They’re a hallucination of a future self – a day dream really.
They're useless because they only serve a purpose if the desire to achieve that future state is stronger than our desire to stay in our current state – aka if you can be bothered to do something about it.
You’re hungry, you’re uncomfortable.
Not being hungry (satiated) is comfortable.
We get up and eat.
That is, goals are the start of a process of change. To get something different than we have now, means we need to do things differently than we are currently doing now. That’s why goal achievement can be so difficult. It means changing actions, to eventually change our habits.
So while it’s nice to have a destination in mind, without making a plan of how to get there – then actually following the plan, it’s all just fantasy.
That’s why so many people create “goals”, only to never think of them again. They’re not actually goals – they are “I would like to’s”.
Lots of people would like to make or save more money this year, people would like to lose 10kgs, hell, I would like to win the lottery, but it’s not a goal unless you’re willing to strap on your boots and strike for the back of the net.
How to work out what you want
Like deciding what to have for dinner each night, knowing what you want can be hard.
A lot of the time, it’s just something other than they have now.
There’s a vomit inducing amount of content on inspiration, finding your why and your passion. None of which is terribly helpful in answering the question of what you want – they only reinforce the fact that you’re not overly happy with your current position.
So I’ve found a good exercise to work out the bigger picture is this;
Close your eyes and imagine your business in 15 years.
You’ve achieved everything that you wanted – you couldn’t be more proud of what you have built.
Describe that business…..
Another similar exercise is from Habit 2 of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people – begin with the end in mind.
He dedicates a whole chapter to it, but TL;DR?
What do you want them to say about you? What sort of person were you to them? What were your achievements?
Now, think about whether you live up to those words now? Where are you now on those traits? How can you go from where you are now to living and being all those things to all those people?
After doing these thought exercises you should have a better idea of where you want your life/business to go. If not, don’t stress.
Try them again tomorrow, next week, next month. Make sure to write down what you come up with each time and you may start to see some consistency/commonality which will start to give you the direction you want to head in.
So once you have that direction, you’ll need to set some goals to get there. But how do you do that?
Ways to set goals
There’s an abundance of content on the interwebs about how to set goals, the most notable is the SMART methodology. SMART Goals are;
Now I think SMART goals are fine for things that are quantitative (i.e I want to make $200k profit by 31 December), but its a bit harder when it comes to things like improving relationships.
Sure you can set a goal to go on a date night with your spouse each month, but if the date is just you two ignoring each other or arguing the whole time – what’s the point?
I guess what I’m saying is that S.M.A.R.T goals can be S.H.I.T. if implemented incorrectly.
There’s also a methodology of “open goals” this is setting the goal like;
- How many strokes under par can I get on this round?
- How many laps can I do under 6 mins etc.
- How many more sales can I make this month?
This methodology apparently causes less stress, because it's not so black and white. If your SMART goal was to shoot 7 under par but you only get 6 under - you can feel a sense of failure, instead of holy crap, 6 under is amazing (at least I think it is because the extent of my golf is putt putt with the kids).
I wouldn’t stress too much on the minutiae of the goal structure and whether it meets one criteria or another. This isn’t an assignment, this is life.
The point of the goal is to have something to strive for, a purpose and direction. You also need to be able to work out whether you are making progress towards achieving that goal, and when you have in fact achieved it. Otherwise you’ll lose motivation pretty quickly.
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Types of Goals
Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)
BHAGS get all the glory. They’re the ones that people love to mention.
“Our goal is to colonize Mars by 2050”.
“My goal is to lose 20kgs in 2 months”,
“My goal is to eat this elephant”
They’re the ones that get you (initially) fired up, inspired and then motivated to do the work.
But the problem is they are often so big and the reward so far away, that their gravity just can’t pull you along.
So what do you do?
Well.... how do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Or more eloquently, micro goals.
These are the day to day, even moment to moment goals that will get the work done.
BHAGS are the multi-period (months, years) goals.
