How To Set Goals You Can and Will Achieve
I am normally a “shades of gray” kind of person (the color – not the book). Rarely do I look at anything from a black and white perspective. There was one exception to this though and that was in the arena of goals.
I found myself very resistant to setting goals. One day when I was working with one of my coaches around the topic of perceptual coaching I realized why I had struggled with setting goals and I came up with a way to solve the problem.
When it came to setting goals I went from seeing the continuum of gray to seeing only in black and white – like the difference between printing a picture using the gray scale setting and printing it using the pure black and white setting.In my mind, when it came to goals, I
either reached the goal or I didn’t. “Almost” didn’t count – getting really close didn’t count.It was all or nothing. And this “all or nothing” thinking was paralyzing me. It was keeping me from setting goals and taking the action I needed to take.
To deal with the resistance I had to setting goals I reframed the situation in my mind. I have helped many of my clients do the same thing and if you are experiencing any resistance to setting goals you will want to give this a try.
Step 1: Make it a Game. In my mind I associated setting and achieving goals with a game of horseshoes. You have probably heard the saying “almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”. I don’t know about you but I much prefer horseshoes to hand grenades. The act of setting and achieving goals became a game to see just how close I could get to the goal I set in the timeframe I had allowed. Making it a game took some of the seriousness out of the process, added some fun and an element of challenge – which I love – and allowed “almost” to count.
Step 2: Clearly delineate between Outcome goals and Activity goals. Outcome goals are the results you want to accomplish. They are things like a half million dollars in revenue by December 31 or signing five new customers per month. The critical thing to realize and accept about Outcome goals is that you do not have direct control over the accomplishment of these goals. You only impact the accomplishment of your Outcome goals through your Activity goals. Activity goals are actions like making five cold calls a day or following up with customers after every purchase to see how you can improve their experience. Activity goals are those goals that you can take direct action to accomplish.
Identify and set both Outcome and Activity goals. Track and measure both. Celebrate the accomplishment of both. When you focus too much on Outcome goals, which by their very nature take longer to accomplish, you can begin to feel frustrated, discouraged and develop and sense of powerlessness and lack of control. A focus only on Activity goals can lead to a false sense of accomplishment that is leading you nowhere fast. If your Activity goals aren’t moving you toward your Outcome goals then they are nothing but busy work. Help your team members develop Activity goals to accomplish the Outcome goals you have established and help them assess if the actions they are taking are moving them toward the desired outcomes.
Step 3: Leverage your strengths. As the old saying goes, “All roads lead to Rome.” Likewise there are lots of different ways for you to accomplish the outcomes you want. Pick a strategy and use tactics that leverage your strengths, the strengths of your team and the strengths of your business. Take the direct route if that’s what works best for you. Don’t be afraid though or beat yourself (or others) up if your strengths lend themselves better to the less direct route. Do what works for you, your team and your business.
Step 4: Systematically track and measure your progress and celebrate your success – large and small. Are you consistently taking the actions you committed to taking? Are your Activity goals leading to the outcomes you want? If not, what adjustments need to be made? Celebrate the accomplishment of Activity goals even if they did not lead specifically to the results you want and then make changes as necessary.
While it is important to see evidence that your actions are taking you towards the outcomes you desire, be careful about trying to get too precise here. It would be nice if we could perfectly isolate the 20% of our actions that are leading to 80% of our results. However, in my experience that just isn’t possible. I have a friend who sold advertising. She swore that if she needed more sales all she had to do was cold call. The sales didn’t always or even usually come from the cold calls she was making, but the energy of making the calls attracted sales from other sources – and she was quite successful.
So even if you don’t know exactly what actions to take to reach your Outcome goals, as my mother used to tell me, “Do something – even if it is wrong.” The only way you can adjust course is if you are moving forward. Sitting in the car turning the steering wheel will not change a thing if the car is not moving.
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