Saturday, June 03, 2023

You've got goals. What about objectives? How to determine your objectives

The last time I wrote about self-management, we covered why you need to write down your goals.

Today, I’ll be covering what to do after you’ve written down your goals. 

The what to do is to break down each goal into objectives and key results. This system of goal setting was developed by Andy Grove, during his time at Intel and is now taught by John Doerr who taught it to Google, Bono, and now us. If you want to know more about this goal-setting system, you can watch John Doerr’s Ted Talk on this subject, and read his book Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that drives 10X growth.

As Doerr teaches, the objectives are the what and the key results are the how. Now a health goal might be: to improve your health by Dec 31, 2023.  But this goal doesn’t have quite enough specificity to help you act.

That’s where the objectives and key results come in. 

Your objectives are the WHATS that need to happen in order for your goal to be achieved. 

So three objectives related to your goal might be: 

  1. No new diseases, and existing diseases well-managed.  

  2. Increased health performance -  strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance

  3. To be thinner and leaner 

The idea is that if all three objectives are achieved, you could confidently say that you have achieved the goal of improved health. 

The key results are the HOWs. That is, how we meet our objectives. So how might we ensure that we have no new diseases? 

A key result might be: quarterly health checks.

How might we ensure increased health performance? 

Get a baseline measure of strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance and increase each of  the numbers by 10%. 

How might we ensure that we’re thinner and leaner? 

Decide an ideal weight and body fat measure example: Weigh 65 kg and have < 18% body fat 

And just like that, you've derived your objectives and key results from your goal.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Dependability versus flexibility

What does it take to be both dependable and flexible? 

I did not think that the two qualities could exist in the same entity. But my mind on this has shifted. 

Both qualities have positive and negative ends. 

On the positive end of dependability, you can be counted on. On the negative end, dependability can manifest as rigidity. Can be unbending. 

The positive side of flexibility is the ability to change. And according to the Oxford dictionary, willingness to compromise. The negative end of this quality is to be flaky; you say you will do something and then don't. 

Wouldn't it be amazing to nurture the positive ends of both qualities and minimise the negatives? 

What might that look like?  A person who can be depended on because they don't compromise on the big things but who is willing to bend to accommodate others. 

This sounds like Jesus. I tell you no lie! Willing to bend so much as to die for us. Yet not willing to bend even a little toward sin. Same person. Flexibility is what?! Dependability on steroids! 

Practically, how do we do this?  

One of the things that I suspect can help is a belief that all people are equally important. And all things are worth our time, and worth doing well. A teacher who believes in and only invests in the "smart kids" loses out on impacting majority of the brains and characters of the rest. A parent who only invests in the children s/he believes will succeed loses out on the joy of nurturing a child from low performance to high performance and the bonds that are formed during that transformation. 

It would also help to actively organise our lives to be able to give our relationships the time they need and also do our work in ways that free up resources to be committed to even more activities and relationships. This might mean keeping the key things fixed on a calendar but setting things up in such a way that the rest can be moved around.

Another thing that I'm going to try is to have flow within my relationships and activities. 

One idea to achieve this kind of flow within relationships is open, honest, inquiring, and non-judgemental communication. Because the more shared understanding we all have, the easier it is to cooperate. 

One idea to achieve flow in activities is look for, and seize opportunities to give/share what is on my mind.  Not necessarily to give people what I think they need, but simply share what is on my mind, and then let the conversation go where it will without necessarily having an agenda. This post is a step in that direction.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Three life lessons from a race track in Kakumdo

Dear Reader,

Last week, when I wrote about why you need to write down your goals, I promised to share what I do after I’ve written down my goals. And I will do that. But in a later post.

Today, I thought I'd share an experience and its hard-won lessons that have carried me a long way indeed. I actually have several such lessons tucked away in my system that kick in to help me when the need arises.

Where the lesson was learnt

Today's lesson comes from my days of competing against others in athletics. 

I still think of myself as an athlete. The difference is that I compete against myself these days. It's always a competition against ourselves even when it appears there are other competitors. They too are competing against themselves.

