I just want to cope better

Yesterday I worked with three people. M.A is a Partner at a global professional services firm, M.B is a Senior Manager at a legal services firm and M.C is the Managing Partner of an accountancy practice. When talking to people or teams about how to have more impact at work, one of the things I start with is gaining clarity over their goals and purpose. All three yesterday told me in some form or another that their big goal is ‘to cope’, ‘to feel better’, ‘to not feel like I’m drowning in work, but rather to be handling the work better’.

To be frank, these are not good enough goals.

The definition of ‘to cope’, is to deal with something difficult. Of course there is a need to deal with something difficult, difficult things happen, life is difficult. But to have this as a goal? To strive for coping? This to me is sad. A sad reflection on our cultural norms and a sad reflection on our state of clarity around purpose. We should have higher goals than to cope.

I told my clients so, yesterday. I made them understand how small their thinking had got (understandably in all cases). I pushed them to connect with the emotional emptiness of ‘to cope’ and subsequently our work has turned to clarity of purpose.

Without this clarity of purpose, the obvious goal becomes to feel better, to cope. It’s not good enough. I know how often this comes up for my clients and teams I’m working with. I hope this prompts you to think about your goals, make them bigger, make them emotionally purposeful.