Many people are intimidated by setting goal for themselves. They feel if they do not achieve their goals, they fail. And, if they reach their goals before the goal date, they could have done much more. After decades in business, I have learned that not setting goals is a recipe for failure. The brave (and the successful!) use goal setting as a stepping stone on their journey toward achieving their vision. In fact, success is achieved through goal setting.
Once goals are set, a dogged commitment will be required to reach them to the exclusion of all else. Sometimes, in the course of pursuing your goals, lucrative opportunities arise that you hadn’t factored into your goals. Consequently, you face a dilemma; do you take the opportunity, and veer off of the track to reach your goal? Or do you continue on your pathway to achieving your goal? These spontaneous opportunities present you with a temptation – something new and fresh - something more fun and exciting. Conversly, it’s difficult to simply maintain the goal you set in the past – it can feel like drudgery!
When offered new opportunities, it is prudent to evaluate the impact your choices. The question to ask at this time is “which course is the best choice toward achieving my goals?”
You find a girl as a life partner. It is your vision to marry her and your goal is to build a family and life together. As with many goals, the sparkle of the relationship begins to wear off. Normal sets in. Great effort is required to recommit to the goal and keep the vision alive. Effort towards this goal is required to reignite joy and freshness in the relationship.
Sometimes in the course of the relationship an unforeseen opportunities comes along – a new, beautiful, exciting potential partner comes along. Do you ditch your old relationship, giving up the half-completed goals that you have set with your first partner? Or, do you recommit to the earlier relationship and do what it takes to breath new life into it, building on the benefits you recognized previously?
After you set your goals, make the right choices, and for you for the right reasons.
In 1990, after nearly 15 years in business, I examined where I was going with my life and business. It felt as though I was just surviving, and getting by. When I tried to identify what my goal was, it seemed I’d just adopted the same goal as my former employer, a successful architect. His life goals suited him and his personality, but I realized they weren’t my goals. Looking back to 1976 when I graduated as an architect, I had no real vision of my own, no goals for where I was going with the rest of my life.
Previous to graduation my goal felt pretty clear: to become an architect. This vision was constantly in focus. Year-after-year I was on a path, ever closer, to reaching this goal.
In 1978, on a whim, I decided to begin my own architectural practice without any meaningful business background. But I didn’t know why. Without a vision, no clear set goals and lacking business expertise, my life became a living hell. I worked long hours, always felt uncertain about business, and made a meager income. I had difficulty with all aspects of my business, including everyone I worked with, both staff and with clients. I was an unhappy and disgruntled architect. This went on for about 15 years.
In 1990 I decided to either quit struggling as a businessman or master the ways of a successful business. I set a goal and gave myself 5 years to turn the existing business – oldco, to a restructured business – newco. I carefully went about choosing a mentor to help me.
My mentor and I spent time together, developing a plan with interim goals in order to reach my vision of an architectural practice based on a strong business model. The model broke the practice down into 6 centers of attention, which I tackled one at a time and incorporated into my business. The plan featured milestones which were measurable. Each year I evaluated my growth and adjusted the plan as required to better reach my vision of a successful practice. By my second year I began to see progress towards my goal and I could see the pathway leading me to where I wanted to go. I reached my 5 year goal of transitioning from oldco to newco. Now I use the same model to enhance my otherc businesses using a similar model for setting goals to reach my vision.
The first time you set goals and develop a plan to reach your vision in business is difficult.
It is hard to identify appropriate goals for yourself and this can only be done with considerable introspection. I recommend a mentor/coach to help you, give you ideas and encouragement. After it is completed, the plan and its goals can be set aside for a year. The act of writing down your plan and goals, embeds them in your subconscious. Your subconscious will remember what you have written and will guide you, unknowingly.
After the year has gone by. and you examine your plans and goals, you’ll likely find that you have made surprising progress. Your subconscious mind will have kept you on track and steered clear of needless distractions. Not all elements of your plan will have turned out exactly as written. No problem. Evaluate your progress and alter the plan for the subsequent year. Keep diligently repeating this process, and after a few years you will come to see the growth you achieved. This success will encourage to continue the goal setting process. And, the paradox is gone! You will understand the nature of planning and goal setting, and how it leads to your ultimate success.
If your business seems to be going nowhere and you feel your life has lost its luster and become humdrum. If you see your colleagues succeeding while you are in a funk, begin with the following process:
- spend considerable energy deciding where you want to go – your vision
- once you have your vision, write it down – rewrite it so it is succinct
- then plan how you will get there by setting milestones and interim goals
- take on projects only that are in keeping with your goals
- share your goals with your friends, colleagues and clients
- review & evaluate your goals on an annual basis, adjusting them as required
- acknowledge you successes and progress
- find a mentor to guide you through this process.
There is no paradox if you conscientiously follow this process. You will achieve success beyond your vision. You will have the respect and envy of all those who know you. But, most importantly will be able to say to yourself, in your later years, without regret
“I’ve done the best I could with my life.”