In middle school (University Primary School, Legon), I run the 4 x 400 m race, 800 m, and 1500 m races. Those were the longest races at that level. Therefore I was considered a long-distance athlete. The year I finished high school, I won first place in my individual races and contributed significantly to the team that won the 4x400 m race. Therefore I was adjudged best female athlete, along with the lady who dominated the sprints.

I went on to Wesley Girls High School, where I discovered that there was an even longer race. The 3000 m race. I won that too. And went on to compete at the Inter-colleges level. More stories from there too, which I will share later.

I've shared the highlights of my athletic history to establish credibility as someone who knows a thing or two about becoming a champion.

One of my favourite life lessons is something I learned on the race tracks. What did I learn? And why should you care?

Why should you care?

Well, life may be likened to a long-distance race. And I find that my hard-won lessons on the race-tracks have made me stout-hearted. This is important because one needs courage to do difficult things. My difficult thing is to achieve good success as an entrepreneur. My dream is to enable ordinary Africans to experience the fullness of life through products made for their everyday lives. It's a difficult task. Similar to a long-distance race. And I find that what keeps me on my course, is my God, this software that I have in my brain. And the few fans that I've been blessed to find along my journey.

What did I learn?

Well, I learned many things. I hope to share all of them over time. In the hopes that it will help you as you run your own race.

Lesson 1 - the winners don't always look like the winners

I learnt that the winners don't always look like the winners. This always always happened in the long-distance races. As soon as the race starts, some people would run with all their might. They would be looking like the winners. When they do this, everyone in the race is tempted to match their pace. And some athletes yield to the temptation. Once some athletes try to take the lead at this point, the competition actually escalates. They fight among each other and burn up all their fuel to appear to be winning. Meanwhile little old me is behind. Running slow and steady. Little old me might as well be singing along to John Legend - "Even when I lose I'm winning". "Even when I lose I'm winning" is as true in love as in life. I'm not watching them. I just know that I know that I know that the winner of a 3000 m race is not determined at the 500 m mark. One by one the initial winners fall aside and I win the race.

You must not follow others blindly.

Lesson 2 - don't be afraid to look bad

I also learnt how to look bad without giving up. I find that a lot of people will do anything to look good. Now learning to look bad is a superpower. Many people will die before they look bad. What I have found is that it is the looking bad that forces you to get good. If you're not willing to look bad, you won't get good.

Lesson 3 - learn to love what others consider boring and monotonous

I also learnt how to run without encouragement from others except my own assessment of my place in the race. And my understanding of how much fuel I still had in the tank, compared with the distance I'd covered already and how much more lay ahead. The thing with long-distance races is that because of their length, most people don't follow the race from beginning to end. Supporters don't have attention spans that long. Therefore, as a runner, it's you and your God, and whatever software you're running with. No fans. No gyama. No cheering. Nada. What this builds in you is the emotional resources to do hard things for the right reasons. The gold does come. But the gold tends to come only at the end. So you need to enjoy the process of covering laps. The field at Wesley Girls High School was a mere 200 m track so I needed to run thirteen laps around it. And after running those laps in daily training, one just gets to enjoy the sheer process of covering your laps. In the end, that is what the race is really about. To get you to find meaning in something that others would consider boring and monotonous. To quote Steven Covey, it is there that "you win the personal victories that precede the public victories".

Kakumdo is the suburb of Cape-Coast where Wesley Girls High School can be found.

Friday, May 12, 2023

On your marks! Get set! Go! - Why you need to write down your goals

Last week, we covered the core beliefs that underlie my goal-setting process.

What the core beliefs do for you is they kindle your willingness to start your race, and after your race has begun, they also help you persevere. By helping you to not give up, they help you reach the finish line. 

With the willingness to start your race in place, the next step is to write down your goals. And the action of writing down your goals is not optional. 

Why? Why isn’t it optional to write down your goals? 

