Email Us

How to Create Goals that Have Structural Tension

Posted In Goals // 0
how to write goals

If you’ve found this blog post, I’m guessing you’ve possibly read an article I’ve written about the importance of having goals that have structural tension.

I wrote about it in this post on what you need to focus on to achieve your goals.  If you haven’t read about why structural tension is critical for your goals, it’s worth a read.

Just quickly recapping… If you want to achieve your goals, they need to have structural tension.

In this post, I share with you how to create goals to make sure they do…

Let’s kick into it…

How to Create Goals that have Structural Tension

Step 1.  Know What Truly Matters to You

To achieve a goals, it has to matter to you.

Even though it might sound obvious, I have to say, this part is harder than it might sound.


Because a lot of people aren’t creating what matters to them. They are creating things (or at least trying to), but not according to what truly matters to them.

If you try to create goals that don’t really matter to you, but are based on something else, you are likely to find that structural tension is difficult to build.

When our goals are motivated by our own true values and aspirations, structural tension is easy to create.

If they are motivated around other things, like trying to create an ideal self, or living someone else’s values for example, our goals will lack structural tension. And trying to pursue them will throw us into structural conflict.

Goals need structural tension to support you to be able to stay motivated to achieve them and overcome any barriers to achievement.

So the process of creating goals with structural tension begins with making sure your goal is centred around what matters to you at the level of your values and aspirations.

How can you know if your goal matters to you or is more about something else?

When people are struggling to create structural tension, often they are suffering from one of these four things. If you have any of these four things going on,  it is highly likely that your goals will be challenging to achieve, because it will be impossible for you to create structural tension.

If, on the other hand, you don’t know what matters to you, I am about to share a process you can follow to discover what matters to you.  Subscribe to receive it direct to your inbox when it comes out.

Step 2.  Make Sure Your Goal is about your Goal 

Double-check yourself that your goal isn’t about, or doesn’t require:

  • becoming an ideal self/some way you think you should be  (e.g., ‘successful’, ‘beautiful’, ‘happy’, ‘inspiring’, etc) You can still become all of those things, but if they are the driver for your goals, you’re highly likely to struggle in some way with that pursuit.  Your life will be much more full of joy and sustained motivation if your motivation is the love of your goals for their own sake itself (and let go of your identity crisis).
  • becoming some way your parents think you should be 
  • creating what others value but when you observe your own behaviour, you see that you actually don’t want value it
  • receiving praise, thanks or the approval, envy or adoration of others – or of yourself.
  • solving a problem with your life
  • solving a problem with your relationship
  • getting other people to do things you want them to do (like for example: “become a bestselling author”)
  • getting other people to be ways you want them to be (like for example: “having my kids achieve their potential”)

If you are doing any of these things, and it’s not working, chances are that the above reason is why you are struggling to create structural tension.

 If you are clear that your goal is about your goal and not about the above issues, move on to step 3.


Step 3.  Create a Structural Tension Chart

I learned this phenomenal method from my mentors Robert and Rosalind Fritz.

Creating a Structural Tension Chart will help you to do a few things that you’ll need to achieve your goal:

  • create goals that have structural tension to both get started and sustain the clarity and efforts required to see the goal through to completion
  • identify the actions you are going to take to achieve your goal (along with any dates and assigned tasks to others)
  • create a plan to work from, which you can edit as needed and check off actions as you go

What does a Structural Tension Chart include?

A Structural Tension Chart maps out three things: 

  1. A clear vision for what you want; 
  2. Your current reality (i.e., where you are in relation to what you want); and
  3. The actions you will take to move you from your current reality to your vision for what you want (along with any deadlines and other people’s actions).

If you have mapped out a clear vision for what you want and sufficient detail around your current reality, these first two enable you to see what needs to happen to fulfil your vision.  

Most goal setting techniques focus solely on the first one only.

What you should experience if you get super clear on your vision and your current reality is an abundance of energy (called structural tension) that has been created by the discrepency between these two places. 

This tension is helpful tension because the nature of tension is that it naturally seeks resolution. So it will pull you towards your vision.

The third part involves mapping out the actions you want to take to move you towards your vision.

Important Notes on your Action Plan

An important thing to note that trips a lot of people up when coming up with the actions towards their goals is thinking there is a ‘right way’ to do something.  This trips them up when they don’t want to take that action.

