6 Tips to Set Goals That Will Get You Where You Want to Go.
Vision is your destination. Goals are the milestones that mark your journey. They quantify and define the steps you take along the way as you go for the gold medal.
Where your vision is broad and big, goals are tangible and specific. They answer questions like “when?’ and “how?” and “how much?” SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
How do you set the right goals and make them work? Here are 6 tips.
1. Keep your vision in mind when setting goals.
Always view your goals in the context of your vision.
- Look for high-leverage goals – those that will allow you to leapfrog forward.
- Also consider goals that will have a long-term payoff, even at a short-term price. For example, you might choose some inexperienced high potential players for your team, with a plan to help them gain the skills & experience.
- And look for some that will give you quick wins, to help see progress and stay motivated.
2. Be willing to reset your goals.
Don’t get so focused on your goals that you forget about the vision. Change is inevitable. Stay focused on your vision, and as in sailing, “tack” to your destination. Change your course depending on the winds and other conditions.
3. Revisit your vision frequently.
Sometimes we can drift off course without realizing it. To avoid waking up one day wondering how you got so far off course, keep it alive by talking about constantly and integrating discussions into your daily life. Use your goals as an early warning system to detect when you are off course.
4. Set up systems, processes and practices that support your goals.
On a personal level – what structures and routines do you need to set up to develop the habits that will support your vision? – regular exercise time?
For a team, look at your formal and informal ways of working together. Consider processes for communication, accountability, training and rewards. For example, if teamwork is one of your goals– are there rewards for team performance or is the focus on individual contributions? Systems that are not aligned with your vision and goals will derail you.
5. Set goals for relationships as well as tasks.
The journey is as important as the destination. Are your actions consistent with your values and where you want to go? Make sure you have a good feedback system in order to know.
6. Start now!
Vision is about COURAGE. Goals are about TAKING ACTION.
As soon as you identify your vision, start to live it. You can’t create a vision for a healthy life and continue a diet of junk food. As a leader, not only must you say what’s important, you need to demonstrate it – consistently. People watch what you do more closely than what you say.
Taking action means not waiting for all the details to be worked out. When you are clear about where you’re going, and have set goals for the next steps, the entire path does not be clear. As long as you keep your vision in mind, the next steps will become clear as you accomplish your goals.
Love the idea of letting go of old goals, refocusing on vision, and creating new goals. When we don’t let go tenacity becomes a source of failure when it should enable success.
I grapple with when to let go vs. hanging on. I’m concerned that letting go is quitting. Any thoughts on when to let go?
Thanks for sharing your insights,
Hi Dan, Great question! Here are questions I would ask when considering whether to hang on or let go of a goal:
Is it aligned with your vision?
How clear is your vision?
Is the goal SMART?
What systems do you have in place to support achieving the goal? (routines? rewards?)
What’s your plan to achieve the goal? Is there another way to approach it?
What’s the cost/benefit of continuing to pursue the goal?
What would happen if you don’t achieve the goal?
Is there a smaller step? an intermediary goal that would move your toward your vision?
What would happen if you put the goal on hold and concentrated on a different goal for awhile?
What alternative goals would advance you toward your vision.
Thanks for sharing your insights. I see many of them as useful tools for evaluating current effort. I take from this that we should be sure that our tenacity is wise tenacity rather than wheel spinning. I can see that sometimes hanging on is just ineffective use of resources etc.
I know you said much more but that’s one of my take-aways.
I’m with Dan. Get knocked off your goal? Refocus on your vision – not the goal you’re missing – and set a new goal to get there. Good stuff!
Thanks so much for adding to the conversation, Cat!
If I understand the question on when it’s OK to quit a goal correctly, I would emphasize looking at whether the goal is serving the vision or not (as you put it Jesse, ‘is the goal aligned to the vision”). In my opinion, that goal is likely to be competing for resource/capacity, so it is not like you would be letting go of the goal to sit back and do nothing. If you compare what you are prioritizing as the new goal to focus on, the question would be which best serves the vision. So it is not about what you did not complete to serve the vision but rather what you choose as the goal to serve the vision. Most people don’t like quitting, but sometimes I think we beat ourselves up and look at an in-completion and lose sight of what we focused our energies on and what value that added.I let go with a clear conscience if I know what I held onto instead added more value. Just my thoughts so I would also like to add my disclaimer that I am not the “expert”.
What I do find interesting Jesse is I am part of a team that recently revisited the vision/mission/ value of our kids’ school (volunteered on the board). After what I thought was the real hard work of interrogation and review, we reached agreement on something which I thought did not veer too much off the vision that we inherited on paper. What is interesting though is the “fear” I could sense from people around the room as they overwhelmed themselves with the “How do we do it!” thought. That is why your closing in your post saying “Taking action means not waiting for all the details to be worked out” is so key for me. You need to start somewhere, you won’t have all the answers up front.
Have a great day folks and great post!
You bring up two important points.
Most people don’t like quitting. The problem is, as you point out, this attitude can keep us committed to a goal that no longer serves the vision – which is demonstrated by the diagram I showed in the video.
The “fear” you sensed in the room is normal. It would help them to explain about the role “creative tension” so they can hang in there and not give up. (Described in my post “The Shortest Distance Between What Is and What Could Be” https://seapointcenter.com/creative-tension/
Thanks so much for adding to the conversation, Thabo.
