Five Steps to Reaching Your Goals

If you are like many people in America, you made a few New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. Now it’s March. How are you doing? Even if you didn’t make specific resolutions for this year, there were probably a few things that crossed your mind that you wanted to change about your life and your business. You probably set some goals. I sometimes wonder why a new year brings on new ideas and so many resolutions. Is it because of all the talk about resolutions that brings our attention to it? Is it just an American tradition?

Who knows why we do it, but we do. The thing is, most New Year’s Resolutions are not kept. Health club attendance is at an all-time high in January. But where is everyone now?

Setting goals should be a lifestyle. Let me say that again: setting goals should be a lifestyle. What do I mean by that? I mean you should be reflecting on where you are in life and in your business every day.

You should be looking at your clearly defined, written goals every day. You may feel you are not good at setting goals. I disagree. The fact is, almost every person on the planet knows how to set goals. Let me prove it.

Do you have a favorite TV show? Do you have a favorite football team? Aha! I would be willing to bet that you know exactly when “your” show or “your” team comes on. And guess what? You rearranged your schedule so you could be in front of the boob tube! You set a goal, and you realized that goal!

All you have to do is transfer that same concept to the rest of your life and to your business. I understand it is not that simple, so I will share a few thoughts about goals that will help you along.

Let’s start with what I call your “life goals.” Life goals are the things you want to achieve in life, whether those things are physical (e.g. losing weight), emotional (not cursing), spiritual (getting closer to God), or material (owning something you don’t currently have). Life goals could incorporate how many hours you work, or how much you play sports or travel. They can be as unique and as extensive as you want.

The reason you want to start with life goals is because they are the only reason your business exists. That’s the reason you went into business in the first place. You thought it would help you achieve your life goals better than any other choices you had at the time.

However, if you are like most small-business owners, you got something far different than you expected. Instead of having more free time, you work yourself to death. Instead of a business, you have a 24-hour-7-day-a-week “job.” You became a slave to the business, to what is now a hungry monster that must be fed.

My good friend, bestselling author Michael Gerber, wrote a book called “The E-Myth” which reveals how people go into business with lots of dreams of success only to become slaves of the business. They think that because they do the “technical” part of the business well, they will automatically be successful in business.

This is a deadly assumption. Because they spend all their time “doing” the work of the business (working in it), they don’t spend enough time working on it, performing such tasks as planning, marketing, and building systems so the owner is not required for the business to run.

Reaching your goal for going into business is going to require some working “on” the business. It will take planning the business rather than simply letting things happen by accident. Success doesn’t happen by accident: it happens by intentionally focusing on what it is you want, outlining a plan and implementing that plan.

Five Steps to Reaching Your Goals

Setting goals should be a lifestyle. Set 12-month goals, 30-day goals, and “today” goals. Put your today goals on your Daily Action List. Determine where you want to be 12 months from now, both personally and in your business.

Break it down into months. What needs to be done in the next 30 days? Put the action steps that are required for each goal. The first action step of each goal should be on your Daily Action List. Look at this list every day and re-prioritize and implement the list every day.

Brainstorming and Free Association

Setting goals and planning requires freedom of thought. You cannot effectively plan your business when you are dealing with day-to-day pressures. I recommend getting away from time to time to plan your business. In fact, I think that taking a full day off and not doing anything related to business is a great practice because it allows your mind to rest and allows you to think freely. Burning the candle at both ends just produces burn out.

Getting away from time to time for the specific reason of thinking about your life and your business is very important. Business retreats are routinely held in the mountains or near the ocean because a relaxed, creative environment allows your mind to “associate freely.” Free association is a term for how the brain associates one thought to another. You begin brainstorming about a problem or opportunity and, as your mind associates one thing with the next, the epiphany has absolutely nothing in common with the original thought.

You may have experienced this phenomenon in the shower or when you are asleep. It does not happen when you are under stress. In fact, you usually end up making the wrong decision!

Step 1: Set Specific Goals

I once asked a seminar attendee how big he was planning on building his business, his reply was “As big as possible.” While I admire the optimism, if you don’t have a specific number and a specific date in mind, chances are you won’t meet your goals.

Setting specific goals spawns other important activities in the goal setting process. Charting specific numbers or specific dates helps you to realize that there are better strategies to reach the goal. A vague goal, such as “bigger” or “better,” will not create a sense of urgency or spell out exactly what must be done to reach it.

Step 2: Have the End in Sight

This was one of Steven Covey’s seven habits in the bestselling “7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” The only way to set a specific goal is to see the end as it is. You have to have vision. You need to see as many of the parts as possible.

If I set a goal to take my business to a certain dollar amount, that means I will need to have a certain number of people on staff. It means I will need to take specific action in my marketing plan to take my business there. It may mean that I need more equipment, etc.

The point here is that you can’t just list the specific goal without taking into consideration what else will be involved. You will never know all of the dynamics of how it will be, and what you will experience once you get there, but you need to have an idea of what is absolutely required to be there.

When I took my business to over $2 million per year, I had the end in sight. I knew I would need a certain number of trucks, a certain number of people, etc. What I did not know is what how it would feel.

I did not realize what I would learn in leading 33 people. I did not understand management dynamics as I do now that I have experienced it first hand. I knew how to manage a staff of seven, but a group of 33 and working with middle management was a totally new experience.

You won’t always know what experiences you will have along the way. That’s why we say that success is a journey, not a destination. It is the life lessons we learn along the way that create the real success, not just reaching the goal. However, the only way to get on the journey is to set our sights on a destination.

Step 3: Write Down Your Goals

I know, I know, you have heard this from every motivational speaker you have ever heard! I wonder why? Could it be because it works?!

Believe it or not, everyone has a photographic memory. Your subconscious takes “pictures” of whatever you see every day. It burns them into your subconscious mind so that you take action on your goals even when you are not thinking about them.

Your body learns through repetition. I like to write my goals over and over, refining and refining, thinking and thinking. I have a permanent place for them, but I am always reviewing them and, therefore, re-writing them. Writing your goals down works due to the fact that the written word is more powerful than the spoken word.

Your employees should know what the “community” goals are, and they need to know what their specific goals are to help achieve that. Whether sales performance, production, re-services or whatever, community goals should be posted and communicated every day.

Step 4: Break it Down

Once you have set a specific goal in time and number, now break it down by the year, month, week, and day. For example, let’s say your goal is to save $50,000 in the next five years. That’s $10,000 per year, $833 per month, approximately $192 per week, and $32 per day on a six-day workweek. While $50,000 can seem daunting, increasing your income by $32 a day doesn’t sound too difficult.

Step 5: Review and Adjust Regularly

Your goals will change. Your worldview will change. You need to check to see how your strategies are working, so look at your goals every day.

Next month we’ll take a look at four big reasons goals aren’t met, and what you can do about them. I wish you truly Phenomenal Success!

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