Setting Goals

Did you set any goals at the beginning of this year? How are you doing with them? If you’re like most people, you’ve made some progress but you’re probably a bit behind. Any time of year is a great time to restart setting your goals. I want you to have my “10 Basic Rules for Successful Goal Setting” with you every time you do that. If you follow these rules your goals will be easier to achieve. And if you have any questions about any of them, click here to ask and I’ll expound further. Ready? Here we go…

1. Every goal, big or small, has to be written down.

This first step is so important yet people always fail to do it. I don’t think they fail to do it purposely, I think they don’t do it because they really don’t think it’s that important. They say, “I know what my goals are. I’ve got them all in my head.” Sound familiar? It does to me too! We’d be better off writing them on a piece of paper and taping them to our heads!

I learned a long time ago that the simple act of writing down your goals sets your mind to begin working on the goal without us even knowing it. Your subconscious mind begins to make things happen in the background. You’ll meet someone by chance, so you thought, and 2-3 years down the road that person has an integral part in your business. And it all started because you wrote down your goal.

When you write your goals you have to be very specific. You should begin the goal with these words: My goal is to – and then write the goal. But don’t be general. Don’t write “My goal is to be financially free someday.” You need to be more specific: “My goal is to make $250,000 a year by making one new contact per day.”

Then, most important, you date the goal. The goal I just mentioned above actually has a sub goal. This goal would be “My goal is to make one new contact a day.” This would be a “step goal” to the ultimate goal of making $250,000 a year. Nevertheless, you still have to date it. So you write the date you want to make $250,000 a year by, and then you write the date of the step goal of making one new contact a day. As you’re doing all of this your subconscious mind is working on ways to make it happen.

Always make sure to take some time to do this. Writing goals shouldn’t be a once a year project where you write them then stuff them in a drawer somewhere to never review again. It should be done daily, weekly and monthly. But set aside time in your calendar to make it happen. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s an assignment for you: Write a list of everything you’d like to be, do, have or change. Once you make this list it will serve as your goals list from which you’ll pull ideas for your regular goal setting sessions.

2. Small goals are just as important as big goals.

Most people, when setting goals, concentrate more on the big goals then they do on the small goals. I first started setting goals when I was involved in Network Marketing back in the early 1990s. I thought for sure that goals were meant to be gigantic achievements that you needed a process to reach. I learned that the second part of that statement is true but the first is not. Even small goals need a process but not all goals had to be huge. Small goals are just as important as the bigger ones.

The reason for this is simple. In the process of goal setting that I teach, called Active Goal Setting, or AGS, we break the goals into smaller pieces through a process of identifying the obstacles between you and your goals then coming up with an action plan to overcome those obstacles. What that does is break the goals into smaller pieces that are easier to work on.

When you have smaller pieces that are focusing on overcoming an obstacle, they become smaller goals in themselves. So in order to achieve the big goals, there are always smaller goals that need to be accomplished on the way to the bigger goal. Anytime you break up a bigger goal you’re creating smaller goals to work on. That’s why the small goals are just as important as the big ones.

The other part of this is that there are always small things for us to accomplish on a daily basis. Making that dentist or doctor appointment is a small goal but it’s something we have to take care of. Ignoring those things could be disastrous. Just because they seem trivial doesn’t mean that they aren’t goals. Dentist and doctor visits could be part of a much bigger goal of living healthier.

As you learn the process of setting goals you must remember that the small goals are important too. If you wanted to climb a stair case you wouldn’t try and take it in one giant step. There are little steps already there for you to walk up one at a time. The same is true for goal setting. Every big goal has smaller goals already built into it. Finding them and working on them will make your climb much easier.

3. Always define the obstacles that could come between you and your goal.

What does this mean? Well, whenever you set a goal there is always one or more obstacles that stand between you and your goals. Obstacles are things that stand in the way of you achieving that goal. In other words, it’s most likely something that you fear.

Let’s say for example that you have a goal of beginning a public speaking career. Obviously the big obstacle that stands between you and that goal is your fear of public speaking. So the object of AGS (Active Goal Setting) is to identify those obstacles and come up with an action plan to overcome those obstacles. In the case of this particular goal, a good action step could be to take a Dale Carnegie or similar speaking course. That will teach you how to get over your fear of speaking.

Most people who set goals try to go to work on the goal itself. That is a huge mistake. When you do that you’re trying to take on too much. There has to be a process of breaking down the goal or working on smaller pieces of it. The process I’m describing does just that.

The other important factor here is that when you go to work on removing the obstacles, the goal automatically comes closer to you. So achieving the goal becomes a by-product of working on removing the obstacles. Not only is this process effective, it’s also fun!

So remember, don’t go directly to work on the goal. First identify the obstacles between you and that goal and then come up with an action plan to overcome it. By doing this you’re working on one of the foundational principles of success – learning to solve problems. As you work on overcoming the obstacles to your goals you’ll learn a lot about yourself and how you problem solve. Don’t take this lightly. Problem solving is an uncommon trait in sales people these days. If you learn how to solve people’s problems through what you’re offering in a product, you’re chances of success in any economic climate increase.

