Where is your compass leading you? And importantly, how are you going to get there?
The start of the year is an opportunity to take stock and consider where we are in our lives and where we want to head to. It’s a time to set or reset our destination with new goals, big or small, for our professionals and personal lives.
In this special edition of the PositiveLeadership podcast, JP’s draws on conversations with some of his most inspirational guests to help you make this journey worthwhile.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: The start of the year is an opportunity to take stock for moments of where we are in our lives and where we want to head to. A time when many of us will be setting ourselves new goals. A powerful goal can function as a map, a compass, and a destination all at once, triggering new behaviour, driving growth and impact in your personal and professional life.
MICHAEL BUNGAY STANIER: It can be about your team, or it can be about your family. Or it could be about your neighborhood. Or it could be about running Microsoft. It could be… It depends on where you want to play.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: But it takes courage and discipline to create a transformational goal, and achieving your goals can be really hard. I was a big practitioner of social entrepreneurship as well in the home countries of my foundation. And so clearly what they do, they start with very little, very little, and yet they are going after huge social cause and issues.
WHITNEY JOHNSON: It’s exciting, isn't it?
JEAN-PHILIPPE: I’m Jean-Philippe Courtois and this is positive leadership, the podcast which helps you grow as an individual, a leader and ultimately as a global citizen. Over the last 18 months, I've been lucky enough to meet some incredibly successful leaders, and in this special one-off episode, I'll be sharing their practical advice and insider tips so that you can set and achieve your goals in a positive way.
DR AUDREY TANG: The first thing we need to remember is we mustn't confuse passion with purpose. Passion is an extreme emotion. It's exciting, it's exhilarating, but it's also fleeting. Purpose is a lot more about fulfilment and doing something that fulfils us and is meaningful to us can certainly be something we begin to love. But we'll probably find that love goes even deeper than passion.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Finding a goal that's personally meaningful to you and that contributes to the greater good is what gives us a sense of purpose. Dr. Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author of The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness to identify goals that are meaningful for you now, she suggests, starting with some question prompts.
DR AUDREY TANG: Think about a life goal in the past, something that you achieved, you were excited about, you were proud of. But think about why that was so meaningful to you. So just an example. I passed my driving test on the fourth attempt, but for me I kept going with it. I kept trying and I kept doing it. I didn't just give up and say, Oh, I can just take the train. And for me it wasn't just the, Oh, well done. You've passed driving test and getting the freedom. But actually, it was the fact I persevered. And so when I then apply that to what I do, say, in my career, teaching is one of the most fulfilling things for me, because I see other people persevere. I see other people fail, but get back up again and I get to be part of their journey. So to me, that's something that's really meaningful. And when I can find that in the work that I do, that's absolutely wonderful. So think about life goals. But what was meaningful to you?
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Purpose sounds big, but we are all different and purpose comes in all shapes and sizes. It's about knowing what suits you best and the most effective way you can make an impact. Michael Bunga Stanier is a bestselling coach and author whose latest book, How to Begin, helps you figure out what you should do that matters.
MICHAEL BUNGAY STANIER: What’s a worthy goal for you? What is a worthy goal, and how do we create the best possible worthy goal for you, for where you are now, with the resources you have, with the experience you have, with the status you have? And for me, a worthy goal has three parts to it. The first part - is it thrilling? Like does it actually light you up? Do you actually care about it? Does it actually speak to your values, whether you know your values or not? Like, does it actually speak to something in you that makes you go, you know, I'd love to do that. That sounds pretty great. But it needs to be more than just thrilling for you. It also needs to be important. It needs to serve a bigger game. The phrase I love comes from a writer called Jacqueline Novogratz. Does it give more to the world than it takes? So this is a sense of how does this get beyond just lighting you up but actually contribute. And there's often an interesting tension between thrilling and important. They’re in battle with each other a little bit, and you're trying to find the best possible tension. And then the third element is daunting, like, does this stretch you and grow you and keep you learning, take you out to the edge of your own sense of confidence and confidence and sense of what you know and sense of who you are?
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Really important and daunting. A worthy goal needs to tick all three boxes and remember to set the bar high. Don't be shy about pursuing big goals.
RONALD COHEN: It tends to be that if you think big, you achieve big. And in my first book, the Second Bounce of the Ball, I deal with this question of climbing the north face and getting to the top, picking a really big challenge and achieving it.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Setting ambitious goals helps shift your perspective and your level of confidence. One of my guests was incredibly ambitious at very young, Sir Ronald Cohen Recognised as the father of impact investing, he set up one of Europe's first venture capital firms, Apex Partners, when he was just 26. You know, one of the things that I think is important for a positive leader to be able to do is to be able to define your ambition and to be bold in that ambition and Apex went on to become one of Europe's and global leading private equity firms, providing seed funding to companies including Apple, Waterstones, Virgin, AOL and many more. I think. So what was your ambition, your bold goal at the time, Ronnie, when you set up Apex, and why were you so certain that creating this new form of finance could work?
