How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

Setting goals is important in business and in life, but chances are, most of the “helpful” stuff you’ve read about actually doing so is little better than useless.  Hundreds of thousands of people read that same fluff every day – “set attainable goals,” “make sure success is measurable,” “stay motivated.”  But how many of them do you see repeatedly failing?

Unfortunately, most of that talk is too vague to be useful and exists in a fairy tale land of cotton candy clouds and unicorns.  Be SMART, be DUMB – it doesn’t really matter because neither of those acronyms is going to get you any closer to where you need to be.  They don’t address the central issue that’s holding you back:  the nature of the goal itself.

Yes, motivation is a key consideration.  Yes, setting realistic milestones is important.  And yes, sticking to a timetable is essential (as long as your chosen timeframe isn’t too inflexible).  But if your goal is the least bit nebulous and can’t hold your undivided attention none of that matters – you’ve already set yourself up for failure.

The following are three concrete steps you can use to set good goals you’ll actually meet.  Best of all, you don’t need to pick up a PhD in human psychology or cryptography to understand them!

Pick Something You’re Passionate About

Motivation (or lack thereof) is the number one reason why goal makers succeed or fail.  There are tons of people out there willing to give you advice – like reward yourself along the way and dedicate X amount of time per day to your goal – but they’re all overlooking a fundamental flaw.  Motivation is a function of passion and passion is a function of the goal you’ve set for yourself.

Your goal has to be something that you’re completely head-over-heels in love with – to the point where it’s life or death if you succeed in reaching your objective.  Otherwise, you’re not going to stay motivated in the face of challenges, distractions and your own flagging momentum.

As an example, “make more money” is an attainable goal.  “Make $20,000” is a specific goal.  Both of these are realistic and can be easily measured.  But they’re not good goals.

“Money,” in this instance, is really is an abstract term.  The money is not the goal – even though you may think it is.  The real goal is what you can do with that money.  That might be “open a satellite store on the beach” or “hire a general manager so that I can take some time off with my family.”  You need the money to be able to do those things, but the money itself isn’t the goal – it won’t keep the fire in your belly stoked.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Accountability is another aspect of motivation that will keep you on track toward your goal.  You can create all the milestones in the world and lay out all of the incremental rewards you want, but if you don’t recognize your actions and their direct consequences, then you’re pulling the wool over your own eyes.

When people fail, they like to blame it on variables beyond their control – on things like market trends, the reliability of third party services or even the weather.  The truth is, though, if the goal was that important in the first place, you would have found a way to overcome all of those obstacles.

Some find it easier than others to accept the power of their own actions or inaction.  Some find it helpful to have an “interested third party” – a business partner, a spouse or a friend who can repeatedly pull your head out of… the clouds, and keep reminding you that your future rests in your hands alone.

Modify Your Goals

Goals aren’t set in concrete, and they shouldn’t be.  Business doesn’t take place in a vacuum – it’s always changing based on the environment, so your goals must be flexible as well.  It may seem like cheating to change your goal when you’re only halfway there, but doing so serves two purposes:

First, adapting your goals to new input keeps you from heading down the wrong path.  What happened to all of those internet marketers who were betting on MySpace until the bitter end?  Imagine the embarrassment of those who backed Betamax and HD DVD!  And just think about the mortgage lenders who saw the bubble, but refused to believe it would ever burst…  If any of these people had taken the time to analyze their environments and modify their goals, they’d undoubtedly be in a much better position today!

Second, changing your goals helps you to avoid failure.  Adjusting timelines, changing metrics and allowing for the work you’ve done to gain more traction can mean the difference between success and something less.  Success is important for your self-esteem, for your motivation and for your future goals.  If you set a rigid goal and don’t meet it, it’s not the end of the world.  Your business will likely survive, but the psychological impact could be devastating.

If you follow these steps, you’ll find yourself crossing the finish line of goal completion in no time.  And the best part is this tweaked goal creation system is that your eventual success will be more rewarding to you personally.  You’re not off chasing the same goals as everyone else – you’ve personalized the process.  You’ve set a unique target for yourself and geared yourself up to take responsibility for hitting it – creating one of the most powerful goal setting atmospheres you can ever hope to enjoy!  

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