Goals Define Your Future Success

You can’t achieve great things without setting goals.

In order to accomplish great things, you need a roadmap for how to get there. To create a roadmap, you need to set goals first, so you know where you are headed. If you were building a railroad, you would research and determine what your goals were (destinations), and then build the tracks to connect them; you wouldn’t build tracks in all sorts of funky directions as you went along.

Contrary to what you might have heard, as an entrepreneur, when you sit down to set goals, you need to set them high. For people not looking to be in business for themselves, setting goals just out of reach are OK. But you’re an entrepreneur, so you need to think bigger. Generally, your maximum potential is what you set your goals to. Thus, if you set a goal to make a $100,000 salary and you’ve executed on your roadmap to get there, chances are you’ll come close and make $90,000/year. You might even hit your goal, or just above it. You will probably not have a chance at making $500k/year because that requires a different roadmap… a roadmap you haven’t discovered because you set your sights at the $100,000 salary. You need to set your goals high, even if they seem unrealistic to others. When combined with ideas and a purpose, goals that high become dreams.

One of the things that makes you unique as an entrepreneur is that you’re a dreamer. It seems like everyone thinks you dream too much and have ethereal ideals. Employees don’t dream; sure, they dream in their sleep, and perhaps they have an imagination, but real employees tend to look to others to set their dreams and ambitions for them. Entrepreneurs live and breathe dreams. It’s in their DNA. They work to persevere by making them a reality, even when everything is going against them.

If you don’t dream that you are going to build a $50 million dollar enterprise that revolutionizes the way people power their vehicles, then the chances of you ever making it happen are slim.

How To Set Goals

You may already know how to set goals perfectly. If that’s the case, drop into the comments section of this post (contest is at the bottom), and show your expertise by sharing some tips with the rest of our readers. Otherwise, don’t worry, here is how you get started. There are many ways you can set and track your goals, but here is what I recommend:

  1. Create a list of things you want to accomplish. Begin by creating a list, in no particular order and in free form, of all the things you would one day like to accomplish with your business. While you’re at it, do this for your personal life as well, because believe it or not, your personal and business goals have a lot in common and will influence each other over time. Spend at least 1 hour thinking and writing down your goals. Doing this on paper is probably the easiest effort, because you can do it anywhere. Some people find sitting in a spacious park with a notepad to be a really effective way of purging the distractions.
  2. Categorize your goals. Beyond “Business” and “Personal”, you want to categorize your goals that are in common. If you wrote down goals like “Start a business”, “Hire a lawyer”, and “Hire 2 employees”, then you might consider categorizing them as “Company Formation.” Other goals might be “Visit Eastern Europe”, “Live in Paris”, and “Skydive in Cairnes, Australia” and mark those as category “Travel.” This step just helps you build context around your goals. Later, when you want to discover new goals, you can pull out the goal list for a particular category so you can have some focus to further refine it. Spend 15 to 30 minutes categorizing your goals, and don’t let this step frustrate you.
  3. Map your goals to a timeline. For each categorized goal list, you want to start thinking about when you expect to complete the goal. For example, the previously mentioned goal “Hire a lawyer” would most likely be a Short Term goal. A goal of “Bring in revenues of $1 million” might possibly be a long term goal for you. Ideal timelines would be: this week, this month, this year, 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years. The more frequently you revisit these goal timelines and your goal lists in general, the higher probability that you’ll actually complete them. For some, this step may take hours as they try to visualize when in their lives they think the goal is realistic. Other people might actually do this instinctively.
  4. Break down your mega-goals into smaller goals. If you have made incredibly lofty goals, that’s OK. But you need to break them down into more digestible and time-sensitive goals too. A goal of “Grow my business into a multi-national organization with 450 franchises and a gross revenue of $500 million” is most definitely not accomplishable with only a set of tasks as a roadmap. You need to chop it into sub-goals, such as “Grow revenue to $10 million”, “Develop a franchise business plan”, “Setup 5 franchises”, “Establish opportunity in franchise conferences”, and “Build presence in Mexico.” How you keep track of your goals and sub-goals is up to you, but a manilla folder for each category and sheets for each major goal seems appropriate for most people. Others use elaborate Excel spreadsheets, or other custom software.
  5. Break your goals into tasks. Now that you’ve set your eyes on what you want for your personal and business lives, it’s time to create a roadmap to get there. I find it amazing that a lot of people have trouble with this part of achieving their goals. You need to spend many hours, and possibly days on this step, although thankfully, you can do this one goal at a time. What are the tasks necessary to accomplish your goal? If your goal is “Start a business” some of your tasks might be “Research types of businesses”, “Purchase books about starting a company”, “Talk to other business owners”, “Do some preliminary market research”, or “Hire a formation lawyer.” If you have trouble coming up with the tasks you need to do for the roadmap of your goal, phrase your goal as a question (“How do I start a business?”) and ask your network for help.
  6. Each morning, create a Today List. That’s right, you should be starting every day by sitting down and reviewing what you think you need to do, and then create a list to get those tasks done. There certainly will be interruptions and derailments, but that’s fine, because you can always get back on track. If you’re not starting your day with a clear understanding of what you’re attempting to do, how could you possibly get them done properly? This may be obvious to most, but you would really be shocked at how many people just “wing it.”
  7. Resolve your day with some cleanup and reflection. The last thing you may feel like you want to do at the end of a stressful day is sit down and check things off, but you need to do it! Not only is it absolutely rewarding to see all the work you’ve completed, but it’s a way to identify what you need to finish tomorrow. You can also think back and examine if your tasks were on track for reaching your goals. Did you feel like they helped you get closer? Can you clean up your task lists at all to refine your roadmap?
  8. Revisit all of your timeline goal lists on a regular basis. Over time you are going to change. Your desires will change, and you will refine your ability to track your goals. You should be revisiting your weekly goals every day, your monthly goals every week, and your yearly goals every month. It won’t hurt to post your goals on the wall on occasion to remind yourself what you’re working towards too. For some, this might be too aggressive and overkill. But, for the rest of us, this is exactly what we need to stay on track.

Additional Reading

Contribute and Win

If you have a technique or resource that I’ve overlooked, please leave a comment! I will be choosing a comment at random (on Sunday, November 16th) to receive a copy of Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.