4. Write the specific action steps that tell you how you will deal with each obstacle.

This is a very important step that a lot of people don’t do. Once you define the obstacles, you have to figure out a way to overcome them. You do that by creating an action step that will tell you how to deal with the obstacle. All goals have obstacles, true, but unless you come up with a plan to over come them they will remain in your way and prevent you from reaching your goal.

Let’s say you’re driving to an appointment and your running late. You pull onto the main drag in an unfamiliar area and there is a huge traffic jam. What do you do? Do you turn around and go home? No, you figure out a way around it by checking your map or using your GPS system. What have you done? You’ve taken an action step to deal with the obstacle. It’s the same process with goals. Except there’s a catch – when you first set out to do this you’re not going to have any clue what the action step should be. When I go through this process with clients, it takes them a while to come up with an action step. The reason for that is because this is a new process, one we’re not used to dealing with. Most people throw up their hands and say a few choice words when a big obstacle comes up. Others blame Murhpy’s Law. But with you it’s got to be different. If you’re serious about reaching your goals you have to stop and take the time to figure this part out. When you get the answer and apply the action step, doors will open up and ideas will follow that will move you forward. Do this for each obstacle you’ve defined.

As you begin to learn how to do this you’ll see that the by-product of this process is reaching your goal. Most people who set goals try to immediately work on the goal. And you know what, most of them fail. That’s because they haven’t taken the time to identify the obstacles and create action steps to overcome them. As you work on the action steps – the most important part of the goal – the goal itself gets accomplished. Try this process and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

5. The action steps are always more important than the goal itself.

This is a very important piece to learn in the Ten Steps. Most people who set goals go directly to work on the goal itself without taking into account the obstacles and action steps. The reason the action steps are always more important than the goal itself is because they are like smaller goals that lead to the bigger goal. When you figure out the action steps to overcome the obstacles you are breaking the goal down into smaller, more attainable sub goals. That makes the process easier and the goals easier to accomplish.

The other reason is that sometimes the action steps can become goals that will have their own obstacles and action steps. Once you get this process down you’ll be setting and reaching goals like crazy!

6. Goals should be written to be changed whenever necessary.

When I first started the goal setting process I thought that setting your goals in stone was the right thing to do. The thing I didn’t realize is that life happens and things get uprooted. In short, you have to deal with interruptions. So if we know that going in, we need to set our goals so they can be changed whenever necessary.

What happened to me back in 2005 was a prime example. I was moving up the fast track at the company I was at as a VP. I was being interviewed for some regional opportunities when my wife was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Nine months later she passed away and I had to figure out how to move forward and raise our 9 children. Today it’s still a struggle but thankfully I had my own coach who taught me this concept prior to that all happening. So as soon as she got sick, I dropped everything I was working on and tended to her care. I was probably out of the office for 7 of those 9 months. I worked some from my Blackberry and laptop and made some visits to my office but that was it. For this reason this step holds special significance for me. I didn’t have to agonize over what I was going to do about my goals when this all happened. I knew what my priorities were and I put the goals off to take care of what was most important to me.

Situations like I went through make you realize that your job is not the “end all be all” like we’ve faked ourselves out to believe. Is it important? Absolutely. But you still have a life outside of it. Thankfully, the company I was working for understood that in a big way.

How do you write goals to be changed whenever necessary? It’s simple. You just have to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure. Don’t say “My goal is to be a millionaire in 6 months.” How about being a hundredaire or a thousandaire in 6 months? We always get excited about our goals and then we put these ridiculous expectations on ourselves and quit or slow down. Then we beat ourselves up for not doing it and that makes things worse. If you give yourself enough negative self talk you’ll never get out of bed!

The other piece to that is to think about how much you could get done if you concentrate on one thing daily that you can actually accomplish. Instead of spending your days worrying about why you didn’t do what you were supposed to, you could be getting one major thing done per day. You’d be so much further ahead. In my own life I can tell you that I’ve wasted a lot of days thinking about that. Not so much anymore.

So remember, goals and plans change but decisions don’t. If you keep that in mind and write your goals so that they can be changed whenever needed, you’ll do fine. It’s all about setting up expectations you can actually live up to.

7. If you don’t reach a goal, and you have to change a target date, change the date. Then keep going.

This is an area that I struggled with and actually sometimes still do. Why would I date a goal with the intention of changing it when I don’t reach it? That’s not really what I mean. I do mean that you shouldn’t stress out and beat yourself up if you don’t reach a goal. The goal setting process is supposed to simplify things and accelerate your journey to success, not make it more difficult. Therefore, it’s wise to go into the process with the attitude “I know stuff can happen (and it will) so I’ll build a cushion into my goal setting process that will allow me to change the date and keep going.”