I wonder if one difficulty of letting go is our emotional connection to the goals we set. We feel as though they reflect on us as leaders and people. To some degree they do. A leader who never “gets things done” can’t lead for long.
On the other hand, defining ourselves by what we achieve creates an unbearable bondage to performance and causes us to perform to “be” rather than let our performance express who we are.
One way to let go, when hanging on is the result of emotional attachment, may be solitude and self-reflection.
Just thinking out loud and approaching the question from a sideways point of view.
The balance is key here, isn’t it? The wisdom to discern between “getting things done” and “time to move on”. I love the insight to the emotional attachment. I have definitely had some goals that where difficult to work towards, and walking away from those is difficult because of all the investment. Thanks for the insight.
I hear you on balance. Sometimes I hate that word because it seems middle of the road but in the case of learning to let something go being out of balance is a clear danger.
Ironically, I was just going to ask the same question as Dan (though I suspect Dan would have some good insight on this topic as well).
Jesse, how do we asses when it is time to let go of a goal and pursue something different? You mentioned an illustration of sailing and being contentious of the changing winds. In the a world that is changing so often and so quickly, how can we effectively choose when the winds are changing, or when there is just a bit of draft coming in? Also, any thoughts on knowing when our team might be ready for a new challenge and a new goal to pursue?
Great work in this post. I appreciate the pointers and learning opportunity. Thanks for writing.
Micah, Dan and everyone who reads this:
This is a great question and I don’t need to be the “expert” on this subject. I just posted my thoughts under Dan’s question, but I would love to hear from others – what are your thoughts?
For example, your point about the speed of change in today’s world makes me think of another question one should consider:
– How “disruptive” is the change? Has the fundamental nature of how business is being done changed? Has the “world shifted?” If so, it’s time to revisit your vision. If it’s a real vision, you won’t need to create a new one, but it will be important to see what aspects of it have become more clear.
It would be wonderful to have a dialogue on this important question.
This is an intriguing subject. I suspect that at some level the answers here will be unique to each situation. To put a formula on exactly how and when to abandon a goal that is not yet achieved is difficult. I can offer a perspective though that may contribute to the conversation. I do think there are seasons – seasons of life and seasons of business. There is an ebb and flow to many things, and we need to be cognizant of this as leaders and goal setters. I believe there are times when a goal has served its purpose and, though it may not have been fully realized, still helped us accomplish what was needed in a certain time.
There is a french consultant and philosopher Luc De Brabandere that writes about the concept of non-finito. This is an art term that literally means “unfinished”. Brabandere suggest that in a our current time things are changing so quickly that we must get comfortable working in a state of non finito. There may be goals and objectives set that we never meet – and that is OK. No fulling realizing these goals is far from failure if we entering a new season and new direction.
There is probably a bit of maturity and intuitiveness on the part of a leader in discerning these seasons and changes. Coming back to your analogy of a sailor, I am sure a seasoned and experienced sailor is able to sense a changing wind and adjust much quicker than those that are new. So, I would first submit that we should understand and be looking for the seasons changing in life and in business. Secondly I would submit that experience may be our greatest teacher and asset on this subject.
I take from your comment that direction, in an ever changing world, is more important than arriving at a destination.
Thanks for the non-finito expression. Love it.
Beautifully said, Micah. A well-crafted vision is a destination you never quite arrive at because the closer you get, the better you understand it and the more you see. So in essence it is non-finito. Your point about reading the winds and the seasons is well-taken. Your thoughts are enriching.
Jesse, Dan, Michah,and Thabo. Great questions and insights from all. I, too, have been reflecting on this question in my own life for the last several months. Getting clear on your motivation becomes a key driver in many instances. For example, are you letting go as a way to avoid a particular challenge, because you have already invested so much time/effort in reaching the goal, or because the goal is not in alignment with your long-term vision? My motivations also differ depending on whether I am speaking from the ego or from a heart-centered place. Practicing detachment, as Dan suggests, is definitely one path to greater clarity.
Great post & presentation, Jesse! My favorite tip? #6. Get out of your own way and just get moving…
Good point, Sharon, that it depends not only on one’s motivation, but also what place you are coming from. From the perspective of the ego, you are the center of the universe, and pride and appearance become important factors.
You distinguish succinctly the differences between vision and goals. The differences between the two have tripped up many individuals and teams. Often times I’ve seen goals written into the vision leaving a tactical vision that fails to inspire.
You’ve managed to take a complex topic and provide a great framework for others who want to inspire, get into action, and adjust course if needed by having check points along the journey.
I’ve seen a lot of tactical “visions” also, Shawn. Most of them put me to sleep. The challenge is making a lofty vision actionable. That’s where goals come in. Glad you found my post helpful in clarifying the difference.
Thanks for the great post. I appreciate the reminder that we need to revisit our vision and make sure that our goals still lie on the ideal trajectory from where we are now to our goal. Thanks. Mike…
I appreciate your comment about the trajectory. A leader could talk about how the trajectory has changed as a way of explaining why they were no longer pursuing a goal. (I can tell you watched the video and didn’t just read the written post as I only talked about the trajectory in the video.) Thanks for joining the conversation, Mike.
Dan, you are definitely on to something with the ego effect in letting go! The thought of “what will people think of me as a leader if I quit” can cloud the decision making process. As you say, you need to step away and look within. Jesse, thanks for the tip, I will be sure to check it out!