Note: This is a guest blog I wrote for Virgin.com.
“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”- Thomas Carlyle
In 1995, Andre Agassi became the No. 1 tennis player in the world. When reporters asked him how he felt, he told them: “I’m happy about the ranking, it feels good to be the best that I can be.” But in reality, it was a lie. That was what he expected to feel. What he really felt was empty and unsatisfied. How could this be?
In his book, Open, Agassi goes on to say that he needed a new goal: “The problem, all this time, is that I’ve had the wrong goals. I never really wanted to be number one, that was just something others wanted for me – I wanted to win the French Open.” He later shares that his most meaningful moments were using the prize money from winning tennis tournaments to fund his charter schools to help kids in need. That’s when his life changed (and when he met Steffi Graf).
What about you? Are you still pursuing goals that others want for you or goals you think you should do? Throughout my coaching work, I’ve seen the importance of goals. I’ve also realized that people who make more money, have fancier titles, or additional education do not necessarily set more meaningful or effective goals. So if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, teacher, writer, athlete, mom, artist, or business owner, you can use goals to go as far as you want and reach your greatest potential.
My goal is to help you simplify the process. Let’s get a few things out on the table:
1. No goals = Leaving your potential on the table
2. Vague goals = Leaving your potential on the table
3. Goals without action = Leaving your potential on the table
By the way, there is tons of research to suggest that setting and achieving goals leads to a happier and more fulfilling life. I won’t bore you with the details but you can reference the books, The How of Happiness, Creating Your Best Life, and my new book Living In Your Top 1%.
The bottom line: Goals + Choices + Commitment = Your Results
Here are five strategies to get you rolling:
1. Write Down Your Goals
You’re probably like so many people who like to keep everything in their mind instead of on paper. Let me tell you a little secret about these folks – they are the same people who rarely follow through on their goals.
When you write down your goals, you start to see where you want to go and it’s easier to make decisions because you have a destination. Consider taking 15 minutes to write down your goals in each part of your life (i.e. Career, Relationships, Healthy Living, Fun & Creativity, Finances, and Personal Growth).
2. Craft Clear-Cut Goals That Add Meaning to Your Life
Many of us think vague goals are our friends but actually they just derail us in our mission. If you’re planning to get better at golf, be a better leader, or stretch more in the new year, you will need to be much more specific.
Say your goal out loud and honestly ask yourself if it’s clear what you are trying to do. It’s also helpful to share your goal(s) with a trusted friend. Once you have a clear goal, you need to double check that it’s something you really care about.
Many goals are clear. The question is will you feel a sense of accomplishment and meaning when you achieve the goal? If not, it’s not the right goal. For example, you may have a very clear goal to be the market leader in your business. But if you really want to be connected to your daughter and coach her soccer team then achieving your business goal may or may not leave you feeling fulfilled.
Examples of vague to specific goals:
1. Get in shape = does this mean lower your blood pressure, have consistent energy throughout the day, lose 15 pounds by your college reunion, or run your first 5k race?
2. Build my business = do you mean open a second store, increase revenue by 20%, or hire five new employees?
3. Spend more time with friends = do you mean have dinner once a week or schedule a four-day ski trip?
3. Pursue a Goal that is a Tier One Priority and WHY it Matters
Your tier one goals are the ones that will make the biggest impact in your life. They are the most important goals. They are not necessarily the goals that help you make the most money or get you promoted but rather the goals that add a deeper sense of fulfillment to your life.
You probably have many things that are important in your life. Write down all of your goals above and then check the ones that are most important to you. Perhaps you want to finish your degree, get out of debt, or change jobs. Whatever is meaningful to you is what you need to pursue. A great way to figure out if something is meaningful is to ask yourself WHY it matters? You have the greatest chance of achieving your goals when you are clear on your WHY.
4. Take Small Steps
Once you have a great goal, break it down into small steps. Too many people think the goal setting process is over once you declare your goal–that’s when the fun starts.
Train your mind to take one small step a day and you will make amazing progress. It’s a process, not magic. We don’t have control over many things in life but you do have control over setting a great goal. Why give up this option for no reason? There’s no excuse to leave your potential on the table because you did not even try. Please don’t let this year pass you by, step up to the plate and see what you can do. Small steps = big results.
5. Set a Target Date
This is a tough one but it needs to be done. Just saying that you are going to write a book or lose weight is not really saying anything. Does that mean you are going to write a book in the next five years or lose weight sometime in your lifetime?
If you just started working at a new company, it’s probably not realistic to say that you will be promoted tomorrow but it might be reasonable to set a goal to be promoted within six months or a year. You will have to decide what’s doable given everything else going on in your life. Either way, it’s helpful to have a date that you are working toward.
TOP 1% SUMMARY: One of the best ways to take yourself to the next level is to embrace the practice of goal setting. If you’re going to put yourself on the line, you might as well use your time and efforts wisely. Having clear-cut goals that excite you and add meaning to your life is one of the best ways to excel in your passion of choice. Now is the time to move into your top 1%.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dress for Success. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook