5 Steps to Set and Achieve Bold Goals
You’ve heard the saying, and it’s well known for a reason: If your goals aren’t big enough that they inspire the socks off you (even if they simultaneously leave your knees shaking), then you’re going to be hard pressed to stay the course over the long term to make them a reality.
But there’s a catch: You need to write them in pencil.
While it’s now accepted wisdom that having a plan sets you up for success, versus having no plan, sticking rigidly to a pre-set course of action can actually work against you in in the longer run.
Put another way, if your Plan A to get from where you are now to where you want to go isn’t working for you, then be willing to change course and go with Plan B, or C or D or Z!
Experience has taught me what researchers have found: Having a plan to achieve a goal can improve your chance of success, but if followed rigidly, it can make you close-minded and unable to identify better and more viable options as conditions change. (And let’s face it, conditions often change!)
Taking all of this into account, as you think about something you’d like to achieve, take the following five steps.
Vision equals power. So as you look out to the year ahead, dare to set some brave, clear and compelling goals that excite and inspire you. Doing so helps you to focus your time and energy more effectively and will set you up to accomplish more than you otherwise would. For instance, do you want to run a marathon, double your revenue, buy a house, write a book, change jobs or launch a business? Write it down in ways that specify a clear what and when and enable you to track and measure success.
2. Make a plan.
Create a game plan to achieve your goals. That is, what specific actions and strategies will you use to get from Point A to desired Point B? For instance, if you want to run a marathon, you may want to join a running group, hire a trainer, find a running buddy and set your alarm an hour earlier.
3. Review your plan.
Every month, you can dedicate time to compare your progress to your plan and objectively assess how effectively your game plan is working for you. If it’s not, look at the underlying reasons why. Are they temporary or permanent? Are they within your control or outside it? Be honest, even if the reality isn’t what you were hoping for.
No one likes to fail. But unless we give ourselves permission to fail fast and often we cannot possibly succeed. Often, people can get stuck because they were so attached to their Plan A they don’t want to admit it’s not working or needs refining. So ask yourself here, what might it cost me if I maintain my current approach? Again, be honest, even if it’s painful.
Sunk cost bias can drive otherwise intelligent people into a cycle of self-defeating (and unintelligent) decision-making. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that doing more of what’s not working suddenly will start working. Smart people fail all the time. They just don’t take years to do it. Learn to fail fast and quit quickly.
5. Tweak continually.
I’ve flown from Australia to the United States over 100 times now. For most of the 10,000-mile journey (give or take a few hundred), the plane carrying me across the world is off course. Yes, that’s right; it is off course! Yet because the pilots are continually adjusting course, they always manage to land in the right place.
Likewise, to get to where you want to go, you need to keep tweaking and experimenting and adjusting your course until you arrive at your desired destination. This also includes adjusting where you’ve set your sights depending on what you learn as you move ahead.
Sometimes as we move toward goals, we gain greater clarity about what we truly want and what we don’t want. This is part of our journey as “human becomings”—discovering who we are and who we’re called to become in the world. For instance, when I decided to make a career change in my late 20s, I returned to college to study psychology with the plan to eventually become a psychologist. Then, as I set off down that path, I realized I wanted to work in what was then the new field of coaching because it was more aligned with my outlook and “just do it” personality.
Sometimes as we move toward goals, we gain greater clarity about what we truly want and what we don’t want.
Upon completing a training program for coaching, I set a goal to have 20 full-time clients within 12 months. Nine months later, I had 18, but I also realized that even though my goal was now in sight, I did not want to fill my days solely with coaching. So I cut back on my clients and committed time to speaking and writing. Did I fail at my goal? Not at all. Because my bigger goal was to do work I love that makes a meaningful impact for a maximum number of people. I might have never have written four books that are now published in seven languages had I not adjusted course and reset my sights as I moved along.
So again, be flexible and use a “pencil” as you move toward your goals. Not only will you be more successful that way, but you’ll enjoy the journey a whole lot more!