Well think of yourself as someone running a race. Imagine you're Usain Bolt. Your goal is to reach the finish line by running your best time. It's not about the other people in the race. It's about you and running your best time. To run your best time, many things impact your race. You often cannot control the external circumstances. Like the weather. And where the officials decide the race will be held. What you can control is yourself. As the athlete, you need four items to help you. But these four items aren't just handed to you. You have to earn them. The key to running your best time is something called a record. And what exactly is this record? When you write something down, you give yourself a record of your intentions. And that record unlocks for you the following four items for running your best time or achieving your goals.

As the athlete, here is how the record helps you:

Item 1: A record makes your goals clear

We can only achieve goals that are clear. And writing is a powerful technique to make clear to ourselves what is usually fuzzy in our minds. When we write down our goals, we clarify what exactly we want. And having this clarity is seeing clearly in our minds what we want to manifest physically - the first key to actually having it.

Imagine again that you're Usain Bolt. If you say your goal is to finish the race, that's one reality.

If you say your goal is to finish first place, that's another reality.

If you say your goal is to break the world record, that's yet another reality.

If you say your goal is to become one of the best athletes of all time, that's yet another reality.

So what desires will your written goals express?

Item 2: A record helps you remember your goals

A record helps you remember. If you don’t write it down, you may forget. If you think you won’t forget, ask the Chinese who say: the palest ink is sharper than the sharpest memory. None of us have memories as good as a record. And if you forget your goals, you won’t act on them. And if you don’t act on them, your life will not improve. So remembering is critical, and a record helps you do that.

Imagine if Usain Bolt forgot once he got on the tracks that his goal was to win the race and got so distracted by supporters that he left the tracks in the middle of the race to hug a supporter. That would be pretty epic. A record helps you not get distracted from what you have purposed to do.

Item 3: A record keeps you honest

We only achieve goals if we’re honest. And a record keeps you honest. 

If you write that your goal is to win first place, but you finish the race in third place, without a record, you might tell yourself that your performance was decent. After all you were not last.  

By telling yourself this lie, your life remains the same. That's how people remain average. All progress rests on truths, and a record is a tool that helps you to tell the truth to yourself.

Item 4: A record helps you stretch to achieve your goals

Because a record helps you to notice when you’re failing to achieve your goals, it nudges you to think of what else can be done to achieve it. Often the actions you need to reach your goals lie outside your comfort zone. And a record that is telling you the truth about where you are, encourages you to do things you would normally not do. By helping you stretch, the record helps you to achieve your goals. 

Usain Bolt always checks in the middle of the race to assess where he is in relation to his opponents. But really it's where he is in relation to his potential. You need to do the same. Your record helps you see when you're underperforming and by so doing pushes you to do better.

Next week we’ll cover what to do after you’ve written down your goals. Until then, enjoy your weekend. Please leave comments if you have questions. Nyame nka wo ho!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Core beliefs for effective goal-setting and achievement

 Last week, we covered my approach to determining my goals. 

This week, I would like to cover the core beliefs that one needs to be able to trust my goal-setting process and goal-achievement system. 

The first belief is that the seed doesn’t look like the fruit. 

On my journey to better outcomes, I’ve met people who want to eat a baked pie. Don’t we all? But when I tell them to take some ingredients, process it, and bake it in an oven and out comes a pie, they look at me in disbelief. The flour looks nothing like the pie they want. So they don’t do it. 

To use a biblical saying, we must walk by faith, and not by sight.

The second belief is that the time will pass anyway.

Some people actually start but then they realize how far behind they are. And they decide not to keep going because they recognise it will take them 7-10 years to achieve their big dream. They decide that the price is too high to pay. They take their eyes off the prize. Someone offers them what appears to be a quicker route, and they pursue that. But it doesn’t get them there. What the short-cut actually does is that it steals even more time, and resources, and by the time they realize that, they have even less courage to embark on a 10-year journey. But achievers don’t think that way. Achievers know that the ten years will pass, and if they start today, in ten years, they will be farther ahead than the person who went looking for the quick fixes. 

