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Published on January 14, 2019

What Are Measurable Goals and Why You Need Them For Success

What Are Measurable Goals and Why You Need Them For Success

Daydreams can be delightful. We are mesmerized by the idea of things that are new, exciting, that change our lives and prospects. This is the basis for state lottery systems. They sell one-dollar daydream machines.

There is nothing wrong with a good daydream, unless they keep you from working toward a goal, and goals are only vaguely related to daydreams. A goal is specific and obtainable through planning and diligence. Daydreams can be turned into goals, but this requires work. Since some people are immune to work, they continue to daydream instead. They will not endeavor to do the Tough Things First that are the initial steps toward achieving goals.

Why Measurement Matters

One of my marketing director’s favorite lines is “If it cannot be expressed in numbers, then it is not a fact, just an opinion.” This is true. Likewise, a desired outcome that cannot be measured is a daydream, not a goal.

It is defining outcomes, then establishing how they will be measured, that creates a goal.

On my journey to becoming Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, I set many goals, and had some set for me. Each had a specific and numeric mode for measuring if the goals were reached. I went into business for myself because I never wanted to work for anyone else, ever again.

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I succeeded in that goal, and it was a simple enough measurement – 37 years without a boss. Well, at least not at the office – home is a different matter.

I also had a goal of not enabling anyone to take over operational control of my semiconductor company. In Silicon Valley, this meant not taking venture capital money because VCs manhandle startup CEOs, often kicking them to the curb if rapid growth is not achieved. My alternative was to borrow a lot of money from banks, who normally do not lend to startups like mine.

In my process of twisting banker’s arms until they lent me the money to start my company, they added many very specific success measurements. My debt to equity ratio target became one-to-one. Three profitable quarters in each year was required. Each was a goal unto itself, and measurable with math. Each of these smaller goals, added to my own business goals, then became the checkpoints for knowing if I was to achieve the big goal of being boss-free for the rest of my days.

Now, imagine doing any of this – earning a salary without a boss, convincing bankers to lend you money, running a successful enterprise – without goals. You likely came to the quick realization that an unmeasurable goal has no end nor a real start. It is a daydream and nothing more.

What Are Measurable Goals

Goals must be realistic. Realism is goal setting gold.

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You might have the daydream of flapping your arms and soaring with the eagles, but that is not realistic. However, a goal of increasing your sales closing rate by 5% is realistic and in no small part because you have a valid measurement.

Similarly, you can daydream about losing some weight (vague) or you can define a weight loss goal of 10 pounds before your high school reunion (specific, numeric and time constrained). The specificity of your goal is the first step to success. This gives you an endpoint and makes it tangible. It also provides you the terms for measuring your success.

One realistic goal, well defined, is very likely to come true. One unrealistic goal is likely to fail. A realistic goal with lousy definition is impossible to achieve, for there is no actual goal. And 100 goals will all fail because no human can chase that many objectives.

These are the reasons most New Year resolutions die quick deaths.

When making New Years goals, people tend to be vague. Scanning social media for common New Year’s resolutions people have posted, I see way too many entries like “start a new hobby”, “travel” and “read more books”. If I indulged in wagering, I’d bet a lot of cash that none of those goals came true because none were specific.

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However, if they were restated as “build a table-top size HO train model”, “spend a week exploring Thailand” and “read three leadership books starting with Tough Things First”, then most of these goals would be met. Each is realistic. Each is measurable. Each can easily have an action plan built around it.

If you want a real-world example, let’s talk about a friend of mine. On the side he is a semi-pro musician and songwriter. But aside from an occasional gig at a local saloon, he was not doing much with the songs he had written. A year ago, he set a goal of producing his first solo album, and that it had to have at least 10 songs on it. Clear goals. He had no band, no deep recording experience, and really no money for studio time. But nine months later, he released his first album.

One reason he was able to achieve this was that he temporarily shoved aside his other passions. This was, in effect, reducing the number of goals he was working toward. Remember, I said that a small number of realistic and well-defined goals is doable. This is precisely what he did.

This begs an interesting question, namely “How many goals can, or should I pursue at one time?” Though the number varies depending on the person and their daily circumstances, the proper range is less than five and for most folks maybe three.

Sundry studies have shown that people max-out at remembering or prioritizing three things. It stands to reason that they could not likely handle more than three significant goals simultaneously. More than three begs dividing limited time, resources and attention to doing your best at any one of them.

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Since there is little or no value to only partially achieving a goal, why risk doing poorly on five goals when doing really well at three, or two, or one really important goal is more satisfying?

The Bottom Line

All this said, one thing really helps in succeeding at reaching a goal. If it is personal to you – deeply, movingly personal – you will have the drive and the stamina to work past the tiny frustrations that often accompany pursuit of a goal. Self-improvement goals tend to be the most personal since they involve making a better you.

Want a great New Year. Simple. Set two well-defined, personal improvement goals that can be measured. Odds are you will succeed, and the glow of success makes it that much easier to repeat the process again, and again, and again.

More Resources About Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

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Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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