How many times have you or your organization come up with some goals, written them down and said, ‘Let’s Do It’. The goals might even be written down in a nice pretty journal, on a vision board, or in your company strategic planning document. They might be posted on a wall somewhere for all to see. And for some individuals they may have them posted on their fridge, in their car or their bathroom mirror because someone once said that the more they see their goals the more they’ll keep on track to attain them.
There are literally thousands of articles, books and videos on ‘how to achieve your goals’. I’ve heard them pretty much my whole life.
Here’s the thing though. Unless you understand why this goal is important, you have an emotional connection to it and you have a contingency plan for when things get too hard, you’re not likely to get through the rough waters that you need to swim through to actually achieve it. And the waters can be really rough, trust me – tower high swells, sickening rollers, gail force winds – all there to test you to see if you are worthy of the goal and if you have what it takes for the reward of growth at the end.
Because that’s the reward of goals – growth.
And this is for individuals and organizations. And with all growth comes better results, positive outcomes, expansion and possibilities.
So how do you approach your goals so that they will actually get accomplished? If they’re important to you or your organization, how are you going to make sure the job gets done this time and you can take that next step in growth that you’ve been hoping for and forecasting?
The key comes down to three very important steps and it’s important to not skip these steps or skim over them. Each step must be explored thoroughly and everyone involved must be connected with and have a clear understanding of them by the end of the process.
The three steps are first, understand why the goal is important, second, get emotionally connected to the goal, third, have the courage to carry on when it gets too hard.
Again, it’s important that if you take the time to explore these two steps properly and thoroughly you will have success achieving your goals, it will almost be a sure thing. But if you don’t, your goals will again, just be pretty little things on paper. And what will be the consequence of that? What will happen if you don’t achieve your goal? If you think it’s hard to achieve a goal, think about how hard it’s going to be if you don’t and nothing changes?
So let me explain.
Step 1 – Understand Why This Goal Is Important
So why is this goal important? Why do you want to achieve this goal and what difference will it make?
For an individual, let’s say you have a goal to run a half marathon in under 2 hours. I can relate to this as this was one of my goals this year (which I achieved through this process, among many other goals). So why is this important to you? What will achieving this goal give you or provide for you? What difference will achieving this goal make in your life? What will achieving this goal prove to you and how might your internal dialogue change in a positive way after achieving this goal? What might become possible after you achieve this goal?
For an organization, let’s take a very typical goal of increasing sales to xxx amount in the next quarter. Why is that important to your organization? Bare with me, I know this is an obvious question but hear me out. What will achieving this goal provide for your organization? What else will become possible once you achieve this goal? What will be the impact, both internally and externally by increasing your sales? What else will become possible by achieving this goal? What will be the ripple effect from this goal? How might achieving this goal add to your company vision and the impact you’re looking to make?
When you get clear on why the goal is important, you’re able to get a wide angle view of how it fits into the big picture and over the long term. And through this wide angle view, it adds even more importance and relevance to the goal and creates a ‘we really need to do this’ mindset. It adds more structure, more framework and more scaffolding to the goal, which adds to the success of following through with the actions required to achieve it.
Step 2 – Get Emotionally Connected To The Goal
Once you get clear on why the goal is important, the next step is to get emotionally connected to the goal. And everyone involved in the goal must have an emotional connection of some kind in order to provide the focus, commitment and perseverance required to get through the rough waters and stay on track until completion.
So what do I mean by emotionally connected? Don’t worry, it’s ok, I’m not talking about sitting around in a circle holding hands while singing Kumbaya.
But I am talking about using the most powerful tool we have as humans, which is our emotions. When we’re connected to something emotionally and have a sense of purpose within us, we’re capable of practically anything. We’re capable of doing things others would deem physically impossible. So why don’t we tap into that?! Imagine what would be possible within ourselves as individuals and within our organizations if we were all tapped into that part of our ‘human-ness’ (which is always available to us by the way)?
So as an individual to become emotionally connected to your goal, once you understand why it’s important, ask yourself who you’ll become in the process of achieving your goal. What’s it going to feel like in that moment of achieving that goal? So when you run that half marathon in 1:56, what’s it going to feel like as you stand in the finish line area in a sea of other runners all celebrating their success? What are you looking to experience and feel more in your life that achieving this goal will bring – such as fulfilment, joy, confidence, self worth? And once you have that, what difference will that make? What will then become possible?
As an organization, once there’s a clear understanding of why this goal is important, provide an opportunity for each individual involved in creating this goal to experience their own sense of purpose, fulfilment and ownership towards the goal.
This part is key for teams.
Each team member must have their own sense of purpose and fulfilment as they work towards achieving the company goals. So to get your team members emotionally connected to the goal, a great question to ask would be ‘what opportunity is this goal providing my team members to grow and develop a sense of purpose and fulfilment as they contribute to the bigger picture and bigger goals of our organization’. Because when you tap into your team members sense of purpose and developing their positive feelings and emotions, they’ll be motivated and inspired. They’ll be more creative, more innovative, more adaptable, willing to go that extra mile and they’ll respond more effectively when things go sideways and the unexpected hits.
So whether as an individual or an organization, when we’re emotionally connected to a goal, we’re inspired and motivated. And with inspiration and motivation comes the human capacity to achieve almost anything we put their minds to.
Step 3 – Have The Courage to Carry On When It Gets Too Hard
This step should be part of goal setting just like the other two, however it’s the step that most leave out and want to avoid. This is the piece that most of us don’t want to talk about. This is when the #$&@ gets real.
The hardest part about achieving a goal is to carry on when things feel the most difficult and challenging. It’s when you’re up against the wall, when you’re facing challenges you’ve never faced, when your self-doubt is high and the odds are stacked up against you. You’re flooded with fear and you can’t see in front of you. You literally don’t know how you’re going to move forward and remain committed to this goal you set in front of you. And if you’re a leader in an organization, there’s people watching you and depending on you for an answer, to lead the way, to know what’s ahead. But you don’t. You have no idea and the pressure is building.
So what do you do? Quit, jump ship and bail on the goal? That sure is the easiest thing to do. And most people take this option because the discomfort that comes during the rough seas is just too much to bare. It’s just too much.
This is where Courage, the superhero, my superhero, comes in. Those that achieve their goals summon up their courage at this critical time to carry on, despite the discomfort and agony they feel. They just carry on. They weather the storm, they hold their position, they remain focused on the end point and just carry on. And then the storm passes. And there they are with their goal in their hand, just as they had imagined and committed to, with growth and possibilities as their prize.
This key piece is what separates those who accomplish their goals from those who don’t. So when you’re planning your goal, an important question to ask is ‘what’s our contingency plan when things get too hard and how are we going to deal with it and support each other through it?’
So are you ready to look at your goals differently now?
Do you think it’s time to seriously get connected to them and make a plan to achieve them no matter what this time?
I think so. Because after all, don’t you think they’re worth more than being pretty little things on paper?