"If you’re not achieving at the level you want, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined."
I remember my mentor, Paul J. Meyer, saying this. He always focused on achieving goals, not just setting them, and he insisted that the difference was in the process. Anyone can set a goal, but achieving the goal is the true purpose of goal setting. Learn how to set specific, clearly-defined goals and – even more important – how to achieve them.
The first step in successful goal-setting is to set clearly-defined goals. These serve as your directional compass and drive your effective actions and choices during the year. Goals turn dreams into reality in small, annual increments.
Each new year, you need to set specific, realistic annual goals. Those goals are always directed from your vision and dreams. Begin by asking yourself, "What specific goals can I achieve this year that will move me closer to my vision and dreams?"
You should try to limit your goals to 1 to 5 big annual goals. The process will require a plan of action for each goal, and the tracking process required is quite involved. Too many goals will distract your focus from the achievement of the most important ones.
For example, a CEO of a major organization that I once worked with didn’t think his company needed any further organizational planning because his team has established 152 corporate initiatives for the year. This well-intentioned leader was totally unaware of what he had done to his leadership team. He was treating a glorified to-do list as if the 152 corporate initiatives were strategic goals. With this mind-set, he had inadvertently set a self-defeating path of frustration and a wasted year of non-goal-directed work.
Don’t confuse a list of to-do’s with goals
Work that is not directed by a clearly-defined goal is wasted effort, even though it may be well-intentioned. It is nearly impossible to maintain consistent daily focus on vague, undefined initiatives. They will undoubtedly lose their importance, and the function of simply being busy will begin to occupy your focus. Laser focus on specific, predetermined annual goals is the only path to effective work.
Real goals represent those few and specific, all-inclusive, important, annual achievements necessary for consistent progress toward your long-term vision and dreams. The "strategic initiatives" that seem to occupy traditional corporate thinking are usually the action steps to the big goals.
Why our goals get sabotaged
From my past years of experience and observation, I am now convinced that there is a simple reason why most people do NOT achieve the goals they set. Are you ready for it? It is simply because people tend to set goals that they really do not want to achieve. While you are shaking your head in disagreement, consider the following example.
If you’ve ever set a New Year’s resolution, you know the feeling of newness and a fresh beginning that comes with it. You are wholeheartedly committed to achieving your goal…for about a week. And by March, you say to yourself, "I’ll get around to that next year." Your behaviors never change to come in alignment with your goal.
Any time you set a goal and your behavior does not change to come in alignment with the appropriate actions necessary to accomplish the goal, you have psychologically determined that you do not want to achieve that goal. And once you subconsciously decide that you do not want what the goal represents, regardless of the work effort, you will not accomplish the goal. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Where the goal setting process begins
The best time to set goals is the first of the year, but getting started is the most important step. So, get started now, regardless of the time of year. Then plan to use the last quarter of every year to establish your goals for the next year.
Here is where the goal setting process begins:
#1 — Review your vision statement
As you begin, start with a review of your vision statement. Your review should be about how compelling it is. If it has lost some of its luster, refine it. Your vision statement should grow as you grow.
#2 — Read through your Dream List
After you review your vision, read through your Dream List. If you don’t have a dream list, start one. Think of what you would like to accomplish in life, without any limitations. Don’t ask yourself if it is possible, just jot it down if it is important to you. Once finished, ask yourself, "What can I accomplish this year that will bring me closer to my vision and dreams?" The answers to this question are the beginning of your annual goals program.
#3 — Choose your top goals
As you write down the things you want to accomplish this year, try to identify which of those things are primary and which things are systemic. In other words, decide which things are the primary goals and which things are the results of the accomplishment of the primary goals.
As an example, your goals might be to earn $70,000 income, increase your savings account by $8,000, and buy a new home. On the surface, this list looks like three separate goals, but in reality, the list represents one primary goal and two systemic benefits. All three things are related to the financial area of your life and without the income of $70,000, the savings increase and the new home purchase are in jeopardy. So, what you have is the one goal to earn $70,000 income and the increased savings and new home purchase are two benefits to be gained by reaching your goal. Identifying the real goal is very important.
Once your goals have been determined, you will need to outline an action plan to achieve them, considering the benefits to be attained, any losses to be avoided, obstacles you might face, and the solutions for those obstacles. Thinking all of this through ahead of time sets your mind in the right place for achieving your goals. Nothing should surprise you.
Next, write down each separate action step necessary to the accomplishment of the goal. Make sure that each action step is very specific and not vague. Each action step must have a target date for its completion, and the target date for each action step must be recorded in the appropriate monthly calendar. This assures that the action steps transfer to your monthly plans. Your goals will then always be on your mind, keeping your daily, monthly, and yearly activities in line with your overall goals.
When you set clearly-defined goals and implement an action plan that supports them, you are setting yourself up to succeed. Don’t waste another day just checking off items on a to-do list. Utilize the goal-setting process above, follow through with an action plan, and become a master goals achiever!