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The new and exciting Random Goal Generator (RGG) and Personalised Goal Generator (PGG)

Random Goal GeneratorI see a flurry of recent activity on the web discussing the setting of resolutions and goals - or should that be 'intentions' and 'objectives' - or would 'areas of focus' be better? 

What is causing all this?  Is it the time of year (end of year performance management reviews and new year's resolution setting); a backlash against the exponential rise of the coaching profession and the overuse, misuse and misunderstanding of goal-setting methodologies; the self-promotion of books and professional services, or; some more esoteric force such as the Jungian collective unconscious perhaps ...  Certainly, everywhere I look at the moment there's some online posting about goals and goal-setting.  And, it seems that the new Clever is Not SMART.  (For the few who've not encountered SMART in some context, it is best used in task management and generally, but not always, stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely/Time-bound.)  For example, a recent article on the People Management blog talks about not having SMART objectives for 2013 and a recent Linkedin posting in the EMCC group points to research which says SMART goals are 'comfort zone' goals and lack stretch.

Indeed, following the trail of some of these research references I came across Mike Murphy's book about HARD goals in which Murphy trumpets the development of an all new 'goal setting methodology', which will deliver HARD goals.  I see, from an admittedly cursory scan of the book, that the author's hook is to dismiss SMART goals as Dumb and go for HARD goals instead.  I appreciate the clever wordplay, however, in a rather telling final chapter the reader is talked through the final stage of the HARD goal-setting 'methodology' by being introduced to a process Murphy calls 'cutting them in half' (and in half again and in half again etc), ie breaking the goals down into identifiable, specific, manageable steps for today, next week, next month etc, including how to hold oneself to account for meeting the goal.  Erm.  So, that'll be SMART then.

Random Goal Generator
So, to be clear, SMART is not best used as a goal setting methodology.  It is just a little, albeit useful, tool which can help to focus attention on how to break-down goals to task level.  SMART was never a methodology, for goal setting or any other complex process.  A good goal-setting methodology needs experienced facilitation.  And I suggest the current spanking goals, and the SMART tool, are getting relate more to the process of how goals are developed and assigned.

For example, in a business context I see goals or objectives as the tactical operational expression of a strategic mission, vision and values, and goal-setting is the process of engaging staff in that business purpose. 
In that context, goals help to ground and operationalise what can sometimes seem a remote strategic vision.  A good process or methodology of goal- or objective-setting needs to be facilitated in a way which is creative, sensitive and involving and which stimulates and encourages imaginative, exciting and expansive thinking.  Appreciative Inquiry is an example of a good methodology for goal-setting.

Clearly, a potential problem in goal-setting is that goals can become too operational and detached from that original purpose and vision, and using SMART to generate rather than break-down goals, without keeping an eye on a wider and more compelling purpose and vision, would be indeed be stultifying, and Dumb.  SMART is best used only as a final test to ground the goals which arise out of the process by breaking-down to task level (and even then SMART is not quite so dumb if Stretch is substituted for Specific.)  
So, it is not SMART that is dumb, but its application which may be awry.  Looking at the research, the first issues seem to relate to process - clearly far too many people have goals or objectives defined and set for them.  The second issue relates to methodology - SMART seems to be widely used as a generator in goal-setting rather than a final tool to help break-down the goal into manageable chunks. 

And, never shy of a band-wagon, all this recent goal frenzy has prompted me to develop two exciting and innovative new goal-setting methodologies of my own for 2013.  They address the problems of 'comfort zone' goals and lack of involvement in the goal-setting by those who subsequently own them, and are certainly not SMART!  Firstly, the Random Goal Generator (RGG), the methodology for people wanting to be taken outside their comfort zone in the goal-setting process, who are looking for a bit of excitement and possible stretch.  Secondly, the Personalised Goal Generator (PGG), the brand new methodology for clients who need to feel more involved in the process.  (The PGG will generate the same goals as the RGG but with the client's name on them.)

