Setting Goals & Reaching Them in 2017
Your end-of-year inbox was probably crammed with tips for New Year’s goal-setting. Many are feel-good, rah-rah types of messages which are fun to read, but about as helpful as the endless “inspirational” infographics that flood your social media feeds. And many are so generic, they were probably copied from mainstream magazines—the sort that make you dissatisfied with your life while you’re reading articles showcasing the perfect décor of some generic millionaire and his perfect trophy wife.
Goals that are most fun to set usually possess two golden qualities: They are attainable… yet stretch you out of your comfort zone. And they should always be in alignment with your most important values.
They also offer you one priceless benefit: Each goal advances you a step further towards attaining your dream lifestyle and business.
So why do most people suck at goal-setting and goal-keeping?
The answer lies in your personality…
Step 1: Determine Your Goal-Setting Persona
There are three types of people, when it comes to goal-setting. You might find a clue to which type you are in the way goal-setting makes you feel.
- You are excited about setting new goals… but you become easily distracted—and discouraged
- Your stomach knots up into a dismal little lump of cold gravy when you try to set a goal. You put it off till later.
- You have iron self-discipline. You set goals, and although it’s not easy for you to keep walking the straight and narrow towards them, reminding yourself of the benefits you will reap, if you stay true to your path, helps you achieve them.
Since you are reading this, chances are you fall somewhere within categories one and two like most people. But here’s a thought that might bring a sigh of relief no matter what goal-setting type you are: Goal-setting ought to be fun. So why isn’t it? Why is it, at best, a chore, and at its worst, wishful thinking—the sort that leaves you feeling defeated in short order?
That comes because of a misconception: That your goal is the end-point of your journey. Very often, what we view as “goals” are actually steps you need to take in order to reach a goal. If you separate your journey into steps, mini-goals and end goals, or destinations, each big goal feels smaller, more manageable and more attainable.
Steps can become goals in themselves—and achieving mini-goals along the way should be fully as satisfying as achieving your big main business goal for the year.
Here’s an important point to remember…
Steps and mini-goals are also by their nature more immediate—which leaves you less likely to procrastinate and put off starting your journey. Taking it one step at a time will make goal setting feel more rewarding as you complete each step.
But whether or not you prefer to think of goals as steps (or vice versa), the important factor to realize is that the goals we set for ourselves often tend to be black and white.
Human beings are not.
We are fluid little coracles adrift in the universe, tossed and tipped by many forces and factors over which we really have very little control. That is why “black-and-white” thinking rarely pays off.
Spend a few minutes thinking about your goal-setting experiences. Based on past goals and their outcome, and also on what you know about yourself, which goal-setting type are you?
Step 2: Go with the Flow
You’ve heard the phrase: “Go with the flow.” It actually signifies the absolute opposite end of being goal-oriented—allowing yourself to drift from one situation to another, with no rhythm or purpose.
That’s not good either.
But wait: A little fluidity makes anything work better. When you set goals, you need to be flexible, accommodating life changes but keeping your eye on the prize.
It’s not enough to identify what prize you’re aiming for: Imagination is key to creative goal setting. Allow yourself to dream, visualize and explore alternatives.
There can be sixteen different ways to cross a river, but you will find only a few—maybe even just one–that is easiest for you. “Going with the flow” means allowing yourself to experience flexible thinking—and always looking around for the one method that suits you and works for you more than others do.
While everyone else is busy telling each other which boat to step into, or arguing over the benefits of environmentally-friendly manual propulsion systems like rowing or paddling versus the speed of engine-powered propulsion, you sit down beside the river with your cup of coffee and look about you at the bright morning.
You notice there’s a footbridge over the river, just under that stand of willow trees.
While all your peers are discovering there’s no gas in their tanks, or reading manuals, or knocking themselves flat trying to row when they are seriously out of shape, you stroll across the bridge, stopping to admire the view half-way over as you finish your coffee.
You reach the other side easily, not even out of breath.
And you are off to meet your next goal.
Moral: If something is really too hard, that can be a big a clue it’s not right for you. Don’t knock yourself flat trying to master it. Look for creative or drop-dead-easy ways to attain what you want to attain or a way to go round it.
