I know this successful entrepreneur, Tom, let’s call him. Tom is ambitious, disciplined, and resilient. He’s also quite smart.
One day over lunch, Tom and I were talking about our respective businesses. I shared some ideas I was kicking around, and he shared his latest goal: to earn a million dollars in a single year.
If Tom says he’ll achieve it, I believe he will. And while he’s smart (and ambitious and disciplined and resilient!), that’s not what makes me so sure. Rather, it’s the way he approaches his goals.
Like many high performers, Tom knows that focusing on the end result of a stretch goal can be counterproductive. Instead of dangling before us as an incentive, hard-to-reach goals often serve as reminders of how far away we are from achieving them.
Of course it’s important to know where we want to end up. But identifying wants isn’t usually the biggest hurdle. We know we want more time, better jobs, and healthier bodies—it’s accomplishing those goals that presents the challenge. Translating goals into processes offers three opportunities to help make achieving them more likely.
- Plan the how
Every big goal needs a plan to get there. We can all say we want to make a million dollars, but until we’ve figured out how we’re going to do it, it’s more like a wish. While our end goal may excite us, actionable steps are what sustain our progress toward it.
- Celebrate progress
Having a process not only empowers us to actively work on a goal, it also generates mini goals that offer wins along the way. Why celebrate once at the end when you can use incremental accomplishments to accumulate success and energize your efforts!
- Confront reality
In addition to identifying opportunities for celebration, looking at our progress serves as a reality check for our goal pursuit. We can evaluate our behavior, measure our shortfalls, and vet our intentions. Even the most earnest efforts may not deliver the progress we want. Checking in gives us a chance to adjust our plan and renew—or redirect—our efforts.
Think of a current goal that is important to you. What’s going well? How are you facilitating your progress? What is proving difficult?
I haven’t asked Tom any of these questions, but I think I will. And this time, I have the feeling lunch will be on him.