You can see images of these innovative technologies on this page.  (Yes, it is the same box with a different label on each side ...).  I intend to commence, as early as tomorrow, research trials of these exciting and innovative new methodologies using a current client group, an intact clinical team in the NHS, and anticipate being able to make an early report on my findings.


Positive Intelligence in 21 Days ...


In Terry Leahy's new book on Ten Management Rules, he is clear from the outset that 'there is no silver bullet that will hit the bull's-eye of a successful life or business' and that 'anyone who tells you otherwise is lying'.  Experience bears this out. 

There is also a well used adage in coaching circles that success does not lead to happiness, rather, happiness leads to success.  So, the purpose of the quest seems generally to find what makes us happy - and then do lots of it!  Only by doing what we truly love we will ever find happiness and thereby success.  Follow your Bliss Joseph CampbellBut, this is often not as easy as it sounds.

And perhaps that is why I was interested to read Shirzad Chamine's new book on Positive Intelligence (PQ).  Chamine's premise is that Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and by extension Social Intelligence (SQ), are not enough to achieve the deeper levels of happiness and peace on which success depends and he has evolved a simple model for working on the core factors which influence our ability to remain positive.  The work is a synthesis of key theories from psychodynamic psychology, mindfulness and positive psychology: watch your inner voices, especially the critical ones, remain mindful, and build your capacities for empathy, creativity and wisdom.  

Chamine's proposition is that 21 days of working with the tools within his model will lead to significant improvements in one's levels of positivity and consequently happiness or well-being, and thence onto success.  I have to say, it seems very likely that it would.  These are core elements of personal development work, which requires a deep commitment and can yield rewards beyond imagination for anyone stuck in a negative groove.

What is interesting for me and gives the book a slight edge is Chamine's opennessHis personal disclosures are generous, insightful, brave and well judged.  Without drama he describes his own developmental process, making clear how the strategies we use as children to ensure our physical, psychological and emotional survival become the very things which work against us in adulthood.  At the same time his story illustrates how long it can take for many of us to understand and accept that. 

We shape our self 
to fit this world

and by the world 
are shaped again.

David Whyte

extract from: Working Together

His biographical details make the connections with Emotional and Social Intelligence and the steps necessary to discover and recover ourselves, before showing how his Positive Intelligence model can enable shifts from surviving to thriving.  His insights also normalise this developmental process, de-pathologising human characteristics often co-opted into clinical terminology.

The value in this is that it gives encouragement to those of us aware of the challenges presented by our 'monkey minds' and negative biases: which is 95% of us apparently (according to a show of hands at a lecture Chamine gave earlier in 2012 at Stanford University where he runs a course on PQ).  As well as giving encouragement, his disclosures also point to the challenges of undertaking this work.  Once understood, the work becomes clear, but it also becomes clear that it is for many people a lifetime's work.  So, 21 days to start to see a difference: a lifetime's commitment to developing it.  Certainly no 'silver bullet' then.

And yet, as I understand it, these developmental challenges are where our character is formed and so we might well do ourselves a great favour by choosing to embrace them.  After all, why would anyone want to 'get sorted' in 21 days: what on earth would we do for the rest of our lives ...?


Neil Gaiman on making your OWN art ... and feeling vulnerable in the process

A friend recently posted a link to a video on vimeo of Neil Gaiman's wonderful address to the Class of 2012 at the University of Arts, my alma mater.  His speech is to graduating artists, but his words are for everybody.   The part that spoke most deeply to me as an artist when I first heard it was the following, although it is all fabulous:

Most of us only find our voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.  But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is … you.   Your voice.  Your mind.  Your story.  Your vision.  So, write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.  The moment that you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.  The things I’ve done that have worked the best were the things I was the least certain about … where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work.  Neil Gaiman.

I made this work a couple of years ago and first showed it at Four Fifths in 2010 when it was rather painfully critiqued by a tutor as being constituted of 'ghastly' colours, 'like something from the 1950s'.  I was also told it was at this point that 'middle-aged women' often 'lost their way'.  I tried it again on some unsuspecting fellow art students in 2011 and got a similar response: something along the lines of a shower curtain if I recall rightly.  So, why is it that I persist with these brash, bright colours?  Well, I guess they suit a mood: and they vibrate and dance and zing together, which I rather love.  So, thanks Neil.  I can own this.  It is MY ghastly coloured shower curtain thingy that reminds me to not lose my OWN way ...