Look for the alternative that no one else is seeing.
Sometimes, the right solution for you can turn out to be breathtakingly simple.
Think back on situations where you’ve accomplished something amazing in your life or business. Did you take the established path or find your own way? How did you feel about your results?
Step 3: Dream the Big Dream
We plod wearily towards the “right” goals for business. But what if you were to let your preconceptions go for a day, and spend your time exploring what it is you really want out of life?
To create an ultimate goal—your dream lifestyle—you need to identify and choose the best “big dream” for you.
Let’s try the “What if…” game.
Imagine you have no limits to what you can:
Imagine you have perfect health.
Now imagine you are the perfect age.
What perfect age ARE you?
Put serious thought into this. What age were you the happiest? What age would you like to be forever? What age bracket would you like to redo, with what you know now?
Most of us would like to be a younger age but perhaps retaining wisdom we’ve earned over a lifetime. But then again, some people immediately visualize themselves at ten years old, winning horse show classes on their dream pony and wishing they could stay in that moment. Others want to retreat to the wonderful world of being a preschooler, when everything was safe and happy and simple. Others want to go back and experience the wild youth they never had because they married too young and had a family straight away. Others missed out on having children, and would love to be twenty-five and expecting a first child.
If you let your emotions answer, after first dreaming you have no limits and you are in perfect health, you may surprise yourself with the answer.
Obviously no one can go back and be six years old, for example. The reality would be abdicating control of our lives to someone else and having very little power. But if you stay with that vision of your perfect age bracket and explore it further, you can identify what it is about that age that symbolizes perfect happiness to you.
For example, one online entrepreneur revisited her pre-school days by changing her rather dry online art lessons to helping people “reconnect to their inner child” by teaching them how to paint intuitively. It was a small shift—but it gave her business meaning and joy when her mission changed.
Another online entrepreneur wanted to be ten forever and ride ponies all day long. She did so by outsourcing almost everything and spending most of her days at the barn with her horse. Creating that time (and the leisure to enjoy it) became her major goal: “Make $700,000 a year” was what she needed to achieve to enjoy that lifestyle: It wasn’t the goal itself! And as soon as she understood that the lifestyle was her goal, she redoubled her already-impressive efforts.
So take the time, right now, to do the following exercise…
My Dream Lifestyle
- What does your dream lifestyle look like? Describe it.
- What steps do you have to take to make it happen?
- How much do you need to make a year?
- How much do you need to make per month?
- Can you do it alone?
- Name three things you need to drop from your life?
- Name the most important thing you need to add to your life
Step 4: Get Present in the Moment
One of the conditions you may have identified, above, is adding people to your business—building a perfect team.
You can get a start on that right now by outsourcing.
Don’t think in terms of outsourcing “tasks”, however: Think of outsourcing responsibilities, time-drains, departments, non-essential essentials…
Be creative. Whenever you find yourself using a clichéd word like “outsourcing tasks”, look for a different word instead.
Sometimes using the right descriptor can:
- Eliminate guilt
- Put something into perspective
- Help you identify or clarify a problem
- Give you a valid reason
- Give you emotional permission
- Realize a solution
What looking for the most accurate word does is break you out of automatic pilot and help you get back in touch with the moment; with what is “going on” with you—right now.
Exercise: What else can you do to be in the moment?
To enjoy it? To appreciate it?
Step 5: Making a Vision Journal
While we’re on the subject of finding your dream lifestyle, let’s talk about visual cues.
You’ve heard of vision boards, I am sure: That’s where you collect photos from magazines and probably Pinterest, inspirational quotes and affirmations, photographs of your dream house (or your dream horse) and so forth and put them on a physical “board”—a bulletin board or presentation board.
You put this on your wall so it is always visible from your desk.
As an exercise, try a more fluid approach.
- Create a file in your favorite program—let’s say MS Word.
- Label the empty page with the name of the month that is 90 days from where you are now. (Example: If you are in January 2016, label it “April 2016”).
- Now start searching the internet and copy-paste into it as many items as you can make fit… but these items should all signify something you want to be habitually practicing or have achieved 90 days from now.
- Every month, repeat the exercise, using different items to represent new mini-goals and larger goals.
