Goals. They’re super important. They give us direction and allow us to plan a course of action. They’re like an address we punch into our navigation system that tells us where to go.
Pretend you’re on a soccer team, and your team’s primary goal is to win the championship. You can’t win the championship without first winning enough games to get you to the playoffs. You can’t win games unless you put the ball in the opponent’s net. And you can’t put the ball in the opponent’s net unless you learn the necessary skills to dribble, pass, and shoot the ball and have a game plan.
It’s the same in life and business. First, you need to know what you want, then you need to know what it takes to get there, and finally you must learn the necessary skills in order to do exactly that and have a plan.
You need goals, and you need to set them up in the right way for success.
Here's what to expect in this chapter:
- Goals: Finding Strength in Numbers
- Beyond the Numbers
- Three Ways to Stack Your Goals for Success
- Go Deeper on That One Thing
- Reaching for Your Goals Can Have Positive Side Effects
- Unwavering Faith and Extraordinary Effort
[Disclosure: Some of the links in this chapter are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking the link, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.]
Goals: Finding Strength in Numbers
What images come to mind when you hear the phrase “strength in numbers”?
Maybe a school of bait fish trying to play the numbers game and avoid being eaten by a predator? Or how about a battle between two sides, each hoping for the advantage over its adversary? A power play in hockey?
Generally speaking, when there are two sides involved with something, there is definitely a “strength in numbers,” but I’m going to pull a fast one on you and ask you this:
How does the phrase “strength in numbers” come into play when there’s only one side involved? How can it help you?
Whenever you want to set a goal for yourself, it’s always best to set a quantitative goal—with numbers! It may seem obvious to you, but it surprises me how many people don’t grasp the power behind actually setting quantitative goals.
A number can motivate a person because a number has a defined meaning that cannot be changed or misinterpreted. It is what it is. Also, by defining our goals as much as possible (with numbers), we can determine a clearer path to get there.
A blurry goal, on the other hand, can only blur one’s path to get “there.”
Here’s an example of a goal that I know a lot of people in my audience have:
I want to build a successful business.
That’s a great goal to have, but unfortunately it’s also terrible.
Because what does “successful” really mean? How will you know when you get there? If you leave it at that, chances are you will never feel like you’ve succeeded, no matter what, which doesn’t bode well for our self-esteem.
Here are some other “terrible” goals:
- I want to lose weight.
- I want to save more money.
- I want to have more clients.
- I want a large email list.
Again, please don’t misinterpret my use of the word “terrible” with these goals. I only say they are so because they are not quantified.
Beyond the Numbers
There’s another crucial element to goal setting that we should also never fail to include:
A specific time.
A quantifiable goal is great, but without any set time or date to go along with it, it becomes very easy for us to “put it off” or make excuses that “we’re getting there,” although it may be at an undesired snail’s pace.
Like a number, a date and/or time cannot be messed around with. It is exactly what it is, so it further defines our goals, and therefore our actions toward those goals.
Lastly, try to stay away from a general time frame to complete your goal, i.e. “in a year,” or “in a couple of months.” Your goals should be as specific as possible. That way, you’ll understand not only what needs to be done, but also when.
Just a Number?
In the early days of my blog, people would ask me, “Pat, what’s your goal for SPI?,” I’d respond with, “10,000 RSS subscribers by the end of the year.” Usually, I’d get a follow up question asking, “Why 10,000? It’s just a number.” And the truth is that it really was just a number. It had no true significance to the blog, which would have been no different with 9,999 or 10,000 subscribers.
However, even though it was just a number, I hope you can understand why it’s important that this number existed. It gave me many things that I could use: It gave me something EXACT to work toward. It was definitely motivating, especially when I could see the subscriber count tick closer and closer to the goal.
I could also break it down into smaller goals or “installments” that led up to 10,000. For example, I could decide that this goal left me six months to earn about 3,600 subscribers. That’s 1,800 in three months, or 600 per month.
After breaking it down into smaller goals, I could actually figure out what actions to take to get there. It’s a lot easier to think about how to get 600 subscribers then it is to get 3,600. If for some reason I wasn’t on schedule”based on how I was progressing on the smaller goals, I could make adjustments as necessary to make sure I stayed on track.
And when I did eventually hit that goal? I made another one.
Not So Terrible Goals are S.M.A.R.T.
