How To Achieve Your Goals And Be Successful
I wish each of us could be an overnight success.
I wish we could be the type of people you have never heard of. Then – BAM! How did they get so lucky?
The reality is different. The overnight success people will have slogged away for years. What appears to be an overnight success is the result of hard work, focus and not giving up.
When you look at world-class performers, regardless of their field, they all have a similar habit. They plan, they set goals and they take action to achieve their goals.
I want to you explain why it is important to set goals, how to set goals and what to do when obstacles get in the way.
Goals are important and without them you are unlikely to be successful.
The definition of a goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or a desired result.
You might get lucky but to be prosperous over a long time you need to set goals.
Setting a goal means you know the direction you need to take.
Once you know the direction you want to take you can adjust your course as and when needed. The other advantage means you can use the goal as a map against your success.
As humans we crave structure. We sometimes kid ourselves that we enjoy chaos and random events. Whilst this can be exciting for a little while we crave getting back to normality.
Setting a goal and working towards it provides us with comfort. We have structure and a discipline to work towards.
If we try to go from A to Z without a plan we will wander without direction. Being successful will be down to luck which rarely works out.
Working on a clear goal also increases confidence.
Think about a time when you worked on a big project and the goal has been vague.
I’m sure you gave it your best shot but I imagine confidence was low due to a lack of direction.
Setting a goal also helps to crystallise your thoughts. A key part of any goal is being motivated and wanting to achieve it.
In planning and setting the goal you may realise you not that passionate about it. It means you can go back to the drawing board and create something more meaningful.
Gail Matthews, a Ph.D. at Dominican University carried out a study of goal setting. A sample of 149 people had different instructions.
Some were told to just think about their goals. Some were told to write them down. Others were told to share their goals with friends.
The outcome of the study realised three important points.
1. Accountability is important
Updating a friend with a progress report accomplished much more than others in the group who did not do this.
2. Public commitment is important
Writing down commitments and sending them to friends is shown to be effective in achieving more.
3. Writing down the goal is important
Those who wrote their goals down accomplished much more. (writing goals down is crucial to success).
I worked with a girl who was frustrated at not achieving a key target at work. It was not for the lack of effort but I felt she was not focusing on the right things at the right time. She was trying to do too much and in doing so was moving further away from her goal.
I asked her to write a letter to herself, stating what she wanted to achieve and by when. I asked her to pop the letter in an envelope and address it to herself. We would open it in four weeks time. She looked sceptical but did it anyway, I think she was willing to try anything at this point.
Within a few days we saw some positive movement in the target she was trying to achieve. It was not much but it was a step in the right direction.
Over the next 10 days the numbers tumbled and by week 3 she was hitting target. By the end of week four she was under close to exceeding her target.
She opened the letter on the fourth week, looked at me and proceeded to rip it up. ‘I don’t need this anymore’ she smiled.
- Setting a goal is important, it gives you a direction to head in.
- Setting small steps and achieving them helps to grow confidence.
- You may come to the conclusion the goal is not that important to you.
- Accountability, sharing the with friends and writing down the goal are crucial to success.
- Stop working on stuff that does not matter and does not support the achievement of the goal.
Are You S.M.A.R.T?
If you have worked in a corporate setting before you will have come across S.M.A.R.T goals before.
They should be easy to understand and easy to use.
If one or more elements of the S.M.A.R.T structure are missing the goal needs to be amended.
How does S.M.A.R.T help in achieving your goals?
S.M.A.R.T goal setting will break the goal down into smaller steps. This makes it more manageable for you and easier to understand.
Let’s look at what each element stands for:
What do you want to achieve? Aim to be as detailed as possible. Something vague or generic will confuse things. It will also minimise your chance of achieving the goal.
If the goal is ‘I want to launch a new business.’ it is too vague.
A S.M.A.R.T goal could be ‘I want to start a cup cake business and in the first six months I want to sell 600 cupcakes.’
The second goal is more specific and detailed on what you will do and what the outcome will be.
Here are some questions you should ask to help support the achievement of the goal at the specific stage:
What do I want to achieve?
When do I want to achieve the goal by?
What support will I need (money, people, other resource)?
How will I let people know I have a product to sell
Why do I want to launch this business?
Why is it important to me?
Why is the product important to my customers?
What will I feel, hear and see when I’m creating this business?
What obstacles will I come up against and how can I overcome these?
Who do I know that could mentor me and provide support when things get tough?
There is a saying in business that what gets measured gets done.
You need to decide on what will you are measuring and how you will measure it.
Measuring the outcome also means you have some tangible evidence to show others. It will prove whether you are meeting the goal or not.
In business rarely do you have to measure your own performance. There will be a system that measures your activity or output.
If you have to measure the outcome yourself it becomes more tricky. You have to decide on what you will measure, how you will measure and the frequency you will measure.
If we take the cup cake example then you have several aspects you may need to measure.
There are many questions a business has to answer. Knowing what you will measure and how you will measure is crucial.
Is the goal realistic?
You may want to be a billionaire by the end of next year but how likely is this going to happen?
If you earn £50,000 it may be more realistic to aim for £100,000.
Once we realise we are not going to be a billionaire guess what happens?
That’s right we give up. If we want to be successful we have to focus on reality.
Some of you may be thinking about stretch goals and making the goal big and audacious?
I agree with this approach but there still has to be an element of realism to what is being set.
Billionaire status might be a 10 year goal or a lifetime goal. Based on a £50,000 income the goal needs to be something more immediate. Something to move you closer to the 10 year or lifetime goal.