- Go back over it, every three or four months, and see how many of these visualized goals you achieved.
(Don’t worry about copyright issues—this is just a personal, visual aide for you.)
For example, if you want to be in much better shape ninety days from now, so you will have the energy to drive your business with more passion, you could include a photograph of the green smoothie you have just learned how to make; a photo of a fit woman on a treadmill; Favorite food items that would be healthy; a screenshot of your favorite Low Carb blog. A photo of the ideal VA you want to hire (generic or specific, if you know the person you want to work with!)
And do write down the dollar figure you want to earn that month.
Make sure this becomes a fun exercise—not one you “have” to do. (And if you’re not a visual person, scrap it altogether.)
There’s a reason for creating and maintaining this visual, fluid monthly journal, expanding it as you go: You will find after six months that many of the “I want to attain…” goals you depicted in the first months are now an actual part of your lifestyle. It becomes a visual record and “cue card” for keeping on track with your optimized lifestyle. Repeating elements (such as your treadmill photo) can also help reinforce that this is a concrete and important part of who you are. These visual cues can help you stick to your goals.
And visual journaling is a fun exercise to do.
Step 6: Getting Others to Achieve Goals for you
Whenever you set a goal for your business, or get ready to jump to the next step, look at your step or goal and assess whether or not you actually have to be the person to initiate and complete it.
If it makes no difference to your clients, your branding or your company “voice”, then get others to achieve that particular goal for you and focus more time or energy on what you’re good at doing. Outsource that difficult or boring task; or that area of your business that drains your energy and habitually derails you from doing things you’d really prefer to do.
Before you outsource, however, keep two things in mind:
- Finding the right contractor is crucial
- Clear communication is essential
If you are hazy about what you want your contractor to achieve or which skills she needs to specialize and excel in, chances are she will either do the wrong thing or simply not do as good a job as if you had communicated clearly what you want to achieve and what you expect the end result to look like.
Let’s say you have a list of twenty “goals” to achieve:
Goals for 2017—achieve by March 31
- Write eBook on “Cracking the Communication Code”
- Create incentive—sample chapter?
- Write 20 posts for my “speak and be heard” blog
- Learn all about Facebook advertising
- Produce Power Point presentation
- Produce SlideShare presentation hitting the high points of the book
- Set up a new WordPress blog for the book
- Take photographs for the blog and book
- Start social media campaign
- Format for Kindle
- Create flash cards to accompany book—shaped like eggs?
- Write email series for free funnel
- Write email course
- Set up autoresponder
- Research shopping carts and sign up for one
- Create SurveyMonkey survey
- Create worksheet and template packages
- Set up shopping cart for flash cards
- Clean up my bookkeeping from 2016
- Re-organize office
Before you begin a single task, pick up a highlighter and either highlight only those tasks or steps it is essential for you to do personally… or highlight every task that can be outsourced.
If you’ve never outsourced, scratch these tasks out and write in one single, simple step instead:
“Learn how to outsource effectively.”
Then go grab a book or two off Amazon for some great tips on outsourcing and get those nagging tasks off your plate (we’ll be talking this soon on the Coaching Connector blog, but waiting to take action until it’s posted is rather counter-intuitive).
Thinking of your 2017 to-do list, what do you most want to outsource right now?
Step 7: Know Where You Want to Be
It’s at this stage many people begin to realize they don’t exactly know where they are going—especially if they’ve created goals based on a lack of information or misinformation.
There are two essential keys to figuring out where you need to be—really fast.
- Make sure your end goal is specific—not general
- Make sure you use a plan, schedule or calendar
Flexibility is great, but it is just that—flexibility. The definition of flexibility is “having the ability to bend”.
In order to bend without breaking, you need to know your limits and your parameters. That’s where planning and scheduling comes in.
To create the perfect end goal, don’t set arbitrary figures or deadlines: Base them on solid information and careful extrapolation. Ask yourself vital questions such as “how much do I need to make to live comfortably and pay off my mortgage in ten years” or “how much do I need to make to get rid of all my credit card debt by this time next year?”