Now, let’s bring back our “terrible” goals from earlier and see how they look:
- I want to lose 20 pounds by December 15, 2019.
- I want to save $150 a month for 3 years.
- I want to have 5 new clients in 30 days.
- I want an email list of 15,000 subscribers by March 24, 2020.
Looks good to me!
Ideally, you want to set goals like these—they are great because each and every one has a certain set of parameters attached to it that helps maximize your chance of actually reaching that goal. These goals are what we call S.M.A.R.T., which means that each one is:
- Specific – targets a specific area for improvement
- Measurable – quantifies the progress you’ll make
- Achievable – is something you can realistically achieve
- Relevant – aligns with your vision of where you want to be in business and life
- Time-bound – specifies when the result(s) should be achieved
When you can nail those five criteria, that’s where the real magic can start to happen with your goals.
Three Ways to Stack Your Goals for Success
So now you know how to construct your goals to improve your chances of success. But merely setting a good goal isn’t enough. Here are three quick ways that you can optimize the pursuit of your goals to give yourself the best chance of achieving them.
#1: Take One Bite at a Time
Ever heard the expression, “The only way to eat an elephant is to take one bite at a time”?
I don’t condone eating elephants, of course, but when it comes to the metaphorical elephant that is our goals, the only way to eat them is really one bite at a time. Take that goal, chop it up into little bite-sized achievable pieces, and then start with the first one, and leave the rest for later.
With number goals, like earnings, traffic, and subscribers, this is fairly easy to calculate. For example, let’s say this year your goal is to add an additional 100,000 people to your email list. This means that every month you should be adding 8,333 new subscribers. Broken down even further, that’s 1,923 per week, or about 274 per day.
If you keep a close eye on where your subscribers are coming from and conversion rates throughout your site, you can make improvements both in terms of getting more traffic to the site and conversation rates into your opt-in forms to achieve this goal.
It gets a little trickier when your goal isn’t necessarily numbers based, and for this type of goal I’d love to share a page out of The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, titled “Goal Setting to the Now.”
I love this exercise because it not only focuses on the goal that you have, but what ONE thing you can do today to help move the needle. In this exercise, you’re working backward from the big goal, creating smaller time-based goals along the way by keeping in mind a single action that you can take to meet that goal.
I’ve applied this strategy myself, and it’s had a dramatic effect on my progress toward my own goals. Give it a try.
#2: Create Goal-Supporting Habits
When I was working on my book Will It Fly? in 2015, it was a huge struggle for me at first because I tried to write in any gap I could find in my schedule during the day. I thought I was hustling and doing the right thing because every extra piece of time I had I would sit down in front of my computer to write.
Well, I didn’t have much to show for it.
It wasn’t until I made writing routine and habitual, at the same time every single day, that the words started to flow out of me and into this book.
Habits are extremely important because when you get in habit-mode, you’re not even consciously making decisions to do things anymore, you just do them. Habits, of course, can work against you too, but when you decide to build habits that support you and your goals, you’re setting yourself up for major success.
Building (or eliminating) habits is a huge topic, of course, and one of the best resources I can point you to is James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.
I also interviewed Tony Stubblebine, co-founder of Lift.do (now coach.me), in episode 80 of the SPI Podcast, where we talk about forming habits and reaching goals.
What’s one new habit that you could incorporate in your life that would support you and your goals this year?
#3: Find People to Hold You Accountable
Accountability is the top strategy that I’ve used throughout the years to help me stay on track and knock out my goals.
Accountability comes in many forms, but I’ve benefited primarily from connecting with others who I share my goals with, who know what I’m looking to achieve, and why. These people check in with me along the way, and are there to help guide me back on track if I ever get off of it.
Sometimes, all you need is one other person to help you and it can make all the difference in the world. It’s like that gym partner who keeps you motivated on those days you just don’t want to get out of bed. You don’t want to let them down, but you also want to show up and motivate them too.
The people that have helped me the most are those in my mastermind groups. Whenever I’m down or just not feeling the energy, these people always lift my spirits up and get me back to where I need to be.
Find and define one person who will become your accountability partner this year for each of the major goals that you have. Set regular check-ins with each other during the year. Knowing there’s someone on the other end following along will be huge in motivating you to keep going and hitting those goals.