RONALD COHEN: I felt that the sky was the limit. Jean-Philippe I was brought up to be very ambitious. And I wanted to build something of real significance. And I felt I could achieve anything that I set my mind to. Now, I think this is what characterises entrepreneur’s. Ventures grow to the size of their entrepreneur's vision. An entrepreneur with a small vision will build a small company. You very seldom find an entrepreneur starting out with a small vision and ending up with a massive company. Now, part of it is my background at home. A Jewish mother is a great incentive in life because you wake up every morning being told you are the best and the most handsome and the and the cleverest and and you should go for it. But a lot of it had to do with my time at Oxford, actually. And then when I was about to graduate with my degree in philosophy, politics and economics, I went home and asked my dad. I said, What am I going to do now? He said to me, why don't you go to Harvard Business School? I'd never discussed Harvard Business School with him before Jean-Philippe. And he gave me the opportunity to think about something that turned out to be just the right step for me. And I was lucky to get a scholarship. And I went to HBS. I discovered venture capital there, and you know the rest followed.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Ronnie credits his experience in education for encouraging him to push himself out of his comfort zone early on and to rethink what he imagined possible. That stood him in good stead 30 years later when he was set the most incredible goal by the British government.
RONALD COHEN: I got the phone call from the British Treasury saying, Will you look with a more entrepreneurial eye at how we deal with the issue of poverty? However much money we seem to throw at it, we don't seem to make a big dent in it.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Trying to solve poverty, what a thrilling, important and daunting goal that aligned with his personal and professional purposes.
RONALD COHEN: I knew that I didn't want my epitaph to read. He delivered a 30% rate of return. It didn't seem like the meaning of my life, and I immediately said yes.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Embracing that goal set him on a different path. The Path of Impact Investment. Today's goal is to create a world that works for all of us - business leaders, employees, pension savers, investors. A worldwide impact is at the heart of our decision making and actions.
RONALD COHEN: When I started out my first fund in Europe, 1981, £10 million. Latest Apex Fund 14 or 15 billion. The venture capital industry is a very powerful engine. $25 billion went into venture investing last year related to climate alone. So this combination of entrepreneurship and available capital is what is going to drive this disruption. And those that don't embrace impact thinking are going to be left behind, like IBM was left behind by Microsoft and Apple and others. So this is a megatrend. And if you're young today, in the same way that I felt something was in the air when I was 26 and the technology and entrepreneurship was going to be a huge thing globally. It wasn't just going to be in the United States as some people thought it might be. Similarly, today, sense what's in the air today. Sense that we cannot solve our social and environmental problems without a change in our system. It's our system that’s stupid. It's our economic system that’s stupid, right? To change our economic system, we have to drive capitalism to optimise, not just risk and return, but risk return and impact.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Whitney Johnson is CEO of the talent development company Disruption Advisors and she the author of Smart Growth: How To Grow Your People To Grow Your Company. At the beginning of a conversation, Whitney and I discussed the structure of the S-curve, which Everett Rogers introduced in 1962 as a model for the innovation process. Whitney uses the learning S curve to map the stages of a person's learning and emotional growth.
WHITNEY JOHNSON: So you've got this curve of learning that applies to the individual, and you can visualise it as a as a mountain. And so when you think about this, you can say, well, where am I on the mountain? Am I at the launch point? Am I in the sweet spot? Am I in mastery? And you can apply it to a new role, a new project to your career.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Each time we take on a new goal or challenge, we go through this cycle, and depending on where we are on the curve, we're going to need different help and support.
WHITNEY JOHNSON: So you start a new job. For example, you're at the launch point of the curve and you're going to be awkward and gangly and uncomfortable. And it's not that growth isn't happening, it's just not yet apparent. And so it feels uncomfortable. It feels slow. And then you put in the effort and you reach this tipping point and you move in that steep, sleek back of that curve where things are hard but not too hard. They're easy, but they're not yet too easy. You feel tremendously exhilarated. This is the sweet spot where all your neurons are firing.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: So it's starting to get some success as well, right?
WHITNEY JOHNSON: Absolutely. So this is the place where growth is fast and it feels fast. And then the third part of the curve is mastery. Mastery is this place where you’ve figured it out. But because you're no longer learning, you can get bored.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Can get too comfortable.