The third belief is that results escalate towards the end.

This is similar to Jim Collins’ flywheel concept. At the beginning of any endeavor, you put in lots of effort and see minimal results. The majority of people get discouraged by the small results and give up. But for those who persist, the results increase exponentially over time. By the time people start to notice the results, years have passed. 

The fourth belief is that there is a distinction between true progress and appearing to win.

It is a natural human desire to appear successful. But achievers are more committed to truly being successful, not just appearing to win. By way of illustration, I went to see a fifth grade art work displayed by students. All but one were finished. I asked about the student whose work was not completed. The teacher explained that the others had traced their work. The incomplete work had drawn without tracing. By choosing a different although more difficult process, the student whose work looked least impressive had covered the most ground in terms of building capabilities. S/he had also learned that looking impressive is not the point. Being impressive is.

The fifth belief is that you can go back.

Let’s say your true desire was to study law but when you finished college, your grades weren’t good enough and you didn’t have confidence that you could pass  the law school entrance exams. So you didn’t even try. And now 10 years have passed. Most people will believe that it is too late now to pursue that desire. But the truth is that you can go back. This is akin to the Ghanaian concept: sankofa. In this context it would mean that you can go back, pick up the pieces, and do whatever you still desire to do. 

Thank you for reading this far. I hope at least one of these beliefs has challenged your own thinking. Next week, I’ll be back to teach why goals must be written down.

Friday, March 31, 2023

How to determine your goals

 Last week, we covered why we need goals. This week, we’ll cover my approach to determining my goals. 

To determine my goals, I have a process that I’ve developed. 

Step 1: Discover the structure of the idea 

The idea in this case is emotional wellbeing. To understand its structure, I start with a question. For example, to set emotional goals, I would ask the question: What are the elements of a healthy emotional life? 

To answer this question, I conduct research. Usually a quick google search helps refine my question. In this case, my question was tightened to “what are the components of emotional health”. 

Then I skim the components offered by the most legitimate sources. I find the following: 

Source 1 - NIH

In this case, the National Institutes of Health in the US say the components are: 

- “a sense of balance in emotion, thoughts, social relationships, and pursuits”

Source 2 - Share Care

According to share care, emotional health consists of “emotional intelligence and emotional regulation. Emotional intelligence describes your ability to identify your emotions, express them, and use your awareness of your emotions and their causes to promote personal growth. Emotional regulation deals with your ability to influence the emotions you have, when you have them, and how often”

Source 3 - WebMD 

Here, I discover warning signs that  emotional health is in need of care and notice that several of them apply to me. This information strengthens my resolve to work on my emotional health. 

I really don’t need much more than this to get started. I then notice that the first two sources look at emotional health from two perspectives. The first focuses on the what whilst the second focuses on the how. This is helpful because it helps me to relate the first two answers. To achieve the sense of balance expressed by NIH, I need to develop emotional intelligence and the ability to regulate my emotions. 

Step 2: Improve my understanding of the elements 

This piece is important because the more you understand about anything you are trying to do, the better your outcomes will be.  

Because I’m a reader, I tend to have in my mind which interesting books are out there, and  a fuzzy idea of what they cover. For example, upon seeing the answers offered by the sources, I recall that Brene Brown has a book about emotions called Atlas of the heart. I might then decide that my goal should be to build my vocabulary for expressing emotions by reading that book.

But if I didn’t already have a book in mind, I would then conduct research to discover books that give me this information. If you’re more of an auditory learner, you might take a course on the subject.

But I also have a friend who introduced me to the feelings wheel, so whilst I’m waiting to read the book, I can use the feelings wheel whenever I feel an emotion  so that I have vocabulary for talking about it. 

Step 3: Choose a focus 

After expanding  your emotional vocabulary or in parallel with doing that, you could consider  your “thoughts, social relationships, and pursuits” and either choose one area to focus on or do a little in each area.  Then try to be balanced in your allocation of resources to these areas. If you are choosing to focus on one area, for the first year, your goal might then be to achieve greater balance in say, your pursuits. 

