During 2011, I’ve been on a personal journey to learn more about setting and ultimately achieving my goals. The journey started by acknowledging that most of us, including me, do not engage in any sort of personal or professional goal setting process. We want success in our lives but reject the idea that we need to describe and envision that success and begin to take actions that move us toward it. Rather, we choose to stay on what we consider to be the “safer” path of inaction.
By confronting my fear of greater success and acknowledging the lack of safety on the path of inaction and procrastination, I achieved a much-needed change in attitude and perspective about my need to engage in goal setting. With a more clear understanding, I then began to recognize my lack of goal setting skills, which I suspect is common to most of us.
Step 1 – We need to start setting goals. Step 2 – We need to get better at goal setting and stop the behaviors which “sabotage” our success, including setting “weak” minimum performance goals, setting too many goals, or setting goals that are not specific and measurable. To effectively drive changed behavior and success, our goals need to be “difference making” stretch goals.
Using a term coined by authors Jerry Porras and James Collins in their book “Built to Last,” you need to establish BHAGS (pronounced “bee-hags”), which are Big Hairy Audacious Goals! And when your goals are BHAGS, you only need to establish a few of them, no more than 3 to 5. And no “wishy washy” goals either – your goals must be specific and measurable, including when, how much, and precisely what will success look like?
OK, Steps 1 and 2 are a lot of work. Acknowledging that I need to set goals, and establishing a few BHAGs with no way to “fudge” on success or failure makes me feel better already. May I please stop and call it a day? How about “No!”
We have now arrived at the “crux” or heart of the matter: Goal setting is only an interesting mental exercise if we don’t transition to Step 3 – Goal achieving. So if you’re serious about achieving your goals, if you “really want it,” you must willingly submit to a process of accountability, which includes:
- Making it “real” by putting your goals in writing
- Sharing your goals with others – boldly and openly
- Asking a mentor to hold you accountable
- Establishing a “return and report” process with interim action steps and milestones
- Reviewing your goals regularly and frequently
- Breaking your goals into “bite-sized” pieces each with their own “by-when” dates
- “Establishing momentum” by completing the first action step right away
- Identifying any “pieces” that can be delegated or assigned to others
- Getting better at skills needed to achieve your goals (e.g., delegation, time management)
Taking these actions shows you are serious about achieving your goals. These steps help to knock down the barriers, distractions and procrastination that can sabotage your success. But these steps are not enough. Achieving your goals still takes hard work and effort. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
And in the end, it’s results that matter. It’s not about what you intended to do, or the ideas and plans you “toyed with” in your mind. Instead, it’s about what you actually accomplished that made a difference in your life and the lives of others.
So how am I doing with my transition from goal setting to goal achieving? In my last blog, I shared with you my personal goal to run in a 5K (3.1 mile) race event before July 1st, and to run “non-stop” in under 40 minutes. I am very happy to “return and report” that I accomplished my goal by running the Big Berry Run supporting Big Brothers / Big Sisters on Saturday on June 25th, non-stop in 36 minutes!
And while this is great for me and worthy of celebration, two questions remain: “How do I keep going?” and “What’s next?” How do you deal with distractions and obstacles of life, and the little voice in your head that continually brings doubt and discouragement? I’d like to explore these important questions further in my next blog. Until then, the following words of an unknown author bear repeating: “When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’"
We will continue to help our clients succeed by “setting” goals and most importantly “achieving” them. In the meantime, if you have any ideas or experiences to share on this subject, or any BHAGs of your own you want to share, please post them so others can benefit.