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The Cathedral, Stone Blocks, and Your Goals

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

(This is the third in our series on goals.)

The Cathedral, Stone Blocks, and Your Goals

Christopher Wren was one of the greatest English architects. He designed 53 different churches in London before he died in 1723 at the age of 91.*

There is a story about how he walked unrecognized one day among the men who were at work upon the building of St. Paul's Cathedral -- which he had designed. St. Paul's Cathedral sits on a hill and is one of London's most famous and recognizable churches.

"What are you doing?" he inquired of one of the workers, and the man replied, "I am cutting a piece of stone and working hard so I can feed my family."

As he went on, he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, "I am an expert stonemason, and I am building a solid wall."

He walked a little further, and around the corner, he asked a third man what he was doing. "I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral that will be a place for worship, where people can come to pray, where the poor can come for clothing and food, for the Almighty."

This is a parable that has some measure of truth, but I have not been able to find any credible verification. But the point of a story such as this is to illustrate an idea or moral.

All three workers had goals. They expressed these to Sir Christopher when asked what they were doing. We can assume that each stone cutter was skilled, worked hard, and did the same work as the others.

One can guess that their goals kept them motivated. But each viewed their goals differently.

The first two workers had immediate tangible objects as goals – a cut stone block and a well-built wall. However, the third stone cutter's goal was a purpose, a vision of the future he was working to help achieve.

From this, we can look at all goals at two different levels: at a higher level, such as a purpose, and at a tangible level, which is a practical manifestation of the purpose.

In your practice, these two levels of goals might look something like this:

  • Higher Goal: Our mission is to help as many people as possible in our community become healthier, relieved of discomfort, and better educated so that they continue to improve their health and those around them.

  • Practical Goal: A person who completed a program of care, whose pain was relieved and is now healthier and incredibly happy with their results and of the service they received and has enrolled in a wellness program.

Practical goals are quantifiable in a set period. For example, how many new patients can we generate, how many visits can we achieve, and how many programs of care can we complete next month?

There must be an equal emphasis on the higher goal, often called a mission, and the tangible goals, often called quotas or objectives.

Too much attention on the mission, and we live in a dreamland and go broke. Too much attention on production quotas, and we eventually feel like we are on an endless assembly line, find no meaning in our work and lose our motivation.

Like the stone cutters, dream about the cathedral but also set a target for how many blocks you will cut and how many walls you will complete next month.

Both echelons of goals should be viewed, reviewed, revived, and recalculated as needed at each team meeting.

Goals are your future – where you want to be. And, where you want your patients and your community to be. So, nourish them both as a mission and as outcomes, and the work to achieve them will come much faster and easier.

Carpe Posterum (Seize the Future),


*** Learn more about how to create a Goal Driven Business that provides better services, is more profitable, and more enjoyable that what you are currently doing in my new book, The Goal Driven Business.


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