“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius
Why should we set goals?
I’ve never been good at setting goals… well, that’s not exactly true, I’m great at setting goals, writing them down and then sticking them in a drawer and forgetting about them. I’m not sure how many times I have been told “there is power in just writing goals down.” Unfortunately, that is not true. In managed IT services and support, sticking to your goals is important, so how do we accomplish that?
Over the years I have written down so many goals but I never really took the time to create an action plan to complete them. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to reach my goals, I had good intentions, but didn’t someone say that the way to hell is paved with good intentions? I’m not sure if my good intentions are leading me to hell, but, they aren’t getting me any close to my goals either.
Recently a friend of mine, Tim Smith of Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial, invited me to a workshop with business coach Brad Kearney. This workshop would be two hours and it was going to be all about goal setting. If you are like me it is rare that you have two hours extra in a day to do anything educational, but this two hours was time very well spent.
Brad Kearney is a retired Air Force pilot who has flown over 100 combat missions, is married with four children and has currently set a goal to run a half Ironman by 2018. I pulled this from this quote from Brad’s website: “We are a world-class leader in the areas of business and management consulting, life/business coaching and training, youth leadership, and leadership development. We are dedicated to helping organizations and individuals manage strategic change, innovation, cultural transition, and goal achievement.”
Before the workshop I had the chance to eat lunch with Brad and from our interaction over cheeseburgers and fries I could tell that Brad was the real deal. I’m not a very trusting person when it comes to financial advisors or business coaches. I’ve been burned in the past by both and in each case the person was more interested in making a dollar than actually helping me succeed. This is not true for Tim Smith or Brad Kearney. I trust them both because they have proven themselves to be trustworthy.
At the goal-setting workshop, Brad passed out some workbooks and the first question in the book read, “Why should we set goals?” Good question. I wrote down, “To get stuff done.” That seemed simple enough and I like simplicity. Brad gave a number of responses that were all good, but the one that resonated with me the most was “All things must be mentally accomplished before they can be physically accomplished.”
I have a habit of negative self talk and I don’t mentally believe that something can be accomplished because I have failed at it a number of times. Some of those items include: sticking to a budget, getting married, and getting six pack abs. All of those goals can be accomplished, they aren’t unrealistic, but since I’ve tried and failed, I’ve moved on to more attainable goals and I’ve cheated myself out of the rewards of more challenging goals. The reason we set the low bar for ourselves? I think it is a fear of failure and maybe it is because we live in a culture where winning is over-celebrated. Henry Ford said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Plus, if you aren’t failing often, then you probably aren’t pushing yourself very hard and therefore you will never reach your full potential.
Second item in the Workbook…
List the benefits of setting goals.
I immediately wrote down, “Save time and money!” After that my mind went blank and I didn’t have a lot of other benefits popping into my head. One of Brad’s responses that went hand-in-hand with his earlier response about things being mentally accomplished was, “Overcome negative conditioning.” Yep. This workshop was just what I needed. Sometimes in life we know that we have a problem but it is a puzzle to us and we don’t know how the pieces fit together. Brad was taking the puzzle pieces of my life and then showing me the picture on the front of the box. I was seeing a clear picture for the first time when it came to setting goals, and trust me, when you are 41 years old and you have a habit of just trying new things to see if they will stick it can be very exhausting. What Brad was saying wasn’t rocket science, but it was basic math and finally things were starting to add up – and we were only two questions in!
Tangible and Intangible Goals
Next Brad moved on to two types of goals, tangible and intangible. A tangible goal would be something that you can hold, touch, feel – money, a new outfit, a new car – all of these are tangible goals.
Intangible goals would be things like, becoming a better leader, eating more green vegetables, being a better listener, etc. According to Brad, “intangible goals often have a more profound effect.”
I’d never really categorized my goals and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little I knew about goals in general. What Brad was teaching us was that goals required focus, discipline, categories, plans – this was going to be a lot of work. Insert surprised emoji face here. I’d always thought that all that was necessary was writing them down and the magic would happen. Not so much.
Long-Range and Short-Range Goals
How long is a long-range goal? My initial thought was 10 years. That seems like a long time, but it also seems so far away that it isn’t worth starting right away. In reality a long-range goal should be between 3-5 Years. These goals are broken down into manageable pieces. A long-range goal might be to graduate from college or buy a house.
Short-range goals can motivate you to achieve long-range goals. These goals can be thirty days to six months, after that they are considered more mid-range. A short-range goal might be to quit a habit, lose 5 pounds or join a gym.
WHY SMART Goals
Once Brad set the foundation for types of goals, he moved on to how to set goals. I’d heard of smart goals before, but only in passing. I definitely had not heard of W.H.Y. S.M.A.R.T. goals. The WHY part stands for Written, Harmonious, and Yours. Okay, this seems pretty simple, I can do that. The SMART part stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically High, and Time bound. Oh, well, that gets a little more difficult. Attainable? Specific? I’m better at setting goals so lofty that I know I’ll fail so it gives me an easy out. Furthermore, I had not really ever been shown how to take a goal and then break it down this way. I also would have overlooked the “H” in WHY, it stands for Harmonious. Your goals should align with your personal vision and mission. This makes sense of course, but lately I wasn’t even sure about my own personal vision or mission. Another reason why setting goals is important – they help clarify the direction of your life. Why am I setting this goal in the first place? What are the overarching lifetime goals that I have for myself?
At this point while everyone was still writing down their goals, I pulled Brad aside since he was standing by my table and I said, “This smacks of grown up responsibility and I don’t like it!” He responded, “Is Adulting hard? I whispered “YES!” He responded back, “Maybe it’s time.” How true. It was definitely past time. It was one of those things in life you don’t really know that you are supposed to do, like having blood work done or a cancer screen. You go through life unaware until you feel sick or you notice an odd mole and by then it’s long overdue. It was time to grow up. It was also time to find more resources on what I should be doing to take care of myself. What else do I not know that I should know?
A Formula for Setting Goals
At the end of the workshop Brad gave us a seemingly complicated formula for setting goals. It reminded me of the Pythagorean Theorem. Here we go with the math again, my head was hurting and I wasn’t too keen on any more content, but Brad shared a form with us that is proprietary so I can’t share it here, but, it basically had us write out our goals and then to create a plan for when an obstacle got in the way of our goals and then what we would do when that obstacle presented itself. For me my biggest excuse for failing at getting six pack abs is that my friends always invite me to go out to dinner or to get beer. Excuses, Excuses. I cripple under the pressure of my friends because A. I like to be social and B. I like to drink and eat. Those are obstacles to me achieving my abs goal. So what could I do to offset those obstacles? 1. I could say no, but that most likely won’t happen so instead I could go out and instead of drinking beer I could drink something else. Something lower calorie or iced tea. I could also limit my going out to once or twice a week instead of every single night. Setting boundaries and saying “no” are healthy – in more ways than one.
In all my years on this earth no one has taught me how to set a goal, create a plan of action and then how to stick to that plan. Brad’s crash course in goal setting was opening my eyes to so many things that I had wished I had learned earlier. I highly recommend Brad if you are in need of a business coach or if you feel like your life is a ship without a captain. We were all gifted with things in life, certain skills that help make the world a better place, I do graphic and web design, I don’t do accounting or life coaching. It’s not just okay to reach out to others for help, to have your best life, you must reach out to others for help. I encourage you to set some goals in your life and if you need help, call Brad.