WHITNEY JOHNSON: That's right. Exactly. Uncomfortable. Comfortable. And growth now slows. And so you've got this slow at the launch point. Fast in the sweet spot, slow in mastery. So slow, fast, slow is how you grow. And so what it does is it gives you a map of the emotional arc of growth.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: When it comes to achieving goals, you need to have motivation.
DR AUDREY TANG: So let's think about the psychology of motivation.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Audrey Tang again.
DR AUDREY TANG: And one very crude equation used in psychology is motivation equals efficacy plus value.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Motivation is our desire to achieve. Efficacy is our belief in our ability to achieve. The two are entwined but are also two separate constructs.
DR AUDREY TANG: And if you are doing something and you suddenly find, well, actually this is no longer meaningful to me, well, there's one of your answers. It may not be a case of risking to do anything else. It might just simply be, I don't have the drive for this anymore. This is not meaningful to me anymore. You don't need courage. Although you may need courage to stop, but you don't need courage to keep going. However, if it is efficacy that's at fault, it may actually be. If you recognise this goal is still meaningful to me, it's still something I want to pursue. I'm just at a real dead end. You maybe need to consider the ways in which you're pursuing it. Is there something different you can do? Is there someone else who can help you? Is there simply a different method? Could I collaborate with other people? It can just be the way we're doing it that needs changing and not actually what it is we're doing. But where does this relate to to courage and actually taking the risk in the first place? Well, one thing that we do need to remember is not to get caught in something called the sunk cost bias. Now, this is where we think, Oh, I've done it all this way all the time and it's not working. But if I just do it a little bit longer, it's going to work. And sometimes we need the courage to step away from that and look somewhere else.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: If you find you’re lacking motivation, it might be time to have a good think about your value and efficacy and to reconsider your strategy for achieving your goals. Whitney Johnson identified a number of growth accelerants that can help us move along the S curve and achieve our goals more efficiently. Being open to taking the right risk is one, she told me. Playing to your strengths is another one.
DR AUDREY TANG: So as you think about your career, as you think about moving up a curve of a curve, how can you take on market risk? How can you play where no one else is playing so that you increase your odds of success? So that's number one. Take the right risks. Number two, and this goes to positive leadership and positive psychology, is play to your distinctive strengths.
DR AUDREY TANG: Play to your strengths. What do you do well? What makes you feel strong? Because when you feel strong, you're willing to play where you haven't played. And so there's a flywheel effect of playing to your strengths and taking the right risks.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Your confidence grows as well.
DR AUDREY TANG: It grows as well, yeah. Number three, embrace your constraints. So we think - faulty assumption - we think if only I had more time, more money, more resources, then I would be successful. And yet we know it's a law of physics that you need constraints, you need something to bump up against. And so as you're moving up that curve, you want to ask yourself, whatever I don't have enough of whether it's time or money or buy-in from my boss, buy-in from my stakeholders, how do I turn that constraint into a tool of creation? Because that's what it is. The constraint is a tool of creation.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: But the most important tool in your framework for personal disruption, Whitney says, is accelerant number four, examining your expectations.
DR AUDREY TANG: What are your expectations as you're moving along the curve? If you find yourself saying things should be different, you know you're in trouble. Because what you're doing is you are competing with what is rather than creating with what is. And that will stop you every single day of the week from making progress because it makes you a victim.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: We assume that if you work hard enough, you will succeed. But if your expectations aren't being met, we can feel disappointment, frustration, even anger. That's something I learned from my old friend and colleague Mo Gawdat. Mo has had a long and incredibly successful career in tech. He is the former chief business officer of Google X and the author of the book Solve for Happy.
MO GAWDAT: I differentiate between ambitions, targets if you want, and expectations. Expectations to me need to be realistic. Ambitions need to be as high as the sky. And by differentiating those two, you suddenly are able as a person to shoot for the stars. But to know that achieving, you know, just the stratosphere is actually a major achievement.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: After the tragic loss of his son, Ali, Mo turned to an equation they have devised together to get through the grief. Mo’s happiness equation is your happiness is equal to or greater than the difference between the events of your life and your expectations of how life should behave. So be realistic. See events for what they are.
MO GAWDAT: When I wrote Solve for Happy, I wrote it because I sort of felt that my son wanted me to share what he taught me about happiness. And at the time I gave myself what I thought was an ambitious target. I it was called hashtag 10 million happy at the time. I wanted his message to reach 10 million people. And I thought in my mind that, you know, through six degrees of separation, 100 years later, part of his essence, will be everywhere and part of everyone as as he dreamed to be. Now, 10 million happy happened within six weeks. Like literally within six weeks, we had 120 million views on our content, more than 10 million actions for sure. And so suddenly the team came together and said, maybe we should increase the target. And so, you know, sandbagging as salespeople always do, I apologise. I didn't expect that. And so we increased the target. We made it 1 billion happy. So the mission now is 1 billion happy. Now, you and I know, Jean-Philippe, I'm never going to reach a billion people.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: You will eventually.