A simple but important step. Is the goal relevant to what you do and what you want to achieve?
Your fledgling cup cake business may be thriving. If the goal is to sell your product to the nightclub industry you may want to review this step of the goal. Unless the cup cakes were full of booze.
Hey! I may have just created a niche business idea! Margarita cup cake anyone? If you decide you want to launch then give me a shout, I’m happy to consult!
If you don’t have a deadline your work will turn into this huge monster with no focus and no results.
You will do a lot and feel like you are busy but you will end up achieving little.
Having a deadline instills a structure and discipline into our lives. It holds us accountable.
Don’t keep the deadline to yourself either. As we know sharing the goal with friends and colleagues is a powerful way of ensuring you achieve the goal.
From a business point of view time has a cost. Many people forget this and the longer you spend on a task or project there is a cost attached.
It is important to be realistic with time frames but be brutal your use of time. We can achieve far more than we imagine and this is especially true when we have a tight deadline.
Setting a goal can seem like the hard part and in reality taking action is the hard part.
Once the goal is set you can’t afford to take your foot off the gas. You have to develop a daily habit of reviewing the goal and taking action to make sure you are on track.
Developing this habit allows you to make adjustments along the way.
- The acronym for setting goals is S.M.A.R.T
- The goal should be as detailed as possible. It should answer as many as who, what, why where, when and how questions as possible.
- What you measure you will do. Know what you need to measure and how you will measure it.
- The goal has to be realistic – think short to medium term to help support the long-term audacious goal.
- The goal has to be relevant to what you do and why you do it. No cup cakes in nightclubs!
- Deadlines stop you creating work that does not need to exist. Be brutal with your use of time.
In life there will be many hidden hazards attempting to stop you in achieving your goal.
Roughly the 15th of January.
We get excited at the thought of a new goal, we have a burst of enthusiasm and we see a bold new future.
Then reality sets in and our apathy takes over, we lose sight of the goal and we become frustrated.
In other scenarios we doubt ourselves and the fear of failure takes over.
We lose momentum and we give up on the goal.
We focus on the things that do not matter. The stuff on the periphery. The stuff that has nothing to do with the goal – although we kid ourselves it does.
We tell ourselves stories. We base these stories on our past self and project it on to our future self. ‘I just fell short last time and it will happen again.’ As a result we give up.
We let the voices in our head take over, we let the naysayers win and procrastination becomes our friend.
Minimise the Risk of Failure
Recognise the Obstacles
By anticipating obstacles you can put strategies in place to deal with them.
For example one of my goals is to publish an article every Tuesday.
If I start the work on Thursday or Friday it gives me enough time to get all the work done. Doing it this way also allows me to build in buffers. If anything unexpected pops up it will not stop me from achieving the goal.
Confidence and Commitment to the Goal
In coaching I will ask the coachee how confident they are of achieving their goal and I will ask them to rank it from 1 – 10.
The score allows us to explore the goal some more and understand why confidence is low, medium or high.
It also provides me with a clue on how much extra support they may need.
The second question focuses on how committed they are to achieving their goal.
Sometimes they realise their commitment is low.
If this happens to you don’t see it as a failure, it is a positive thing! You can explore why the goal is not for you and then set a goal that is important to you and one that excites you.
We procrastinate for many reasons:
- We don’t think we are ready.
- We don’t have the experience or the skills.
- We don’t have the right tools.
- We don’t have enough time
- We have lots of time so we will do it later.
In reality, when we procrastinate, we are just simply creating excuses.
I will often encourage those I’m coaching to go out there and try working on X (whatever X might be) straight away that minute.
It gets them over that first hurdle and importantly it links back into the number one priority once the goal has been set – taking action.
A Poor Plan
If you have not followed the steps in setting the goal and focused on it being S.M.A.R.T then you will struggle.
A separate plan, to complement the goal, is also a good habit to develop. Here you may decide to create a ‘To do’ list, or a spreadsheet or a mind map (my personal favourite)
This will flesh out some more of the detail and help solidify the details within the S.M.A.R.T goal.
A poor plan will not get you to the top of the ladder.
Taking Big Steps
Remember the bit about taking small steps?
Taking too big a step is likely to result in your success percentage crumbling.
Every now and again we have to take a big leap of faith but small steps lead to one big result, resist the temptation to leap frog the steps.
This is a big one for me and I talk to my teams about it a lot.
I see so many people deliver moments of genius and then tank the next month.
Consistency is about delivering on a daily basis. You don’t have to be delivering at a world-class standard, but you had better be delivering.
It is the same with goals. You have to know what the goal is, how you are going to take action against it and why you want to hit this goal.
If you do this every day it becomes a habit and once it is a habit it becomes part of the fabric of who you are.
- Life will throw many obstacles at you attempting to derail your success!
- Anticipating the obstacles will allow you to mitigate them more effectively.
- Knowing your level of confidence and commitment to achieving the goal is key.
- Procrastination and excuse making is a goal killer. Action is the way to fight it.
- A clear and detailed plan will help support the S.M.A.R.T goal you have set.
- Resist the temptation to take big steps. Small steps rule!
- Consistency creates a habit which in the long-term will become part of your fabric.
I want each and every one of you to be successful.
By following the steps in the article you increase your chance of success.
80% of people do not set goals and only a small percentage write them down.
If you become part of the small percentage that writes them down, holds yourself accountable to others and shares them with a friend you are likely to achieve far more than you can believe.
I want you to go and set a goal, right now. Follow the steps above and then take action.
Remember, it only has to be a small step the important thing is you take that first step.
Go out there and become an overnight success.
Believe and Take Action.