A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In the past my approach to goal setting has been quite vague. A typical new year’s goal would look something like, double my business for the next year; or more recently, land a big client/contract. What’s clear to me now is that this was my non-committal way of avoiding failure. I was evasive for a several reasons – and sometimes I just didn’t want it badly enough to actually do the work needed to get there.
In my last multi level marketing/direct sales business, I learned how to set goals in a more realistic way. There were always incentives and trips to earn, and usually the company would break down the goal into monthly and even weekly steps that you had to do sales-wise to earn the incentive. I realized very quickly that committing to the steps was something that I wasn’t very good at. My tactic was more of a spray and pray approach – not that I didn’t work hard – but I tended to just close my eyes and run for the finish line, hoping for the best.
This is a habit that has taken me years, and a lot of self-reflection to try and change. I will admit that I am still not completely there. Goal-setting requires commitment to action steps, and I seem to have a problem with committing to complete them. After a lot of internal searching, I realize that this is because I always want to reserve the right to change my mind. Or change direction. To me, goal-setting meant that I was never allowed any agility in my business if suddenly what I was doing no longer felt right.
Given that I am a creative person, sometimes the newest shiny, neat or colorful thing can take my focus away and all of a sudden I want to do that. So I have spent a lot of time, figuring out why and what I can do better in order to set smart and achievable goals for my business. While it is different for everyone, these are some of the revelations that have helped me create more success when it comes to goals.
- Not achieving the goal isn’t a failure. In my direct sales business, a lot of the goal setting was public. If there was an incentive trip, there would be a Facebook group to pace success which meant publicly declaring where you were at during the process. Declaring goals this way meant that a failure was public too. And it never feels good to announce that you didn’t achieve your goals to a group of people, especially when some did achieve theirs.. What I would choose to do instead, would be to say, I’m not going to go for the trip, but I would work hard and secretly sort of keep track and hope to get myself successfully to the end. The fear of failing in front of my peers prevented me from setting smart goals. And I know that a lot of other women felt the same way.
I learned that hope is not a strategy. And that true success really came from the hard work along the way because the more sales I made, the bigger my paycheck was. And that was a win! But my pride and fear of failing in front of my peers kept me from actually setting honest goals. Now in my own business, I have no one to be accountable except myself.
For first time, in 2016, I did my own version of the Braid Creative Chalkboard method – although not as detailed – and broke down how much I wanted to earn month over month. Once I broke it down further to week by week, I was able to work on things in bite-sized pieces, and achieve things by continually moving forward in small steps.
- Avoid believing that doesn’t apply to me. It’s very easy to look at another’s system or method, and immediately discredit it by saying, it doesn’t apply to me. In my direct sales business, there were fool-proof systems that if you followed, you would achieve success. However, I often would take the it-doesn’t-apply-to-me-route.
Through observing others and my own self-reflection, I have realized that there are two contributing factors: the first is that you just don’t want to do the hard work that the system requires. In my own direct sales business, it required cold-calling – 10 people a day. But I just never did it. I didn’t want to follow that system, partially out of stubbornness and partially because I thought I could do it better. I still achieved accolades and success but maybe not as big as I could have if I followed their system.
The second is what I call the rebel-without-a-cause-attitude. For some reason, since I was a young adult, at times I have balked at following other’s direction. Maybe it’s a somewhat of an anti-establishment, I wanna-be-a-punk-rocker attitude leftover from my teen years – even though I was far from it. But ultimately, when I take a hard look at myself, I have always found excuses not to follow other’s systems. And I know plenty of entrepreneurs who feel the same way. It’s part of the reason why we have chosen to work for ourselves! But it can get in the way of goal-setting and achievement. Once I realized that, it was a little easier to surrender and let myself benefit from proven systems that others create.
- Give yourself permission to change. I think this has been the biggest hurdle for me and has continually gotten in the way of committing to setting smart goals for myself. Something I have learned from the Being Boss podcast (link) is that it’s okay to change direction. Creatives are innately curious. Being open to new resources, social media platforms and systems is not a bad thing. You can change as you learn, and that’s really okay. But I think the key is to really dig deep before you start chasing the next shiny new thing. Figure out how this is going to help you in your business and life, and if it will help you reach your goals. It’s easy to see another’s success, and try to replicate their steps to make it work for you. It’s okay to be agile, but having a clear established goal on paper – or a chalkboard – can help you to determine if it’s a path you should take.
- Be real about the life you want to lead. It took me years to truly identify that I wanted flexibility in my work so that I could be present for my kids. A decade ago, I gave up a corporate job and jumped into a small retail business because it’s what I thought I wanted at the time – which was to be my own boss. I quickly realized that being tied to retail store hours wasn’t really giving me what I wanted – which was flexibility. In terms of the goals I set at the time, this really dumped me on my head, because I was doing what I though I wanted. It took some work to realize that my goals weren’t supporting my larger intention, which was to be home for my family.
Sometimes it can be hard for women in particular to accept that the original career path you thought you wanted isn’t quite how you pictured it. You may be called to do various things as your lifestyle morphs and changes. For me personally, it isn’t a 6-figure business – something in the mid 5’s would actually do me just fine. And finally I am owning that my intentions are to work only part-time, as I raise and support my teenager daughters.
Goal-setting to support these intentions became so much easier and more meaningful once I got truly honest with myself about what my real intention was. And I am looking forward to taking a new, more mindful approach to goal-setting for 2017.
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. – Tony Robbins