MO GAWDAT: It took Jesus 2000 years to to reach a billion people. But, you know, it happened through people. It happened through others. So a mission and ideology, a concept takes others takes champions to build. So what would happen if I you know, I'm on my deathbed and we've reached 300 million? Would I kill myself and call myself a failure? No, the ambition is wonderful. The ambition is a billion happy. But the expectation is I'm going to do the absolute best I can for our listeners today to be happy. And that's as far as my impact can reach. And and if I meet that expectation, I'm very, very happy. But I continue to shoot for the ambition so that I can make a difference. Many, many times in life we think that the event is coming short. But the truth is the event is amazing. And many, many times in life we think that the event which is still amazing, is missing expectations, but that's only because the expectation is inflated. So it's only a matter of tuning those two and all of that happens inside your head. It doesn't happen outside in the world. All of that calculation is inside your head, which basically means the number one target to happiness or path to happiness is to actually regulate your thoughts, is to be able to take control of that wild whirlpool happening inside your head and really get it down to reality.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: One of those things that enables you to step back and take a bird's eye view of your life, to see your life clearly, is the well-being wheel. You start by getting out a piece of paper and drawing a circle on it. Then think about all the different things that make up your ideal life and put them into different segments on the circle or wheel.
DR AUDREY TANG: Now, those segments can be of different sizes because it depends on how important that thing is to your life. So for example, family may take up about a third of the wheel, but exercise, which is important to you, may only take up an eighth of it. So really think about what's important to you and populate that wheel with all of those different things. Then, on a scale of 0 to 10 zero being in the middle and ten being on the outside, I want you to mark on that wheel where you are in your life right now with doing all of those things. So if you've got family in there and travel and work and money and exercise and spirituality, whatever those things are, where are you on a scale of 0 to 10 in your life at doing those things.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: Creating a well-being wheel can help identify which areas of your life are out of balance and what things you can work on to make you feel happier.
DR AUDREY TANG: Because in that wheel you have identified what's important to you. So maybe consider what ambitious goals or meaning or purpose you can put within those segments you've already identified. It's not a case of necessarily picking something randomly out of the air, but if you know what you already care a lot about and you can almost stack that purpose on top, then you may even benefit more by pursuing that particular goal because it's something you love with potentially people you love and something you already know makes your life fulfilled.
MICHAEL BUNGAY STANIER: If you're feeling overwhelmed by the big thing that you've taken on, know that you're an extremely good company because every other single person who has taken on a big goal is feeling exactly the same right now. They go, Oh my God, what was I thinking? I've been on something that is for a person who is wiser, smarter, older, more senior than me right now. This is a terrible, terrible decision. So you're in great company. So celebrate that. You're like, don't be fooled by looking around and thinking everybody else has got their act together. They're just think they're just feeling pretty similar to how you're feeling right now.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: One thing we should all be mindful of is a danger of taking on too much. You can’t do it all. So when you're setting goals, pick what you care about most and realise that you will have to let some of this stuff go. And that's okay. In fact, Michael Bungay Stanier believes no, it's one of the most powerful worlds we have.
MICHAEL BUNGAY STANIER: When you take on a worthy goal, you need to say no to three things. You need to say no to some of the tasks that are on your list, for sure. You've got too much stuff already. You can’t add a worthy goal or something significant like that without going, I’ve just got to say no to some of this stuff. And you know, it's like dust in a house. It just keeps accumulating these random tasks. So you need to spring clean every now and then. And you're going to need to say no to some people. Because when you say no to a thing, you say no to the person who's attached to that thing. So part of this is I need to get used to disappointing people or setting new boundaries or just saying what you were expecting of me and of who I am and what I do, that's different now. And then the third thing that you need to say no to is your sense of self. Because part of the overwhelm comes from present you going, what was I thinking? This is nuts. But there's a version of you, future you, you 2.0, that has the capacity for this and has the ambition for this and is excited around this. And you need to start saying no to this sense of current you. So you can say yes to future you.
JEAN-PHILIPPE: So good luck setting those goals and get in touch on Twitter to let me know what future you your 2.0 looks like. I'll be back with a brand new season of the Positive Leadership podcast in a couple of weeks. Until then, you've got dozens of podcast episodes for you to enjoy. They’re all available on YouTube as well. Just go out on the platform and search for the Positive Leadership Podcast with Jean-Phillipe Courtois. That's it now. Goodbye.