I was on the TAXI Forum and I came upon this thread “Post your Goals after attending the Rally” (the yearly conference for TAXI Members). While reading through people’s responses to the question, I noticed that most posts were a combination of goals, actions and strategies, with the posters conflating their intended actions, strategies and goals as if they were all goals.
I believe that this confusion can actually create some of the struggles and road blocks that many of you experience as you pursue your dreams. So, in this article I will explain the difference and why it matters.
In short, the difference is:
- Actions are WHAT you do
- Strategies are HOW you do
- And Goals are WHY you do
“Henry Mintzberg from McGill University defined strategy as ‘a pattern in a stream of decisions’.”
“In game theory, a strategy refers to the rules that a player uses to choose between the available actionable options.”
So, strategy has to do with:
- Your methodology
- How you choose to think about your goals and actions
- And the underlying principles you use to determine which path to take to achieve your goals
Strategies affect how you prioritize each project in the larger scheme of things as well as which options you choose in your pursuit of your goals.
“Basic action theory typically describes action as behavior (emphasis added) caused by an agent in a particular situation. The agent’s desires and beliefs (e.g. my wanting a glass of water and believing the clear liquid in the cup in front of me is water) lead to bodily behavior (e.g. reaching over for the glass). In the simple theory (see Donald Davidson), the desire and belief jointly cause the action. Michael Bratman has raised problems for such a view and argued that we should take the concept of intention as basic and not analyzable into beliefs and desires.
In some theories a desire plus a belief about the means of satisfying that desire are always what is behind an action.”
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is your beliefs about yourself, the universe and your place in the universe, as well as your emotions induced by your beliefs which, at a minimum, color your actions and more likely completely determine which actions or behaviors you choose.
Although these choices are generally occurring in your unconscious mind. These behaviors then lead, seemingly inevitably, to your outcomes.
“A goal is a desired result [snip]. It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value.”
So, a goal is an outcome, an objective. It is the result you seek. But very often when asked, “What are your goals?” People respond with their actions and strategies. I elaborate on how I design goals with my clients in “Goals and Success”.
So, what does it matter?
Well, if you are only focused on WHAT to do, without a clear picture of the PURPOSE, it is very easy to become confused, discouraged and even completely derailed.
If you don’t know WHY you are taking these actions, if it gets hard to take the actions or they don’t work out they way you think they will, then you may give up entirely.
But when you are clear about your objective, your WHY, then if one action doesn’t get you there, you simply find another way. You think about your strategies. You brainstorm your options. You ask for help and advice.
You figure it out!
But if you are only thinking in terms of actions – then what happens when the one idea you had of something to do doesn’t work out? Well, what else is there to do, but quit?
Having a strategy may help you think of other things to do, but how do you evaluate which are the right things to do and when is the right time to do them, if you don’t know what you want!?!
Or as one gentlemen said to me in a workshop years ago – if I don’t know where I’m going, how will I know when I don’t get there?
If you still aren’t sure whether you’re thinking in terms of goals, actions or strategies – share them below and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out!