If what you are attempting to calculate is dependent on factual data, make sure you research what you need to know first. (Example: “In order to support the number of team members that will make this a success, I need to clear a 2016 profit margin of…”)
The answers you reap for each specific question will tell you which steps you need to take. You can then use your favorite calendar or planner to enter these steps in, assigning realistic dates and deadlines for each step’s completion.
Without research, results, a schedule and deadlines, you don’t have goals: You have dreams. And while dreams can be lovely to contemplate, they can also keep you further away from where you want to be.
Step 8: Join a Group
One of the most effective goal-setting strategies to emerge out of the internet age has been the idea of accountability partners.
You can choose a single accountability partner such as a business peer or business team member if you prefer—but one of the best ways to find good accountability partners lies in joining a group where its members all have a common goal.
For example, say your big goal this year is to not only write your signature eBook, but get it published and promoted through Amazon Kindle. If you join one a Kindle Publishing group where you are all focused on producing a viable, active Kindle book, you will gain multiple accountability partners who will:
- Cheer you on
- Help you get past blocks
- Give you feedback
- Give you advice
- Write reviews for your book
- Help you promote your book
You can find dedicated Groups geared specifically towards your own goals:
- In private Membership Sites
- In dedicated forums
- In dedicated Facebook Groups
- In dedicated LinkedIn Group
- In paid Groups
- In free Groups
It should go without saying, however, that while free Groups do have their uses, you will usually find more focused support (and better resources, as well as access to experts) in a paid Group built around achieving a goal.
You can find Groups (paid and free) for almost every type of goal: Launching a product, mastering web design or WordPress, writing a book, producing a Kindle book and many more goals.
Step 9: Find your Maximum Workflow Formula
Prioritizing has long been a proven way of getting things done: But should you do the most important things first… or the easiest?
The ideal solution is to work on the most important goals… but if this doesn’t usually work for you, either start with an easy step or goal; or find the easiest way to take the first steps towards your most important goals.
TIP: If you have problems creating outlines, shortcut this by paying a ghostwriter to create your outline for you.
For example, if you are struggling with writing that Kindle book and you spend every morning paralyzed with writer’s block, brainstorm alternate ways to get started. These could include:
- Giving yourself a daily minimum number of words you must write—even if the number that works is only “100 words”
- Just getting started (no matter how silly that first paragraph sounds)
- Writing a paragraph on a different chapter every day
- Dictating into a tape recorder or speech-to-text program, instead of writing
- Creating a strong outline
There’s solid reason behind each technique: Some people find that if they give themselves a low minimum daily word count, once they reach it, they are inspired enough to keep going. Others find
that just getting started is the key. For auditory learners, verbal dictation can be the strategy that rockets them steadily towards their goal. And almost everyone can benefit from working to a strong outline.
Step 10: Find Your Story Question
Earlier in Step Six, we used the hypothetical example of a list of twenty “goals” or tasks. We spoke about looking through it and isolating items you either needed to do yourself or could outsource.
Now go through your own list and simply scratch off anything that does not move you towards your big goal.
Yes, scrap: As in “throw it out and discard it”.
Storytellers and authors know the importance of this type of elimination. In fiction, every book has an important “story question”. Editors will ruthless make authors eliminate anything that doesn’t move the plot towards resolving the “story question”.
A typical story question looks like this:
- “Will Mercy Holler choose the fame she knows she can attain as an actress… or sacrifice it all for the man she loves?”
A good story question always speaks to a core value, as well as to a desired outcome.
It also anticipates and references—explicitly or implicitly—the type of conflict that will inevitably rear up its head as the heroine moves towards her goal.
So what is your story question?
How will you answer it?
Does it add meaning and value to your life and business?
Step 11: Brainstorm your Big Business Life
Oh. You haven’t really made that list yet. And you skipped the visual journal exercise because it’s just not your thing.
Okay. So let’s go back to isolating your big goal—the one that will change your business, move you to the next level, paradigm-shift you up several levels or bring you sudden fame or fortune.
Do you even want fame or fortune? If you suddenly became an overnight success, could you handle it right now?
If the answer is “no”, evaluate whether or not that “no” comes from lack or insecurity.
What conditions are you putting on yourself that are stopping you from enjoying the idea of success now? (Look for self-limiting beliefs like “I have to lose forty pounds before I make a webinar”.)
