Entrepreneurship is an adventure. One month, you’re wondering why you’re stuck in place and can’t move forward, and the next month, you’re exactly where you had intended to be. How that can happen? The change happens when you start using effective goal planning and strategies.
Before opening my business, I was successful in my career, at least in part, because I was an effective goal setter and someone who worked within a vision. Three years before I became the Director of Teacher Recruitment for the New York City Public Schools, my vision reflected that I wanted to be in that role or a similar one, including that six figure salary. And because it was my vision, I set short-term and process goals so that I’d be positioned for it when it happened. If it hadn’t happened, I would have adjusted to focus on something similar or reset my timetable.
Eventually my vision included entrepreneurship. In this role, my issue has been what I call “the noise.” There are SO many things that you want to do, and you’re not quite sure that what you want is realistic. Also, your work is tied to your economic survival in a new way, so the emotional stakes are high. But if you get enveloped in that noise, you’ll just sit in that stuck place. I admit that I let myself do that about two months ago. I got stuck.. and let myself stick… and stick. I finally woke up one morning and realized that I knew what to do. I took the advice I give to clients as a coach, and used my lessons from my success making things happen as a professional for the last 10+ years.
One of the thing that trips up effective goal-setting is that disconnect between the future and present. You’re aiming to change something down the line, but you don’t know what to act on now.* At our workshop, Four Hour Goals: The Art and Science of Making Things Happen, this Saturday, May 7, Brett Kunsch and I will be talking about managing your daily focus and overcoming the obstacles that will appear. In the meantime, here are three questions to ask yourself about your own goal setting.
1. The Future: Are you thinking big enough? One of the things I work on consistently with my clients is having them set goals that push them. For example, we really want to find a relationship with “the one,” but we continue to date people who are never going to be a contender for that title, and in many cases, lie to ourselves to justify our “progress.” Some of that is because we have issues with self-worth, but often it’s because we have deprived ourselves for so long we think we should focus on small improvements to our situation. Success does not come from settling! There is a difference between milestones (2 dates a month with appropriate contenders) vs. audacious goals. You should have both, but don’t confuse the two. Think big.
2. The Future: Have you quantified your results? People retreat when they’re asked to quantify their goals. Some say it’s because we don’t like to hold ourselves accountable, but my experience is that it’s because people can’t see through the noise and are anxious about doing this wrong. If that’s the case, just throw out numbers you think are on the high-end of realistic. You can adjust the timetable on them once you start figuring out your milestones. Many coaches talk about the importance of visualizing and feeling your goals. This is important for visual and kinesthetic learners, but it’s not enough. You have to specifically put a stake in the ground if you want to make it happen. Just remember you can dig up the stake and put it somewhere else.
3. Now: Are you living daily with the right priorities? Once you have your vision, are the things you do every day in line with what you want? For example If you want to run a marathon in the next year, are your daily physical activities and eating habits reflecting that? If not, what tools and systems can you implement to make that happen? Personally, I look at my To Do list every day and ask if the items align to my goals, which are financial, lifestyle based, and continuing my path toward being recognized as a national education and careers expert. If my list is long and I am not sure what should have my focus, I actually put a dollar sign ($) or smiley sign ( :) ) next to each item and make decisions. If tasks don’t align to my vision, I find ways to get them off or move them down the To Do list. Sometimes, my decisions disappoint people, but I remember my audacious goals with the big numbers and reflect on the fact that I am the only person that will get me where I want to be.
What are your tips for effective goal setting?
We hope to see you at the event on Saturday in midtown NYC!
(*David Allen talks about this in his horizontal planning model, which some people treat as an after thought in Getting Things Done, but I think that it’s the most important thing he teaches. If you haven’t read the book, we’ll introduce the concept at our workshop.)