Step 4: Take action on the area of focus 

To achieve this balance, the actions you might take could be the following: If you’re always working, you could take small steps to spend more time with your family,  friends, or even alone. If you only spend money on fashion and your children, you might consider taking some of your fashion budget to spend on areas you have neglected. That may be giving to your church or other cause of your choosing. If you read only English literature, you might consider improving your money IQ and EQ. Suddenly you’re taking new actions, and if you keep doing them for the entire year, they will shift your life in ways that make you emotionally healthier.

That’s the  process  for goal-setting that has worked for me. But there are certain beliefs that one needs to be able to trust such a process, so I’ll be back next week to share the most important ones. Until then, enjoy your weekend, please leave comments if you have questions, and Nyame nka wo ho!

About this blog

 I started this blog in 2008 as a way to document what is wonderful about Ghana. I shared it with a few friends. They shared it with a few friends, and in two years, it had become one of the foremost blogs in Ghana and arguably, the most beloved. It was written very much from the perspective of a returnee. 

After two years, however, my romantic notions of the Ghanaian experience began to fade as the not so wonderful realities became evident to me. I deemed it wise to attempt to solve, rather than complain about problems. 

Therefore, I became an entrepreneur, and along with a friend, pioneered e-commerce and social-media marketing in Ghana. Even though that business failed, I committed to entrepreneurship as my career path, and went on to learn how to succeed at it. Now in my twelfth year, I can share that my journey has been long, difficult, and rewarding. 

Developing and implementing solutions to problems has proved to be an enduring interest. My spiritual birth, marriage to a loving and supportive man, my role as a mother to our two delightful girls, and my relationships with my birth family, have challenged and stretched me, and as by God's grace, I have been able to find solutions to the problems I have encountered, I have grown. 

The purpose of this blog is now to share solutions to the common personal problems encountered by entrepreneurs. Specifically I write about how entrepreneurs can better manage themselves, and their homes so that they can be personally fulfilled, and enjoy life at home, whilst succeeding at work.

The name maameous was my late dad's nickname for me. It comprises two concepts. The first concept is Maame. Which means mother in Akan, a Ghanaian language. The second concept is -ous which - according to the Oxford dictionary - is English suffix meaning "having the nature of". If you put those two concepts together, maameous means having the nature of a mother or simply like a mother. So it is pronounced maame ous with something like a French liaison between the two elements. For those who don't know me personally, my first name is Maame Esi. 

So with all that ground covered, welcome! Don't stay here too long. I'll try to keep the posts useful and concise so that you're not procrastinating here, but finding information that you can act on to solve your problems. The older posts are entertaining, so I have organised them under the entertainment tab for when you need something to lift your spirits. I will be updating and adding new content to that section too. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

Why entrepreneurs need goals

Last week, I explained what goals are. Today, we will tackle why we need them.  

Life is made up of infinite choice. But we have only one body and one life. Which means we can’t experience all the options before we die. Therefore we need to choose which experiences we will have. 

Additionally, within these infinite choices include positive and negative experiences. If we do not actively and intentionally go after the positive options, we run the risk of having the negative options. If we don’t choose the good, then we’re choosing the bad. There is no fence.

Why we need goals

Goals are a wonderful privilege because it’s how we exercise choice over which experiences we have. Choosing a goal is like browsing the store of life, and saying yes to the good options and no to the bad options. But that’s not all. Even within the good options, we still have to select which resonate with us enough that we want to commit to pursuing them. 

Therefore, my experience has taught me that goals have only one purpose, albeit one with far reaching cascading consequences. And it is this: the purpose of goals is to help us to make meaningful choices. To say yes to the specific options that mean something to us and say no to all the others.

We are always choosing, whether we realise it or not. Every day, God gives every one of us 24 hours. Filled with choices. The quality of the selections we make contribute greatly to the quality of our outcomes. 

Now you know why we need goals. I'll be back next week to offer an approach to help you determine your goals. Until then, enjoy your weekend and Nyame nka wo ho!