So now you know why goals are important, you understand how to set them the right way, and you even have a few strategies to help you keep on track with achieving them. But what do you do when there are so many things you’d like to be focusing on and you’re having trouble narrowing the list? Let’s drill down on a strategy to help you find the one thing you should be working toward right now.
Go Deeper on That One Thing
If you could accomplish one thing next year, what would it be?
That question is one I asked myself toward the end of 2016, a time when a lot of us get introspective and start thinking about goals and resolutions we want to achieve in the coming year. As I was thinking about my answer, the first thing that became glaringly obvious was that picking just one thing would be super difficult. Like way super difficult.
But it’s also super important.
Here’s why. Entrepreneurs tend to struggle with trying to do too many projects at once. If you’re an entrepreneur, I’m preaching to the choir. This struggle is like a rite of passage for us, a byproduct of an eagerness to achieve the next thing, and the next. You get it.
If you’ve followed me for any period of time, you’ve probably heard me on the podcast or in my articles talk about many of the different things I want to do at any given point, whether it’s writing a new book, releasing a physical product, and launching numerous online courses to help students reach specific business-related goals.
So, the question is, How can I purposefully choose just one thing to accomplish when I have so many different things I want to do? The answer to that question starts with the appropriately titled The One Thing, the amazing book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan I referenced above. Before reading this book, I didn’t think it was possible to pick just one thing. Now I can better cut through the clutter and find the focus I need to effectively achieve the things I want to achieve—one at a time.
That’s step one. Read The One Thing.
It’s fine to have multiple goals. But taking them one at a time can amplify your progress. Once you accomplish your “one thing,” it’s easier to move onto the next thing because you won’t be distracted; your mind will be focused!
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Reaching for Your Goals Can Have Positive Side Effects
In 2016, I also set myself the goal to dunk a basketball. As a five-foot-eight shrimp, it seemed like an impossible task.
But I was up for the challenge.
Did I ever reach that goal? Several years on, it’s safe to say: not quite. Dunking is hard! I increased my vertical by a massive 18 inches during my training, but seemed to have reached my physical limit. I was still 1.5 inches away from touching the rim, and it didn’t look like it was meant to be.
While I didn’t achieve my goal of touching the rim, the effort I’ve put in to attempt to achieve the goal has benefited me in so many ways: improving my speed, increased my endurance, developed muscles in places I never knew existed. If I had simply said, “In 2016 I want to increase my endurance,” maybe I would have just gone for a run every other day, and I might have not stuck with it because, you know, running can be boring!
But, the lesson here is that I was able to create a goal that has still had an amazing byproduct: physical health. It’s been great. I’ve never been healthier and quicker as a result!
It also got me thinking about how I can adopt goals that will benefit me in a variety of different ways, even if I don’t achieve them.
So when you’re setting your goals, think about the extra benefits you could see just by reaching for your goal. When you’re working toward a goal that’s going to make your life better in some way, you’re probably going to make your life better in some way (or three)!
Unwavering Faith and Extraordinary Effort
“The foundation of unwavering faith is faith in yourself, that you are just as worthy, deserving, and capable of achieving, creating, accomplishing, experiencing anything and everything that you want, as any other person on the planet.”—Hal Elrod
I’d like to leave you with one final thought: What if the one thing you want to achieve is so bold, so audacious… that it seems impossible?
In episode 367 of the SPI Podcast, I talk to the incredibly inspiring Hal Elrod about what it takes to achieve goals that seem improbable or downright impossible.
Hal says doing this takes a combination of unwavering faith and extraordinary effort.
When you have faith that you can do something, break down your goal into digestible pieces, then put in the work toward that goal every day, pretty much anything is possible.
Now that you understand what goes into setting and pursuing your goals in a smart way, let’s get back to the question I asked you earlier: If you could accomplish one thing in the next year, what would it be?
I’d like you to answer that, but now with the new perspective on goal setting you’ve just acquired. Think of something that can be measurable, something that’s bigger, something that will have lasting benefits in a bunch of different aspects of your life. And perhaps it’s something that seems too big or too ambitious. Think of why you’re wanting to accomplish that one thing. Why is it important to you? And what can you do right now to start achieving it?
As you work to pursue your goals every day, managing your time and focus smartly is critical if you want to make progress. That’s what we’ll talk about next.