“I would be so successful if someone just gave me a shot!”
Many people out there have mindsets and attitudes that set them up for failure. When confronted with possible reasons for failure, or a lack of personal success, they often end up just making excuses. Here are 10 particular bad habits that keep those people from achieving success.
They’ll write that novel just as soon as they’re done with their favorite show. Oh, but now they’re hungry. They’ll get started after a snack. Oh, but now that snack has made them sleepy–a little nap couldn’t hurt, right?
One of the hardest, and the most obvious, parts of achieving success is the actual work. Procrastinating, making excuses or tricking themselves into loafing is just going to cement the fact that nothing will ever get done. It might not sound pretty, or even too easy, but the easiest way to get to success is to just jump in and get going (which is exactly how I got started).Advertising
It’s not their fault they’re not successful. The industry is bad, they don’t have the money, etc. When it comes down to it, however, who is the one responsible for their success? Themselves.
This is the day and age where people are launching successful start-ups in a few months, getting published online and finding their way to success one way or another. Some things might be out of their control, but blaming others is just going to waste the energy and time they need to get going.
3. Sour grapes
Being envious of the success of others is almost as bad as blaming them. All the time and energy they could be putting into their own goals is going towards a person who more than likely has done nothing but show them that the goal is attainable. They don’t have to be applauding their success, but being envious and sour about it is a waste of time–let it roll off the shoulders and dig down towards accomplishing goals.
4. Minimizing others success
Again, they don’t have to be cheering and raving about the success of others, but minimizing their accomplishments looks bad on them and on their own goals. If they attained success, would they want others rolling their eyes and treating it like it is not a big deal in the slightest? I highly doubt it. “So they climbed Mount Everest, big whoop. Plenty of people have done it before.” Have they?Advertising
They’re going to do this, they’re going to do that–the proof is in the pudding, ultimately. Talking about their goals and what they’re going to accomplish is all well and good, but talking time is better spent actually doing. Talking about goals has actually been shown to make you less likely to reach them, so zip up those chattering lips and dive in.
6. Making assumptions
You know what they say about the word ‘assume’, it makes an (inappropriate word I’ll leave out of this article) out of ‘u’ and ‘me’ . Unsuccessful people are the best at making assumptions without considering other outlets or opportunities. Missed chance after missed chance can put anyone behind, or completely ruin something that they poured a lot of hard work into. People are often surprised at what happens if they take a chance instead of listening to that little pessimist inside their heads. ‘Never assume’ is good advice and it is a mindset they should get out of as quickly as possible.
This one is obvious, isn’t it? It’s about the same as loafing, but even worse because it applies to multiple areas of our lives. That big project? Eh, its not due for a week. Dreams? Eh, going to be taking a class to learn how to write in a few months, I’m just relaxing until then.
Procrastination is not the friend of successful people. Many of them had to learn how to either make procrastination work for them or to barrel through it and press on, even with the proverbial sloth demanding you park it on the couch.Advertising
“It will never work. It is impossible, I just can’t …” That is about when it is time to take a good look at what they’re doing. There are a plethora of people out there that once thought the same thing: they can’t get a man into space, they can’t find a way for a human to fly, they can’t cure a disease. Well, people did what was once considered impossible. If they can defy the entire world, why can’t they defy the internal pessimist and get there? Don’t say that it is impossible. In the world we live in today, it seems like impossible is becoming a word that gets weaker every day.
Fast food, energy drinks, trash TV–their brain is sobbing at the thought. With all the time spent taking in things that are not good for their brain or body, how can anyone expect it to happily balance out and produce the stuff they need to achieve success? Output should be greater than input; though they don’t have to take the starving artist spiel literally. The point is, production is where the value is, not the absorption.
“Well, I tried.” Sure, they tried once. That horse is shaking its head and trotting off to find someone who will get back on it. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with cutting losses sometimes. After all, no experience is ever truly wasted, but quitting is the mortal enemy to successful people. If they believe in something, they want to find that success, there is no road map. You may very well have to carve your own path through treacherous jungle. If they give up the first time a mosquito bites, then they’ve doomed themselves already.
Success, in large part, is about the human being in the arena. People cheer for them, their struggle and victory, but the person who watches idly and scoffs, having never tried has also never really lived.Advertising
Mindsets are not set in stone. It is never too late to get started and change perspective. After all, achieving success is completely up to them; they are the one making excuses and holding themselves back. Decide when it is time to stand up and get back into that arena.
Featured photo credit: Boys around a campfire by the water./simpleinsomnia via flickr.com
Last Updated on April 23, 2019
How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated
Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.
While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.
For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.
While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.
I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.
Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.
Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.
Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.
The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.
Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.
Table of Contents
What Is a Stretch Goal?
A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.
In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.
For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.
This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.
It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.
The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.
I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.
Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:
1. Get Outside of Your Head
If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.
If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.
I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.
Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.
2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time
When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.
I see this in so many areas of life:
When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.
In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:
“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”
Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.
3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting
When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.
The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.
For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.
We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.
From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.
When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.
Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.
4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals
is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.
While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.
Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.
For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.
By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.
5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts
I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.
When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.
One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.
Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.
I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.
A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.
As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.
From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.
The Bottom Line
These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.
For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.
More Articles About Goals Setting
- How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever
- How SMART Goal Setting Makes Lasting Changes in Your Life
- How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully
- How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life
Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com
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