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Setting Goals

Late last year I had an epiphany around goals. In sharing, I hope the following thoughts can help someone as they look to create, refine and ultimately fulfill their personal and/or business goals.

On a personal level I should add that I like the idea of goals. I think they give you something to strive and work towards. Goals also help build the blueprint for preparation and planning, which is important as we look to progress in our life’s pursuits. As they say, “failure to plan is planning to fail.”  

That said I’m fully aware there are variables outside our control that can impede the realization of goals. While it can be easy (and lazy) to dismiss those variables as excuses, it would be irresponsible to turn a blind eye to legitimate stumbling blocks. In the business world market conditions can change in an instant; in our personal lives illness or other personal tragedy can set us back.

Setting Goals That Move Us Forward

So how do we set goals that allow us to move forward, even with challenges we’re unable to control?

I believe the answer lies in the mental approach we take when we define our goals. Often times we set goals that are specific…and that’s where the goal setting ends.  Specificity is a good thing, but only when it is an appendage to a larger goal that serves as an overarching, guiding compass.

Let me explain by providing a personal example. I work in sales. Goals or quotas are a part of life. These goals are always very specific since the expectation is to sell a certain amount of units or generate a certain amount of revenue every quarter and year. In the past I’ve taken a look at my quota and planned actions that I have control over to help me achieve my goal.  For example, I would plan to dedicate a certain amount of time to prospecting; another amount of time to networking; etc.

While these specific goals assisted in helping me plan activities I can control, I realized I was being nearsighted in my approach. To help qualify that I asked myself the following: if for some reason, despite my best efforts, I fail to meet my goal, was the year a complete failure? Did my inability of hitting a specific goal impede my personal progress? This is where I had my epiphany regarding a larger umbrella goal under which specific goals fall under.

After giving it some consideration, I came up with the following umbrella goals for myself:

  1. Focus on one thing a time – live in the moment and be all in in whatever I’m doing

  2. Be a craftsman – do not allow myself to be rushed or allow other things to rush me

  3. Doubt my doubts – don’t entertain negative thoughts or allow doubts to harvest fears

For me personally – these are items I know I can improve on, which is why I chose them. These overarching goals serve as the foundation for every other goal I have, be they personal or work related. By focusing on these items, I believe I’ll be able to accomplish a couple different things. First, I believe these principles allow me to simplify the planning and tasks associated with my job – providing me the ability to be more efficient with my work and time; the outcome of which I expect to improve the likelihood that the specific goals I’ve set are met.

Second, if for some reason circumstances outside my control prohibit me from the full realization of my specific goals, there is still a net positive result because there is a conscious effort on goals that build character.  Regardless of whether you overachieve or have a subpar year on your specific goals, you’ve still improved yourself, progressed and now have a new personal asset and life skill. If for some reason I’m unable to achieve specific goals, the umbrella goals put me in a position to take unexpected setbacks as learning opportunities. Along with determination, those setbacks can be used to elevate our abilities and take our personal progress to a higher level instead of allowing them to keep us stuck and stagnant.


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