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How To Totally Rock Your Goals…Even If You’ve Failed At Them Before

How To Totally Rock Your Goals…Even If You’ve Failed At Them Before

Ever get that feeling that no matter how much you do, there is always a continuing onslaught of things you need to get done?

You had dreams, ideas, things you wanted to try out, and business concepts you know would put cash into your bank account…If only you could get round to doing them you would totally rock your goals!

But then, nothing ever changes. Just as you think you’ve got one time-draining activity out of the way, something else comes along to take its place. It’s almost as if the harder you work and the faster you climb, the steeper the hill gets.

Maybe you can relate to the idea of being on a treadmill at the gym. Each time you have a little success, someone hits the incline button to make you run at a steeper angle! I remember a busy mom describing this as one of her recurring nightmares.

Something’s Got To Give!

If you’re in this situation, it’s not your fault. You got here because you had the best of intentions.

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The reality is, though, the thinking that got you onto this treadmill is not the same thinking that will help you get off of it.

Thinking that you just need to get more stuff done, work harder, or work smarter is still treadmill thinking. It’s not going to fundamentally change anything. All that happens if you apply this logic is that you end up working harder, but still having more stuff come in to fill those precious little gaps in your schedule.

Real change comes from a new approach. Getting off the treadmill depends on starting from somewhere else – away from the treadmill – and applying a new logic.

Step Away From The Treadmill!

You see, the treadmill mentality focuses on dealing with incoming demands and getting through a to-do list. What you need to do to break free of the treadmill is start from:

  1. what you really want out of your life, and
  2. how you want to spend your time.

The first item – what you want out of your life – is fairly straightforward. For most movers and shakers, they’ve got this pretty well defined from the material through to their relationships and their inner world. I’m going to assume you know what you want.

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What is normally overlooked, though, is the second thing: how you want to spend your time.

“We live in an age where hard work and sacrifice are the myths of success.”

The truth is, this is just a paradigm, a way of thinking and seeing the world. However you see the world determines the rules you allow yourself to play by. If you think having what you want has to be hard work, guess what? It will be!

By contrast, if your view of the world is that you can have your life the way you want it, and that you just need to be a bit savvy around how you go about it, you’re playing a whole different game. One in which you open up the possibility that achieving your goals is fun, interesting and taps in to you doing what lights you up…as part of the process, not just the end game.

How To Eliminate The Treadmill And Still Function In The ‘To-Do List World’

“This is all very well,” you may be thinking. “Throwing away the to-do list, and just do what I feel like. But I have responsibilities: a job to do, a business to run.”

Quite right! I agree entirely, so let me clarify something, and then give you a method that you can use to operate in the ‘real world’.

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Firstly, this isn’t about shirking your responsibilities. There are still going to be things that you need to spend time doing. However, if you start from the premise that you should only do what you do best, and can re-delegate or outsource or swap with someone to get rid of the things that are frustrating you, then so much the better.

The Three Bubble Approach

Here’s the method to get real-world results, whilst refusing to get on the treadmill. Three bubbles a day keeps the treadmill away!

  1. Decide on what you really want out of each area of your life. Maybe set a goal for your work, a goal for your relationships, one for your family and one for your health and/or spirituality. Make sure you write these down somewhere you can keep referring back to them.
  2. Each week spend some time working on these things. Let’s use the work category as an example. Imagine your goal is to get more clients. Before you start your normal work or open you emails, take a piece of paper and write on it what you want to achieve that day in terms of finding more clients. It may be that you want to call up some old contacts, or send out an email to your list, or write a few letters to prospects. Whatever it is, put one or two items on the sheet of paper in bubbles around the goal “get more clients”.
    three bubble method
    •  Now look at everything else you need to make happen that week, and decide what category they fit into: maybe managing staff, maybe delivering presentations, maybe renewing your car insurance. Whatever they are, they fit into a category. Write those on the piece of paper too, and see what category you can assign them to.
    • Here’s the tough part. Each day you want to limit yourself to three categories at the most: this is where the three bubbles comes from in the method name.
    • You see, you lose so much time and momentum by constantly switching your focus and you want to minimize this. Only working on two or three categories a day seriously amps up your ability to be productive and stay in your flow. Select your categories for today now. One of these categories should include that first thing you chose that you really wanted to achieve, but probably wasn’t already on your ‘treadmill list’.
    • Each day, you do the same thing: only ever working on two or three categories (you can pick different ones each day). Sure, there may be a number of tasks in one category, so it’s OK to plug through each of those (just have them on spokes that come out of the category bubble, like a mind map).

    The key thing to remember is there is a magic that happens when you apply all your thinking and attention to just one area you want to crack.

    Imagine What Might Be Possible For You!

    If you follow this method, what you’ll end up doing is making incremental progress on only the things that matter to you – and not the things that just take up your time. Sure, you may get the odd thing that takes you off track that you need to respond to, but as long as you have this bubble diagram of your main categories for the day, you can always have traction on the things that are important.

    What’s more, you will always remember the things that are meaningful and important to the direction you want to go in. If getting more clients is important, by using this method there is no way you are going to miss or forget about an opportunity to make some progress in this area. You will flat out get this done!

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    This is a million miles away from the treadmill to-do list you may be using at the moment. What you can probably see already is that it takes the overwhelm out of making progress on something that is important to you, whilst still juggling the other stuff that needs doing. Focusing on just your elected categories for the day allows you to park the others, guilt-free, until their allocated day.

    It’s amazing how freeing this is. Just try it and see!

    What Categories Are You Going To Work On Today?

    OK, so over to you now. What categories are you going to select to work on today? Share in the comments below. It is super motivating to share, and see how others are applying these insights.

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    Last Updated on April 23, 2019

    How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

    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.

    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[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

    S.M.A.R.T.

    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.

    The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

    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.

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    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.

    Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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