Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Start at the End

Ever ask yourself why achieving certain goals has been so hard?
Have you ever wondered why you aren't yet where you want to be career, family, or otherwise?
Conversely, have you ever looked back after a goal you set scared you and thought "well that wasn't so bad"?

Other than mental fortitude and work ethic, 2 key components of achievement that we'll discuss today are 1) how you set goals in the first place and 2) the skill and discipline of accountability and adjustments along the way.

1) Setting The Goal(s) Bullet Points

A) Chicken Before the Egg: Triathletes don't start swimming and reach a certain point before they say "I'm ready for Ironman". They get up at 4am and wait in line to register a YEAR in advance, pay for it, and when their butt is now on the line (especially because they had to plan on it seriously enough to commute to Penticton which means they've probably shared their goal) - they now must do something about it for fear of open public and personal failure.
B) Astronauts don't do your taxes: That is, you can't be all things to all people. Astronauts go into space, accountants do your taxes, chefs cook your dinner, and you do what you do best. It is one thing to have many skills, and even many formal roles, but if you are the jack of all trades, you are the master of none which means you aren't getting great at anything and you're not maximizing your natural talents. Start planning on getting great at one thing. Once you have Perfected the medium rare New York Striploin, you can cook while entertaining. Once you've done that, you can cook while entertaining and closing a business deal at the same time. The point is, trying to emulate someone like Richard Branson who has a multi-faceted business and personal life is not how you get there. Get there by being successful enough at one thing that you open up opportunities in parallel and even unrelated possibilities. That's how he and everyone else like him did it.
C) Rome wasn't built in a day: A deadline is crucial because it places a fire under our rears... however it should be a fire not massive amounts of C4. The accountability has to be realistic in that the goal must be achievable with hard work and smart planning. If even the most skilled of us with the best plan has no hopes of finishing in the time allotted or with the resources allocated, it's like we're asking Caeser to build the Colosseum out of popsicle sticks and to do so in 24 hours.
D) Vegetarians don't eat meat: Make sure the goal you are setting is your own. If your spouse, parents, teachers, or employer set firm expectations on you, but in your (properly informed) heart of hearts you know it's against who you are or what you want - work with them to come up with a mutually beneficial alternate, or have a solid plan B where you can do what you love that makes you happy and helps others.
E) You can't measure what you can't see: If there's no timeline, set of metrics, or a tangible method of assessing progress and whether or not you have achieved or are achieving your goal; it's not specific enough.

2) Reviewing and (if necessary) adjusting the plan.

You may have lots of experience in the goal setting process (and may have even better systems and methods than laid out above); yet if you don't come back to the plan often enough and at the right times - it's still easy to miss your mark.

You may have the right goal and the right plan, but circumstances, the economy, your own reality, and many other things can change, especially in the pursuit of long term goals.

The triathlete may break their leg 4 months before Ironman and have to change their plan.
The economy may tank in say, oh - late 2008 - and force business leaders to review their financial, growth, employment, and many other strategies.

The point is, in long term plans, you should have strategies broken into years, quarters, and months that flow logically and are well aligned. You should review at least quarterly for bigger ticket items, and weekly if not daily for shorter term goals.

It's all about engagement: be engaged in your own life and keep engaged in the process of making what you want your life to be a reality.

It doesn't happen over night, but it should occupy some of your time, energy, talent, and resources every night.

In retrospect, you may have already followed this in the past which is why some big undertakings felt easy; and times you didn't follow the system led to harder work than it needed to be or just plain failure.

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