Micro goals are the here and now. They are the day to day plan of how you are going to get stuff done. They’re the daily/weekly targets to keep you on the path to your destination, and they can be so small that they’ll keep you moving when you really can’t be f**ked.
A good example is exercise, you’re near the end of the workout, your heart is beating out of your chest, sweat is pouring off you, legs burning. A micro goal can be take 3 more breaths and walk to the barbell. The next micro goal is: Put your hands on the barbell. Next: Lift It. Etc.
I think it’s important here to note, that goals big or small aren’t strategy. Your BHAG is the ultimate destination (I'm going to climb that hill), the micro goals are making sure you stay on the path.
That path is your strategy.
I’ve talked more about strategy when starting a business, but the same concepts apply. So don’t confuse goal setting with strategy development. The strategy comes first. The goals help you stick to the strategy.
Achieving Goals (aka Doing the Work)
As we’ve seen goals and strategies are useless unless you actually do the work but the inspiration you first had to get started, that light bulb moment of let’s do this! Is gone.
How do we keep doing the work, when we really don’t feel like it?
Most people would say motivation, but that’s only partly true. Motivation, like inspiration will only get you so far. You’re not always motivated to do stuff. That’s natural. It doesn’t mean you don’t want the outcome any less, it’s just that you’d prefer to do other stuff, than the work necessary.
The truth is there are several components to it;
Inspiration is that initial light bulb – that you could do this, or achieve that, and that is freaking exciting to you. You definitely want to do that. Let’s go, woo!
This leads nicely into motivation. You’re motivated to get the goal achieved, and start the work.
But motivation is fleeting and a finite resource.
It comes and goes and needs to time to recharge. I’m not always motivated to cook a 3 course dinner or open my emails. But sometimes I am (that’s a lie, I’m never motivated to cook a 3 course dinner – Motivated to eat it, but cook it yeah nah).
So what do we do when inspiration is long gone, and motivation can’t be found? Discipline.
Discipline to do the work, even when you don’t want to. That’s how people achieve goals. They have enough self-discipline to do the things they said they would – regardless of how they feel in that moment, and regardless of whether anyone is watching, because they know they need to do the things to get the outcome they wanted.
For example you said you would make 20 sales calls a week. You’ve had your 15th straight no. You don’t feel like picking up the phone today. But you do it anyway, because it’s part of your plan (and you make a micro goal to do the next 5 before you take lunch to ensure you get it done).
Now we can have more reserves of discipline than motivation, but if every day is grind and what you’re making yourself do makes you hate your life, then eventually discipline will run dry. That’s where motivation needs to come back into play – usually the two work hand in hand, so when one is down the other is up and vice versa.
And if you keep this discipline/motivation train going, eventually you’ll end up forming habits. Like brushing your teeth.
You just do it before you go to bed, not out of motivation or discipline, but because of habit. It’s been something you just do for so long, that not doing it would feel weird (please don’t stop this habit).
If you look at someone who has a lifestyle of health & fitness, they don’t need to use discipline or motivation to eat healthy most of the time and exercise more days than not week in, week out.
They do it because it’s part of who they are. That’s where we are trying to get to with any change process. Ingrain the actions into habits.
Now from habit, you can form a passion.
Not everyone gets this far along the continuum – which is completely normal and fine.
Passion is for people who want to live and breath said habit.
Like those who live and breath health & fitness might become personal trainers, or nutritionists, or dietitians or physicians. They might become professional athletes or coaches. They turn their habit into a day job.
But as I said not everyone who wants to be fit and healthy wants to do it for a job or teach others how to do it. And that’s fine and normal – passion is just the end of the continuum.
So you’ve got this far. Nice one!
What are you going to do next? You're going to;
You want to make $500k profit in 5 years
How are you going to do that? Buy competitors? Enter new markets? Develop new products?
Get 20 new clients per year with a $10,000 annual spend. Make 5 sales calls per day
Use your inspiration, motivation and self discipline to do the work.
If you need help – we do this as part of our business consulting service.
It's never too late to get started with your goals. So start today. Future you will thank you.