Are these conditions and restrictions realistic? Necessary? Do they reflect on your ability to achieve business success?
Here’s an important point to ponder…
Unless you are happy within yourself right now, you won’t be happy when you do achieve fame and success.
You will still deal with your demons: Insecurity, fear, and the like.
What self-limiting beliefs are holding you back from success? What conceptions do you need to change? Go deal with? Start throwing out today?
Perhaps, before you hire those ten team members, you need to change your goals to include taking a management course or seeing a psychologist about your low self-esteem.
Or maybe you just need to give yourself permission to enjoy being who you are, right now, in this moment.
Step 12: Make Sure Your Goals Belong to You
Another reason people don’t achieve goals: They are often goals set by someone else. Oh, perhaps not blatantly. Nobody walked up to you in the street and said: “I want you to go be a firefighter.” But there is enormous pressure in North American business life today to always be the next president or the next Bill Gates.
Often, that type of pressure doesn’t come from within—or at least, if it does, it’s not speaking with your own pure voice. Whose voice are you hearing, when you decide on big or small goals?
- Your mother’s voice
- Your father’s voice
- Your teacher’s voice
- Your coach’s voice
- A chorus (popular magazine topics; forum opinions; blogs you read, etc.)
The only voice you should be listening to is your own. So make sure, when you choose a coach or mentor, that you are both on board with your primary goal.
“But what if I’m doing it for someone else?” you say. “What if my big goal isn’t a fun one, but is necessary? For example, I have a husband with cancer, and I need to raise funds for his treatment?”
That’s a tough one—and it happens in life. But you can still stay true to yourself and your abilities, even if you have to achieve far more than you wanted to, income-wise. In fact, if you don’t take care of you, you’ll burn out: Maybe later, rather than sooner—especially if some external cause that you deeply care about is driving you—but doing things we are not suited for or feel we don’t have the ability to do can burn us out completely, sooner or later.
So do your best to bring fun and fulfillment into your business even if you’re pushing yourself beyond your natural limits out of dire necessity. Make it your quest to find out how you can make running your business feel like your choice again, rather than a soul-killing necessity.
(And don’t be afraid to make a radical switch, if you realize you’re running up a dead-end street.)
Step 13: Write your Own Obituary
This strategy takes a little more courage, since no one likes to contemplate his or her own demise, but if you decide to take a shot at it, you may surprise yourself by ending up with a much clearer view of how you want your business to look.
- Put yourself in the position of being a reporter for a business magazine such as Forbes. Write your own obituary.
- What was your primary contribution to your business (e.g. “Margery Daw was a brilliant physicist who…”)
- What would it say your company was all about? What did you bring to it?
- Who was your focus? (Your ideal customer or client?)
- How did you help them with your primary talent?
- What did your business achieve?
- How did you leave it?
- What is your legacy?
If you want to add another level of authenticity to the exercise, look up sample obituaries of prominent people.
If writing your personal obituary feels too morbid, try writing an obituary for your company as if it was a person.
What do you want people to remember?
What would make you say at the end of your life: “My business was a success!”
So go ahead, write your own obituary. And have a little fun with it while you’re at it. It might just be what you need to see the future with more clarity.
Step 14: Do More of What Worked
Sometimes we focus so much on changing, we forget to appreciate what is working in our lives.
Human beings are naturally hard-wired to do more of the things that are fun and drop things that aren’t (hence the failure of rigid dieting, for example). That doesn’t mean spending all your time watching TV reality shows—but it does mean taking a look at your business and assessing what went really well for you.
- What changes did you make last year that “stuck”? How did those changes help grow your business?
- What increased your profits?
- What energized you and made time fly by, when you were working?
- What were you grateful for?
- If you could do more of one business activity, what would it be?
Part of assessing what worked for you last year also involves taking the time to enjoy your successes. Entrepreneurs in particular seem to be naturally driven to keep climbing the mountain, but doing so should including stopping periodically and looking around.