This one got me when I thought the way to build a successful career in my industry was to create lots of professional videos. (You can read about that embarrassing, expensive lesson and how it taught me that there is more than one way to skin a cat here.)

Once you have written the actions you will take, it helps to put them in order so you can work your way down the list.

You may also find that some actions you take involve the creation of a whole new series of actions.

Let’s say, you want to build a blog.

But you don’t have blog writing skills.

So you add ‘learn the skills of blog writing’ as an action.

That might involve reading books, hiring a mentor, attending a writing course, practicing, watching the feedback on your blog and learning from that.

You may decide that this becomes it’s own goal with its own structural tension chart.

It’s been driven by the original goal of building a blog. But in looking at the actions, you decide it’s becomes it’s own goal.

It is fine to create a new structural tension charts for new goals that are part of bigger goals. In fact, I’d encourage it.

What about deadlines?

When mapping out your actions, you may also want to map out any dates you want to finish them by.

Creating meaningful deadlines helps build structural tension that you can use to build momentum (see step 6).  

Also if your goal and how you’re going to get there involves other people, you’ll also need to include who will take which actions, etc.

Would you like a template to work with?

I am developing a Microsoft Excel template that you can use for developing your own Structural Tension Charts. Please email me to get a copy.

Step 4: Work through your Structural Tension Chart

Now that your goal has structural tension, and you have a plan, work through the actions on your chart. Yay!

Step 5:  Learn + make any necessary adjustments along the way

As we work on our goals, there are almost always things that will change.

Maybe you’ll get new information that lets you know there is something that needs to change. Maybe you learn something that adds new actions or removes the need for certain actions you thought you needed. Or maybe what you learn changes the strategy or approach you take completely.

As we create, it’s important that we are willing to learn, and ‘roll with the punches’ and adjust our plans as needed.

You may even find that your end game changes as you move towards it. You may discover it wasn’t as important to you as you thought and you might abandon it completely. Or what you want changes as you go.

You can’t know how it will change till you’re working towards it. You have to discover it as you go.

Step 6: If you want to get to your goal quickly, focus on building momentum

The faster you work through the actions on your structural tension chart, the faster your vision can materialise.

If you don’t have an end-date in mind, it’s okay to take your time and go slower.  Some goals you’ll want to achieve in a certain time frame and some might be open-ended.

Deadlines can help you to build structural tension, but they are not critical.

It is important however to be aware that the slower you go, the less momentum you’ll accumulate. Momentum is a powerful force that, if you allow allow it to build will support the accomplishment of your vision.

The reason many visions fail to materialise is that the person with the vision went so slowly, the structural tension never built. And like the flicker flame of a match that never got given the paper and the kindling and the wood, the fire went out.

Step 7: Completion

At some point, if you use the structural tension you’ve built, and complete what needs to be completed, with luck on your side, your vision will be complete.

It can be helpful and important to remember that no vision you create is guaranteed to be successful.

For all of the motivational memes in the world, shit also happens that we can’t predict. Some results are not achievable, or not achievable for us – for reasons we may not ever understand.

But by building and using structural tension, we give ourselves the best possible shot.

Step 8: Living with Your Creation

There is a final stage to creating our goals that most never talk about.

It’s living with what we’ve created.

Whether it’s an artwork we’ve created, a business we dreamed of, or a marriage we’ve engaged in, sometimes we love what we’ve created. Other times, we discover we don’t actually like it as much as we thought we would. Or at all.

It can be disappointing to discover that something we worked so hard on didn’t fulfil us the way we thought it would. Or should.

But this discovery can only be done after creation. And from it, we learn. We learn what’s important to us, we learn what we like and what we no longer care for. And this newfound knowledge, it informs future creations.

And a creative life, is a wonderful life.

I hope you enjoy the process of building, as much as you enjoy the buildings themselves.

What to Do if You’re Struggling to Create Structural Tension

If you try out these steps and you still find yourself struggling, it’s possible you are operating from one of these four behaviours – and if so, you may need help shifting those.  Please get in touch with me and let me know what’s happening for you. We’ll see if we can work it out together.

Big love to you + your success!

P.S. For more posts on how to create what matters to you, direct to your inbox, feel free to enter your deets below.

You Might Also Love

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Back to top