Team Geesemere, Magical Creatures and the Taste Police

Geesemere Seaworld


I volunteer with the NHS and have been working with the staff and clients at Geesemere in Chertsey over recent months.  I am delighted to say that our undersea mural collage is complete – we could carry on but we have run out of space …


It includes: birds, fish of all sizes and shapes, seahorses, mermaids and mermen, an octopus, starfish, crabs, oysters, coral, seaweed, 3D jellyfish and dophins, a crab family and a treasure chest with over-spilling dubloons and a diver in a bellsuit with the manager’s photo stuck on to the face of the helmet.  There is also a rather magical and unique creature created by one client which I find very moving: the creature has legs, wings and fins, being able to walk, fly and swim.

(Geesemere SeaworldA suggestion was also put forward that we add on the seabed: a wreck, a couple of skeletons, some syringes and used prophylactics, but, given the context I exercised my rights as Taste Police.  In another circumstance …)


It has been a great project.  The staff and clients unleashed some serious creativity and they have been lovely to work with.

Next project: the 2012 London Olympic Park with interactive competitive events - using some old wallpaper, cardboard packing and a bit of velcro.  Go Team Geesemere …!


The power of Active Imagination - and of talking to myself (with a skilled helper ...!)

The Art Psychotherapy Foundation course I am on at Roehampton University, a prerequisite for their  MA, is giving me the chance to use some very interesting and profound exercises which promote a dialogue with parts of the self not normally available to the conscious mind.  The course is based on Jungian theory, the only such course in the UK, and is excellent.  I recommend it to any artist ... or anyone interested in exploring some of the methods and outcomes of art therapy interventions.  It is heavily experiential too which is very valuable - each week a theory presentation is followed by a related exercise.

Roehampton Art Psychotherapy training courseRecently, I was invited to meet my Animus.  Each of us tore off a large sheet of brown paper from a huge roll (the course resources are good) and then, lying on the paper on the floor, drew around each other to produce an outline of our body on paper.  Then, we used art materials to create an image of our contra-gendered selves based on a key Jungian theory about the anima and animus which I shall not expand on here.  (Jung's theories like many of the early analytical theorists, who were products of their time as are we all, are widely critiqued by feminist theorists and others.  However, his work is being reclaimed by a number of post-modern theorists, and has a great deal to offer art therapy.  For example, Christopher Hauke's book Jung and the Post Modern and Joy Schaverian's The Revealing Image are very useful resources for a contemporary perspective.)

Back in the art room - I chose drawing inks to paint in some colourful and to me pleasing patterns and shapes within the form, allowing myself so far as possible to put aside thinking about the task and just follow my fancies.  And this rather extraordinary creature emerged.  When sharing it with the group and struggling to find words and meaning for the image, I found myself describing it and connections it evoked (amplification), but, not hitting the mark.  It just didn't feel right.  I couldn't connect with it properly.  ... "Its colourful, its patterned.  There's a connection between the head and the heart.  The sun is used as a symbol of the masculine principle.  It looks like a jester, like a clown, no, a harlequin ... no ... like a fool ... a wise fool ... something about a fool and wise ... the wise fool ... err ...", I said, feeling not at all wise and very foolish indeed and aware I was almost squeezing my poor brain to come up with the goods. 

And then my tutor asked me what my Animus had to say to me.  I paused, realising this was a very good question.  It
switched me from staying stuck in my senses (visual) and intellect (memory / logic) in looking at aspects of the image, and shifted me into engaging with the imagination.  I then sat quietly waiting for a response, feeling somewhat self conscious as the seconds clicked on by whilst the group's silent attention remained on me.  And then, lo and behold, the words did indeed come to mind and it became totally clear what my Animus had to say, which was:

"Don't take yourself too seriously and remember that you always have access to a deep inner wisdom."

Thanks Animus.  You're 'the man'!

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