Alas for the ill-fated New Year’s Resolution! Too often, these high and noble aims end up at the bottom of our ‘to be filed’ pile – right about now. The intention is real and the need is crystal clear when we set these at the beginning of the year – so what happens to them? How can we get better at keeping these promises to our families, our colleagues, and ourselves? How do you turn resolutions into real results? What we’re talking about here is Goal Setting. Setting Goals are the backbone of just about every self-help, habit changing, positive thinking book, program, and process out there – and for a good reason. So this issue of The Top Line is dedicated to goals: Why and How to set them, and most important: How to make sure you reach them!
Why set goals?
- People with goals succeed more often because they know – consciously and subconsciously – where they are going. Decades of research show that humans have a built-in ‘success mechanism’ that operates in the subconscious mind. This mechanism constantly seeks to reach our goals and solve our problems. Focusing that mechanism on what you want keeps your subconscious mind from assembling its own definitions of directions and problems from the morass of your daily experience*. Goals are the ‘why’ that activate and focus your thought processes on the ‘how’.
- Goals help you focus your conscious time and effort, so you spend more time working on your priorities rather than the loudest current distraction.
- Working on your goals boosts motivation, persistence, and desire to succeed.
Setting goals correctly can change how to see and interact with the world. Clear goals can erase the old ‘recordings’ your subconscious uses to try to convince you ‘why not’, and replace those records with new thoughts that are focused ‘how to’. Goals combine the power of your own subconscious mind with more efficient use of your time and an improved positive attitude. If you must set a resolution this year, resolve to set goals!
3 keys to setting goals that work
1.) Start by setting SMART Goals. Each goal should be:
- Specific: The goal should provide a precise outcome or accomplishment. Rather than ‘I will make more cold calls’ say ‘I will make at least 25 cold calls each week’
- Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal. ‘I will track my call volume and make up missed calls the next week”
- Achievable: Can the objective be achieved with a reasonable amount of time and effort? (A goal can be both very high and achievable! Stretch Yourself!) ‘I will do this by scheduling time for cold calls each week and keep that schedule as I would any other important appointment.’
- Relevant: The goal must be in line with your needs or desire. This is especially important for business goals – they must relate to the overall objective of the firm as well as be aligned with mission, vision, and practice. ‘I am making more cold calls in order to secure the new business I need to grow my top-line revenue by 10% this calendar year’
- Timed: Goals should include, where possible, projected timelines for achievement. Make sure your list of goals includes short, medium and long term aims. ‘I will have at least 12 new qualified prospects from cold calls by March 1, I will close 6 of those by August 1, and these new accounts will increase my Top Line revenue 10% by December 31.’
2.) Think BIG first, then small Start with your ultimate, long term, personal goal, and then work backward to define each milestone and task. Remember: Achievable isn’t always simple! For example, let’s say you want to pay off your $200K mortgage in 10 years. That means knocking down the principle an average of $20K per year. How much more do you need to sell to get that $20K? How many new clients does that mean? How may proposals to win those clients? How many appointments to get those proposals? How many cold calls to get those appointments? Now break it down to activities required each quarter, month, week, even daily if necessary. It doesn’t need to be evenly spread over each period – maybe you put away in $10K extra this year, and $30K extra in the tenth year. Starting with the big end and working back to small steps makes attaining the goal much more accessible (and easier to measure progress!) 3.) Write Them Down This is Big. Too big to be stored in your brain. Writing (not keying and printing) your list of goals and the steps necessary to achieve them creates an indelible imprint of them in your mind. It works because writing requires your whole brain: input from both the logical, rational, objective, detail-oriented left side, and the random, intuitive, subjective, big-picture right side. This one simple exercise can be the difference between continuous goal achievement and constant goal adjustment. Got Paper?
Having clear goals and a plan to achieve them is a great start. As the quote from W.H. Murray states (in column at left), commitment is the one piece that puts all the others in motion. A Pastor friend of mine once said ‘Even God can’t steer a parked car.’ So what can you do to make sure you stick with it, even when it looks completely hopeless? First, read your goals every day. Every Day. Every Single Day. At least once, every day. Did I mention every day? With all the negative input and obstacles we are bombarded with every day, it is important that your subconscious be fed a consistent stream of what YOU WANT it to work on. As long as the goal is yet to be reached, keep your whole mind focused on your priorities, EVERY DAY. Then, Hold yourself accountable in 3 easy steps:
- Schedule a time with some people you trust, respect or for whom you are responsible: Your spouse, children, partner, boss, key employees.
- In that first meeting, share a copy of your goals with them – including why the goals are important to you, and what your achieving those goals will mean to them – and schedule a monthly accountability meeting for each of the next 12 months.
- At each accountability meeting, you get to look these people whom you trust, admire, and/or support square in the eye, and share how far ahead of goal you are!
Finally, Be Prepared to Make Adjustments. Change is the only constant, after all. When you find yourself a bit short of certain activities, milestones, or goals, it’s OK to re-assess. Are there certain activities you need to do better? More of? Get rid of? Go Ahead. It will probably be necessary to re-think, re-adjust, or re-organize some steps along the way. Remember, also, that the learning – and most of the fun – is in the progress you make along the way! Set your destinations, commit, and enjoy the journey as you…
Go for the Goaled
*Initial research on this topic was published in Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, ©1960, Prentice Hall Press.