Since 2014, seemingly by design, I have been asked to write one of the first blogs of the New Year. January feels like a time of fresh starts and new beginnings; it is a good time to both reflect back and look forward. All in all, January is a good month to invest some time in Stephen Covey’s Quadrant II, reflecting on things that are “Important but Not Urgent,” like dreaming, planning, reflecting, resting and setting goals to keep getting better.
As I sat down to write in January 2017, I decided to look back to prior blogs for ideas and inspiration. Being the analytical CPA type, I noticed in my “look back” that this is my 31st blog. Beginning in 2010, I’ve written blogs on many challenging and interesting leadership topics, such as developing people, planning for succession, resolving conflict, going deeper in relationships, leaving a positive legacy, and being a more visible and vulnerable leader.
But the topic featured in over half of my blogs (including this one) is goal setting. I especially love the topic of goal setting, and even more, the topic of goal achieving. I love to learn about goal setting, teach others about it, write about it, help others do it, and most of all put it into practice in my life.
In past blogs on goal setting, I have asked questions like: Do you fear success? Do you have the skills? Do you really want it? And explored goal achieving challenges, such as: Getting Unstuck, Getting Restarted, and What’s Next? In this blog, I will focus on the question, “What’s Going to Stop You From Achieving Your Goals?”
Let me start by saying that the #1 reason for lack of goal achievement is not setting goals in the first place. In other words, as the “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky put it, “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”
Effective goal setting is a skill that can be learned with practice. Let’s review the “Goal Setting 101” fundamentals:
- Spend some intentional time in Quadrant II – right now in January 2017
- Identify the areas in your life that need to get better, that you want to improve – pick the most important “BHAGs – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals" - If you’re not clear where to focus, ask for input from people who know you best and care about you most
- Break your goals down into “bite-size” pieces and list the actions you need to take to achieve them – be specific and measurable, lay the steps out on your calendar with milestones and “by when” dates
- Prioritize the action steps, pick the first one, and get started while you’re still in the planning phase
- Write all this down and – extremely important - tell other people about your goals to make them “real” and a “promise”
- Ask a “coach” to watch you and hold you accountable, and be willing to regularly “return and report”
- When (not if) you fail or fall short, get up and start again.
So once your goals are properly set, what are the major “deal breakers” that will stop you from achieving them?
- Not getting started right away. There is a natural reluctance to move from planning to doing. Many of us, especially CPAs, prefer to analyze, assess, gather data, get organized, and “polish” their plans – for a really L-O-N-G time. Need help with procrastination? Breaking your goals into smaller tasks will reduce your sense of overwhelm. And scheduling key tasks you don’t like to the first part of the day will help knock them down. Trust that by getting started, you will build confidence and momentum. “Learning as you go” means you can always modify your plan as new steps are identified.
- Trying to do too much all at once. To successfully take on new behaviors, responsibilities and tasks naturally requires that you “let go” of other current behaviors, responsibilities and tasks. In setting your priorities on goals and actions required to achieve goals, perform a “Keep / Stop / Start” analysis, and identify what you should stop doing in order to start something new. Be sure to properly “count the cost” of achieving your goals in terms of what you must let go. Don’t sabotage your success by heaping too much on your plate.
- Lacking specifics and details. For example, say you want to improve the realization on your assigned client accounts. “Drill down” on the details of current “as is” realization – by account and in total. State by how much (in dollars or percentage) you want to increase realization – again by account and in total. Consider the possible action steps you will take: Will you look at increased pricing, improved efficiencies or better delegation? Or all of the above? Be sure to prioritize where, when and how you will get started and move forward.
- Failing to tell others about your goals. Telling others has a two-fold purpose: It makes the goals “real” – they’re “out there” and those you tell will ask how it’s going, and you don’t want to say “not good.” Telling others also inspires others them to set goals and get to work on their areas for betterment and improvement. If you tell others about your goals, it means you’re serious and “determined,” and if you don’t tell others it means you’re not. It’s that simple.
- Not starting in the right place. Improving your business referral networks and developing deeper client relationships are excellent goals. But if you are dealing with more fundamental “life issues” like poor health or unhappy family members, you need to start with “root cause.” If you want to achieve your business goals and other life goals, you must first secure your most important foundations.
- Stopping when you fall short. Don’t listen to that negative little voice within you. It’s OK to stop for a while, as long as you start over. Getting better, growing, and learning are life time pursuits. You do get “credit” for what you were doing and accomplishing before you went off track. The only true failure is not starting again.
- Not asking “what’s next.” Goal setting and achieving are key drivers of the “getting better” process. A goal is set, the effort is expended, and the adversity and set backs are overcome until it is achieved. But goal achievement is not the end - always ask “what’s next?”
I hope and trust that this first blog of the year will encourage and inspire you to get to work on your own goal setting and achieving in 2017. If you have ideas or personal experiences to share on the important life long process of goal setting and achieving, please post them so others can benefit.