these communities, why they stayed, what kind of industry was in the area, and to discover what their thoughts, hopes and dreams were. I could have spent time conversing with Loretta and John, sharing in their fire and they would have helped set my tent up before nightfall.
But none of this happened because I was to goal oriented.
If you have been in your career for any length of time, chances are that you have employed the habit of being goal-oriented to get things accomplished. My question is this: by becoming goal-oriented and allowing this behavior to become a habit, what are you missing out on? What new ideas and opportunities are you missing because you are so focused on achieving your goal?
There are 20 other habits listed in Marshall Goldsmith’s book. Which of the other habits have helped to get you where you are today but are now impeding your progress? Read the book to discover the other 20 habits and discover why they won’t help you get to where you want to go tomorrow.