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The Power of Goal Setting

Posted on December 22nd, 2023

In Mark McCormack’s book, “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School,” he discusses a study conducted among Harvard MBA grads between 1979 and 1989. Graduates were asked if they had set clear, written goals for their future. 84% had not, and 13% said they did have goals but surprisingly, only 3% had actually written them down. Ten years later, in 1989, they went back to these graduates and found that the 13% with non-written goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had no goals at all. The amazing part is that the 3% that had true written goals were earning on average 10 times as much as the average of the entire remaining 97%! Obviously, Harvard does not graduate dummies so it’s pretty clear that goal-setting made the difference, not intelligence.

Here is a system and some tips for writing, tracking and achieving your goals:

Write Down Your Goals!

This is critical, and when I say "write," I don't mean take mental notes nor do I mean type on your computer or smart phone. I mean, the good old-fashioned way with pen and paper. When setting your goals, always follow the S.M.A.R.T. system. Here’s an explanation...

S for Specific

Your goals need to be specific. “Make a ton of money” or “have more free time” are not specific goals and won’t push you into action. Specific goals are “make $250,000 this year” and “attend 10 of my son’s little league games this season.”.

M for Measurable

There's no point in setting goals if you can’t measure them. If your goal is to make $250,000 in 2010, then you know that by July 1, you should have made $125,000, or you could be off track and need to kick it into high gear. If you can’t measure your progress toward your goals, then success or failure may be open to speculation. We either hit or miss our goals—no in-between.

A for Attainable

Your goals need to be worthwhile and possible; otherwise, you won’t be motivated to pursue them. I’d love to make a billion dollars a year but despite being a fairly confident and optimistic guy, I know that’s hardly an attainable goal. Set ambitious goals but always remember that it’s a whole lot more motivating and gratifying to overperform on your goals than it is to fall short.

R T for Realistic Timetable

Goals have to have a deadline; otherwise, they won’t motivate or inspire commitment. It’s hard to really be motivated to take action on something we want to achieve someday. It’s much easier to take action on something we want to achieve by the end of the month or year. Give yourself a fair time frame to achieve your goals; otherwise, you will set yourself up to fail. But also remember that most humans are not wired to think more than a few years out. 1, 3 and 5-year goals are what I generally try to set.

End Goals vs Means Goals

There are basically two types of goals: end goals and means goals. End goals are your ultimate goals; for example, earn $250,000 in 2010. That goal should be set but to really kick yourself into action, you will also want to create goals. (as in a means to an end). What goals will you need to set on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to achieve that $250,000 in 2010? How many leads, sales calls, candidate introductions, etc. will it take to achieve my end goal? In addition to writing out these goals, take an extra few minutes to also write down how it will make you feel when you achieve your end goal. How will it make you feel if you don’t achieve it? Leverage your fear of failure to motivate you and visualize your success.

In my 20 or so years of striving to be a successful entrepreneur, I have read books, attended seminars and sought advice from so many of the greats, including Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Steven Covey, Brian Tracey, Chet Holmes and more. While the general styles and focus of these people may vary, I have never read one of their books or attended one of their seminars where true goal-setting was not a key focus. If you have not already done so, go get yourself a plain spiral notebook and a pen and get busy setting your goals. I guarantee it will change your life.

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