A few years ago, I was consulting with a team of executives from a company and asked them a simple question: “What are the goals for the company?” After mumbling for a few minutes, I asked another question: “You do have them, don’t you?” They said, “Sort of.” I said that you couldn’t “sort of” have goals.” I thought it was very disconcerting to know that an executive team of a company with thousands of employees didn’t have goals. But this company was not alone. More than 80 percent of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77 percent have yet to achieve their vision for their company.
On a personal level, I am puzzled that most people I meet when I am executive coaching don’t have goals. In a landmark study of the Harvard MBA class of 1978, it was determined that 84% of the class had no goals at all. This was from a class of MBA students who most people would assume were intelligent and thoughtful. As Taylor Lautner once said, “I believe in the saying, ‘If you aim at nothing, you’re going to hit nothing. So, if you don’t set goals, then you have nowhere to go.”
If you want to have a fantastic year, then it’s essential to take the time now to set goals if you haven’t for this year and put them in writing. It is one of the significant keys to entrepreneurial success. In a study by Dr. Gail Matthews, people who wrote goals down were 42% more likely to achieve them.
Here are some powerful techniques for making sure you achieve your goals for this year and knock them out of the park!
- Have them. Don’t be like everyone else in the world. Be a top achiever and take time now and decide on your goals personally and professionally. If you know your goals, it is so much easier to make decisions every day. After all, you can’t hit a target if you don’t know what it is. As motivational speaker Tony Robbins said: “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
- Write them down. I know it seems so obvious, but it is imperative to write your goals down. According to expert Mark Murphy- we know that “Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.” I also believe that when you write goals down, it involves both sides of your brain. If you talk about a goal, it involves the right side of your brain. If you write it down- it is engaging the left side of your brain.
- Look at them. Every day take time and look at your goals as a reminder. Brian Tracy once said, “Take 30 minutes each morning to sit quietly and to reflect on your goals.” Here is some brain science: the idea of looking at your goals is to tap into your reticular activating system (known as a RAS), which is a bundle of nerves at the base of your brain which tells your brain what to pay attention to every day. Here is an example- if your ten-year-old daughter signs up for karate and is a big karate fan, you will start noticing information about karate and martial arts everywhere. It’s not that there is any more information about karate; it is just that your brain has been programmed to pay attention to it now. Now do the same things with your goals.
- Ask the “why” question. Here is something that can greatly increase the power of your goals and the motivation to want to achieve them. It is figuring out the why behind the goal. Let’s say you say, “My goal is to lose 34 pounds.” Ask yourself why? “Because.” Because is not a reason- in fact it is very vague and meaningless. But if I push you to answer the real why you may say. “Because… I want to live to be healthy and 100 years old and I want to see my kids and grandkids grow up.” So, then the why is very powerful. The why is the emotional driver for your goals. When I coach executives, they often say that one of their goals is “get promoted” – when I ask why, they say “because that is the next level”. The reality is in 99% of the cases they don’t have a why.
- Measure your goal. I often chuckle at new year’s resolutions because they are often missing the core element of measurement. Someone will say as a new year’s resolution “I want to be healthy.” When asked “what does that mean?” they say, “you know… be healthy!” The question is how is that measured? Weight loss? Body fat percentage? Reduced blood pressure? Working out a certain number of times each week? Any great accomplishment should have a measurement.
- Share them. Another way to make goal setting even more powerful is to share them with people you know, like and love. They can help support you and if you want them to – hold you accountable. Seven years ago, I lost over fifty pounds – one of the best approaches I took was my brother and I became accountability partners. Both of us wanted to reach the same goal so we could support one another.
If you apply these ideas, you can reach and exceed your goals this year. As Melody Beattie once said, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”