When you do this, you allow yourself to see:
- Just how far you’ve climbed
- How beautiful the world is around you
- How many things you have to be grateful for
- What challenges you are likely to encounter, moving forward
- What you have mastered, looking back
- How far we need to continue on that particular mountain
- Whether or not we would prefer to take a different path to reach the summit
- Whether or not we need to reach the summit at all
Sometimes we burn out simply because we don’t allow ourselves to rest and reward ourselves for all our hard work. And sometimes we develop such a case of tunnel vision, we don’t notice that the journey isn’t fun anymore: We are too busy beating ourselves up for not climbing faster.
Step 15: Build Your Confidence with Tangible Rewards
There is nothing more miserable—or less confident—than a kid who wins the science fair because his father did his homework for him. Oh, he may not feel miserable in the excitement of winning… but deep-down, even children know when they haven’t earned something. And it comes out in other ways; the most notable being a life-long lack of confidence.
If you really want to get past self-esteem problems and gain confidence, start challenging yourself and treating yourself to rewards for honoring your own challenges. The key in business: Making sure your reward is business-related.
And make sure you don’t give it to yourself unless you have really earned it!
Keep a reward book. Enter:
- The goal you want to reach
- The date you want to reach it by
- The reward you plan to enjoy
And if you are the type of person who feels “doomed” the instant they commit to a date, trick yourself. Make the date slightly more flexible (for example, instead of “March 15”, just say “March”).
Look back periodically at your reward book. Records of successes are always inspiring. And noting failures is also important: They can provide important clues you may have been missing as to what doesn’t work for you—and why.
(You may even discover you’ve missed a couple of rewards—in which case, take them!)
Step 16: Train Yourself to Keep Deadlines
Ghostwriters, graphic designers and other work-for-hire contractors know a big secret that other entrepreneurs don’t: Working to deadline moves you past blocks better than any type of positive reinforcement.
When you realize that you are holding up an entire project, you don’t say “oh, I’m tired. I think I’ll go have a nap and knock off for the day.” Instead, you push yourself to finish, no matter what.
Deadlines can feel restrictive, it’s true—but they can also inspire you to keep going and just get the job done. So even if you don’t have a client hopping up and down at the other end (and you don’t yet have team members waiting for your particular ingredient so they can do their job) get into the habit of setting and using deadlines to make sure you get tasks done—and achieve all your goals, large or small.
But how do you make sure that your deadlines matter? That you don’t give yourself excuses to keep moving them as you fail to achieve steps or mini-goals?
Use tools to help keep yourself on track. You can download paid or free apps and software to help you:
- Set alarms for short-term tasks
- Alert you with reminders
- Track your time
Tracking time is one of the best ways to give yourself a Reality Check—and reality checks are important in determining whether or not your goals are on target with your dreams. (It also helps you judge whether or not deadlines are realistic: For example, if you see that it always takes you two weeks to complete a particular type of project and you are consistently assigned three days, you can stop beating yourself up over “failing” to meet the deadline and explore other strategies such as outsourcing part of the project or re-negotiating the deadline.)
Tracking gives you facts. Data helps you make better-informed decisions about your future—and set more realistic and attainable goals.
(Tracking can also show you that your goals are not ambitious enough!)
Step 17: Dig Deeper and Challenge Everything
Most people, when goal-setting, do so in January—it’s all tied in with that “New Year Resolutions” phenomenon. And as such, they look back and see what they failed to accomplish the previous year.
This is a formulaic way of goal-setting; and whenever you get formulaic thinking, you get clichéd, predictable responses that don’t lead to greatness. Uninspired goals lead to let-down and failure—who can get excited about a list of “shoulds”?
Challenge your own assumptions. Challenge the words you use. If a phrase falls too glibly from your tongue, think about what it really means. What figure exactly are you thinking of, when you say “Earn a six-figure income”?
Why? Why “six figures”? Could you be happier with less?
Do you actually want more? Is it realistic of you at this time to set your sights on more and do you have a plan for achieving a huge income jump in a short space of time?
The more thoroughly you think through and challenge every detail of your goal-setting out, the more confidence you will have in your planning—and the more likely you are to achieve your goals.
Just remember: A goal—big or small—should never leave you feeling oppressed, discouraged, or flat-out exhausted.
Instead, it should leave you feeling excited, determined and full of purpose and joy.
Setting (and achieving) goals should be fun!
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