Not Your Standard Goal-Setting Post

I learned to set goals from my dad.  He’s set annual goals every year that I can remember.  As a result, I’ve been a goal setter most of my life, and I believe that it has benefited me.


However, I was on a coaching call with one of my clients last month that caused me to rethink goals.  This guy has absolutely crushed his goals for the year – killed it.  Do you know how he feels about it?  He feels like he has stolen from next year’s income.  His goals actually have prevented him from enjoying his success.

What he should feel is something short of elation.  His growth this year has been incredible, and I had a front row seat to it.  This guy started his own firm and became a first-time dad.  He had realistic goals.  They were measurable.  They were stretching yet attainable.  In some way, hitting his goals left him wanting.

This is the time of year when top producers and high achievers set goals for the upcoming year.  It is the perfect time to pause (nearly impossible in December) and reflect on the year.  And while my thinking is changing on the best way to set goals, I will set them nonetheless.

None of the following is rocket science or original thought.  It is simply how I’ve learned to do this.  As you work through your goals for next year, remember the word ‘balance.‘  You really gain nothing if you work 80 hours a week and lose your family.  What benefit is ten million dollars if you  don’t have your health.

I do have a thought and a challenge at the end of this post so be sure to read until the end.

Steps For Setting Life-Changing Goals

  1. Set goals for your entire life.  You may have just said, “Duh!”, but many people don’t.  My areas are spiritual, family, work/career, personal health, personal development, and social.
  2. Write them down – Again, “Duh!”  But this is so important.  I think Dave Ramsey said something like “goals that aren’t written down are just dreams.”  Something happens when you write something down.  More specifically, I encourage you to hand write them.  I gain so much clarity when I write by hand versus typing.
  3. Use the 3 P’s – I’ve read numbers of blogs that espouse this method, but I think that Brian Tracy is the guy who codified it.  If Tracy didn’t come up with this, he wrote about it in one of his books.
      1. Present – don’t write down that you want to lose 20 lbs.  Write that you are the weight that you want to be.  For example:  “I weigh 170 lbs by the end of 2013.”  It is in the present tense.
      2. Positive – you are much more apt to accomplish the goal if you think of it in the positive.  The best example is the quitting smoking goal.  Instead of saying that you are going to quit smoking this year, write “I am a non-smoker.”  See the difference?
      3. Personal – this simply means that you start each goal with “I” and an action verb.  “I sell 10 Single Tenant Net Lease properties by September 2013.”  “I am a student of my wife and seek to understand and know her.”  “I take my daughter on a date once a month so that she doesn’t have to date biker-guy to get my attention.”  You get the point.
  4. Write your goals daily – I’m not good at this one.  This is the idea that writing your goals and placing that sheet of paper in a drawer for a year is not optimal.  I’ve heard of studies that say that even this annual fire and forget method is way better than not setting goals.  However, there is some real power in re-writing them daily.  I did this for a couple-week stretch earlier this year.  Those were some of the most productive and focused days of my life.

I keep thinking of my goal-shattering client, though.  This process failed him in some way.  What he needed was a growth plan.  Goals can be a part of it.  I’m reading John Maxwell’s new book the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  He said that happiness has more to do with growth than anything.  And growth is a life-long process.

I want to grow as a writer which will involve writing a book.  I want to grow as a speaker.  I want to grow as a husband and father.  I want to grow as a leader.  My goal is not to arrive, though.  My goal is to try to approach my potential.

How would you quantify that kind of thinking in a goal that is measurable, challenging, and attainable?  I need goals that I never actually hit.  Goals that are always beyond my grasp – causing me to stretch and grow.

Help me out here.  How do you think you can set goals that are just barely unattainable and then be satisfied with the growth?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • It’s interesting that the research I am currently doing on the subject of “How to prepare for a positive retirement” reveals that folks who thrive in retirement have a mission for their life and they continue to set goals in each major area of life — family, finances, spiritual, physical, etc. As a coach I teach people to develop an annual life plan. When their goals are quantitative, I ask them to set a range rather than a specific number. Fact is, I want folks to achieve at least 70% of the goals they set — this bring energy and vitality to their life. Using a rage also builds in the “stretch factor.” Thanks Bo, for this excellent article!

    • Bill – I love the idea of a range. It will allow achievement and motivation for growth at the same time. Love it!

  • Anonymous

    Bo this is a timely article. I appreciate how your client feels anti climatic about reaching his goals… I think every deal feels like that… each time your are done, it never feels the way you thought it would… I believe in your proposal for setting the goal as something more intangible, yet clearly in our business the bank likes tangible results each year to keep our tangible assets…

    I think it comes down to the principles we establish for ourselves each year and that is what I will focus on for 2013. Yes, I need to meet my financial production levels but I agree that our goals should be tied more to our personal principals we live our life by and run our business from.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and congratulations on your new position with SVN!

  • Your client reminds me of a good friend of mine. He set a sales goal and the day he reached it, he was totally deflated. I have to point out that he grew up dirt poor so reaching this goal was very important to him. Now he felt like the one thing that drove him every day was gone and that there was nothing left to do.

    Not being much of a goal setter myself, I always admired those who were. So I was shocked to see that after he reached such a huge goal he couldn’t be happy and energized for another challenge. But I came to see that some goals are born from fear – a feeling that you’re not good enough and a belief that reaching a certain goal will change all that. My friend had finally made all this money but he still felt like a poor kid.

    It took a while, but what turned him around was gratitude. Instead of focusing on what he didn’t have or thought he wanted, he focused on being grateful for what he already had. He still sets goals – it’s just how he is. But they come from a different place. He can appreciate winning and find something of value in a loss. Either way, he’s just grateful for the opportunity.

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