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Goals Must Be Imaginable

Posted: August 22, 2014 by Rob Voyle

How many times have you heard or said:
I can't imagine doing that...

This may often occur for preachers who often hear parishioners say I can't imagine, tithing, forgiving, selling everything, giving to the poor, or a host of other things they can not imagine.

What the person is saying: "I can not create in consciousness a picture of my self doing that behavior," or possibly I can't "hear myself" say I am sorry.

The first step to achieving anything is to image in consciousness a sense of doing the actions or steps to achieve the outcome.

One of the reasons many people did not leave New Orleans before hurricane Katrina hit was because they could not imagine the devastation that was to occur. Even though their were technical reports describing what could happen they remained intellectual abstractions rather than vivid pictures in consciousness.

If you are a preacher and you want people to change their behavior then you will need to help them paint a picture in their minds of what you want them to do. This is why stories, and testimonies can be very powerful. They help people see the possibility of what they could do.

Anything that is unimaginable remains an intellectual abstraction, perhaps a very fascinating idea, but it will not motivate new behavior. I used to think I had done a good job as a preacher when people responded, "you really got us thinking this morning." But stirring the intellectual pot and actually getting people to do change their behavior are two entirely different thing. I now spend more time on getting people to imagine themselves doing something different and not simply thinking about something different

So whether it be preaching or coaching, or leading a group of people one of the key aspects of creating goals is to ensure that people can imagine the outcome. Notice that I use the word imagine rather than visualize. While visualization is important and typically our most well developed sensory activity, imagining a goal may also include being able to "hear" themselves engaged with someone such as talking to a neighbor, or if you were working with a cook they may need to imagine tastes and smells.

When people are setting goals invite them to imagine achieving the goal as a movie with themselves as the primary character in the movie. One advantage to creating a movie rather than using a "still" picture of the goal is that the movie, includes both the steps to achieving the goal and also the consequences of achieving the goal. Seeing the outcome in this way will help clarify the value of the outcome and whether it is worth pursuing.

In next weeks newsletter I will explore one of the main reason many organizational goals are rarely achieved and how to create achievable goals in their place.

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

>>   See more on Rob's
        Helpful, Humorous, Healing
        approach to training.