I once heard a speaker say, “I’ve hit every goal I ever set….after I set it enough times.” There’s much wisdom in that sentence. We have to stop acting like we’re losers if we don’t hit our goals. Do you understand that beating yourself up takes more energy than re-focusing and starting again? This is very important. If you beat yourself up the energy you’ll need to get back on track is much more than you’d use if you just accepted the fact that you should move on and re-focus and reset the target date. There’s no room for pity parties here. Nobody comes to them anyway!

8. The six most important words in goal setting are “start again, start again, start again.”

Remember: Go into the goal setting process with the attitude that if you don’t reach it, it’s OK. Just change the date and move on. The six most important words in goal setting are “start again, start again, start again.” So get moving and start again!

9. Share your goals only with people who believe in you.

When you were younger, did your mother ever tell you not to hang out with a certain group of kids? Do you know why she told you that? Because mother’s have an instinct for danger, a built in “danger meter”. They know when danger is near. She also told you that because she knew an age old truth: We become like the people we associate with. It’s true. I’ve had several friends in my life that I hung out with and if they had a particular saying or phrase they always repeated, I undoubtedly started integrating that phrase into my vocabulary after being with them for an extended period of time.

This principle can also be applied when it comes to sharing your goals with others. There’s an old story that says if you put 3 crabs in a bucket one will always try to climb out. As it gets to the top, the other crabs in the bucket will always pull the one trying to climb out back down. A lot of times that’s true with the people we spend time with. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed, it’s that they don’t want you to leave.

One of my favorite movies is “Invincible”. It’s the story about Vince Papali, a wide receiver and special teams player for the Philadelphia Eagles (I’m a Giants fan but still loved the movie) who got a chance to try out with the Eagles and made it. In one of the scenes at the bar where Papali works, one of his friends is acting strange, picking on him and being nasty to him. When Papali asks the bar owner, another friend of his, what’s going on, he tells Papali that the other guy is afraid Papali is going to leave them and never look back after he starts playing pro ball.

When friends feel threatened by your success, they’re afraid that your friendship is going to end. Sometimes they’ll do crazy things to prevent that from happening. They’ll tell you that your crazy for wanting more, that you could never accomplish something and besides why would you want to do that because you have everything you already need: good friends, a good job, a family…what else do you need?

That’s why it’s important to share your goals only with people who believe in you. If I’m working on a big goal, there’s certain people I won’t tell. Not because I’m afraid of what they’ll say but because I don’t want to spend the energy explaining why I’m doing it when I could be putting that energy into accomplishing the goal. So go ahead and share your goals with your mentors and coaches. But be careful beyond that unless you know that the person, like a supportive spouse, would definitely get behind you.

10. The most important ingredient in the success of your goals is your attitude.

Without a doubt the single most important ingredient in the success of your goals is your attitude. I’ve said it many times before…attitude is the main key to success in any endeavor. Denis Waitley says “Your attitude is either the lock on or the key to your door of success.” The choice is yours. Some people’s attitudes prevent them from succeeding and others attitudes propel them to success. Which attitude do you have?

Zig Ziglar says, “We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin’ thinkin’ which ultimately leads to a hardening of the attitudes.” How do you do that? I talk about that on my DVD, “Secret’s to Sales Power”. It’s a combination of several things that you do on a daily basis – the check up that Zig is talking about – that includes reading, listening and learning. The hard part is building the habit to do it. And I’m sure you’ve heard that habits take 21 days to make. I submit to you that it takes longer because no one does anything for 21 days straight. So it’s more like 30-45 days or more. And even still, old habits die hard so you’ve got to stay on top of the new habit to make sure it happens.

Through this whole process of goal setting it’s important to make sure that you have the right attitude, the right mind set. It’s a decision but it also has to be backed up by action. One of my mentors says that the secret to success lies in what you do daily. It’s your daily commitment to change that will make the difference.

One of the best ways to start is by following something Gandhi once said: “Be the change you would like to see.” Instead of complaining all the time – and we sales professionals love to complain – become the change you want to see happen. If you wish people would do more things for you at the office while you’re on the road instead of screwing up all your transactions, then you start doing more things for them and take the higher road first. YOU take the first steps.

When you’re in sales, you’re not only building relationships with your customers, you’re building relationships with your support staff and that may be more important. Do you know that your support staff can make you or break you? It’s true. I worked at one company where we were told to ask ourselves, “Who is your customer.” Really contemplate that. Your customer is anyone and everyone that you interact with on a daily basis whether or not they buy something from you. When you get that attitude, things will start happening. The best salespeople I’ve worked with had great relationships outside the office as well as inside the office. If you don’t have those kind of relationships on all fronts, that’s where I challenge you to start.

There you have them. Make sure you schedule some time on your calendar to have your goal setting session. I’d recommend you do one for yourself and then one with your significant other. But schedule the time on your calendar. Then it will get done.

Again, if you have any questions about any of them, click here to ask and I’ll expound further. I believe in You!

Also, here’s a handy worksheet you can download for your own personal use: Goal Setting Worksheet



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