It’s January, the month where people get momentarily excited about the year ahead.
With the promise of a fresh start, most of us make new year’s resolutions: “I’m going to lose weight, exercise more, drink less, quit Facebook, go to bed on time” … you fill in the blanks!
Many of us set goals for our businesses too – whether it’s to increase revenue, get into profit, expand to China, or find a reseller in the US.
But a lot of the time we don’t stick to our resolutions and we don’t achieve our goals. The next year rolls around we’re still in the same place. I know too many people who have been thinking and talking about turning their business into an international venture for years, but it never seems to happen!
Why is that?
I think it’s pretty simple, the way we do goal-setting doesn’t work! Here are some common mistakes that I believe most people make.
We set goals without knowing why
Many of us set goals, but we are often unclear on the real purpose of the goals. That’s usually because we haven’t thought deeply about why we have chosen those particular goals.
When we don’t have clarity around the purpose of our goals, it shows up in shallow reasons. For example, you might tell me that your goal is to expand your business to China. When I ask “Why?”, you tell me “I want to make more money”.
This isn’t a ‘wrong’ answer, but it is a shallow one, because for the vast majority of people, money is not the real motivator. Claiming we’re doing something ‘for the money’ often signals that we haven’t really thought through why we’re aiming for a particular goal.
Understanding and acknowledging what drives us to choose a goal is important because human beings need real purpose to get out there and achieve the goals they set. We are motivated and driven by things like mastering skills, creating change, helping others and bettering ourselves.
If you haven’t identified compelling reasons behind the goals you’ve set yourself, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll achieve them – because the motivation won’t be strong enough to keep you going.
Without very compelling motivation you won’t make it!
So, before you start setting your goals, get clear on what you want… and why!
We get blasé about the essentials
The second mistake that I see people making is that they get blasè about goal-setting.
We hear about goal-setting so often that it’s easy to take the whole exercise for granted. We feel as though we’ve heard it all before and there’s nothing new to be learned.
We already know that goals have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound…and these concepts just doesn’t excite us anymore.
When goal-setting isn’t new or novel, we start taking it for granted… and when that happens, we tend to take our eye off the ball, because we feel as though we don’t need to pay it much attention.
That’s a big mistake, because goal setting isn’t about new and novel, it’s about mastery.
If you want to master something you have to do it over and over again. You have to train, practice and persevere, the way elite athletes do. Great sportspeople are at the top of their field, not because they do new things all the time, but because they do the same things – let’s call them “essentials” – over and over and over again, without getting blasé. That’s what mastery is all about.
If you want to succeed in achieving your goals, you need to shake off feeling blasé and get excited about doing your essential goal-setting.
We’re not consistent
The third mistake I believe people make is that they’re not consistent about goal-setting.
This mistake is related to the first two mistakes – it’s hard to be consistent without a deep purpose and real excitement.
Most of us set our goals at the start of the year and then stick them in a drawer and forget all about them. We’d be lucky if we could even remember what the goals were by the next time we take the paper out of the drawer.
The New Year comes around again and we say “Oops … I didn’t keep that resolution…. and I didn’t achieve those goals”. So we start over, set some more goals and the cycle repeats itself. Does that sound like anyone you know?
When you repeatedly set goals and don’t achieve them, or worse still you don’t even start working on them, several things happen.
You stop taking goal-setting seriously, because it doesn’t work for you, You feel bad about yourself for making commitments you didn’t keep, and You don’t get the outcomes you were hoping for.
If you’re serious about achieving your goals, you need a radically different approach to what I’ve just described.
So what’s the answer?
Setting your goals at the beginning of each year is a good start. But it’s not enough.
In the context of expanding your business overseas, I recommend that you also set 120-day goals with your team and that you review these monthly. And where your most important goals are concerned, you should be looking at these at least weekly, or better still each day.
Because, practice makes perfect, or at least a lot better.
Or, as the saying goes “where the focus goes, the energy goes” – when you’re focused on certain goals each day, these things become priorities, consciously and subconsciously – and this helps you to take action on them.
A great way of keeping consistently focussed on goals is to have them front of mind all the time. You can do this by making sure you see them often. Stick them up on in your bathroom, put a copy on the wall of your office, or near the copy machine. Or set a daily reminder in your phone so that your goals pop up at a specific time each day.
Goals let us shape the future in advance. That’s why it’s worth doing goal-setting in a way that works.