Goal setting is as important in personal life as it is in business. The most common denominator in all the self-help literature and books is the importance of goal setting. We’re told to set long-term goals, short-term goals, lifetime goals and personal goals.
The benefits of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results orientated, Time-framed (S.M.A.R.T) goals have been written about in self-help books for years. So, it follows that goal setting is obviously a powerful process.
It is about ‘eating the elephant, one bite at a time’ and of turning vision into achievable, actionable things. It’s the common denominator of successful individuals and businesses.
Despite their obvious value, our experience with goals have shown that some are good at setting goals and sticking to them, achieving great results and others can’t keep a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking for two days in a row.
Failure to set goals can be seen as a fear of failure. That is, the blow to our integrity when we don’t reach our goals. When we make and keep commitments, such as setting and achieving goals, it reflects the amount of trust we have in ourselves. We increase our confidence in ourselves to make and keep commitments to others and ourselves. However, when we don’t achieve our goals we lose confidence in our ability to make and keep commitments and to trust ourselves.
There are many reasons why we don’t achieve our goals. Sometimes the goals we set are unrealistic. New Year’s resolutions are typical examples. Suddenly, we expect to change the way we eat, or the way we exercise just because the calendar changes. It’s like expecting a child that’s never ridden a bike to suddenly jump on and go, or to run a marathon without months of training. These goals are based on illusion with little regard to natural growth. You must be able to crawl before you walk.
So, how do we set and achieve goals? Stephen R. Covey says it best in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
An example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal might look something like the following:
My goal is to maintain a healthy body.
I can be fit to do the things I enjoy.
I can be an example to my children in health management.
I can build my personal character strength.
Good Nutrition. I will increase my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and decrease my intake of sugar, fats, salt and red meat.
Physical. I will exercise aerobically 3 times a week for 30-minute periods.
Focus. I will be aware of my body and look out for any health problems.
Focusing on the smaller, short-term goals and achieving success will give you the confidence to set other goals. So, remember, set your goals based on the S.M.A.R.T. principle to have the best chance of achieving your goals.
Book in to one of our 90 Day Planning Sessions to set your goals for the next quarter.
There is something that no one tells you at school – when you write down a goal you are more likely to actually do it. To back this theory up a study conducted by Harvard to find out why 3% of its graduates made ten times more money after they graduated than the other 97%(1). One of the primary reasons was that the top 3% took the time to write down and clarify their goals. Why would a small handful of student who managed to write down and clarify their roles wind up making more money? They committed themselves to an outcome, put importance on their plan, carefully stepped out their goals and sent positive messages to their brain so that they could make those goals happen.
On the other hand, if there is no plan, it means the end destination doesn’t matter. Under this method, the path you take will take you to a place, somewhere. It’s when that ‘somewhere’ becomes a destination that you actually want to be in, and it affects your future, that a plan starts to matter. Even the staunchest chaos theorists know that one small internal change will predictably result in changing the course of an entire system2. A plan allows those unpredictable changes to occur, adjusting the system to get back to the ultimate destination. Writing down your goals, making them specific with deadline (3) really is a simple way to get the wheels in motion in a business or team.
However, changing the course of a business can be challenging and communicating where you want to be and how you propose to get there can be difficult. Finding out how to write a goal down is an important skill. Being too broad, general and without a timeframe won’t ignite an outcome. For example, a business may want to be “the biggest and the best” in their category. The goals come after that initial vision is set, which may take the form of “retrain sales staff to cross sell”. It is important to draw a distinction between a vision and goal. A vision is that ‘big picture’ ‘blue sky’ statement. A goal is a step, something that is tangible, that follows that vision. A goal isn’t a thought or emotion – it’s an action. A set of goals is a roadmap of actions that make sure that the changes that you are doing inside your business are still predictably able to get your business where you want it to go (vision).
Finally, after setting goals such as SMART goals that have been used in business for decades (Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Timely)4, let’s not forget Feedback. Without feedback we are setting a rigid set actions to perform without knowing if they are actually making a difference5.
Remembering to check, evaluate and collect feedback for each set of goals. Making plans can be quite exciting, especially when the course you have set for yourself and your business truly meaningful.