When I was 45, I was laid off from a high-paying job which presented me with an opportunity to take on the biggest challenge of my life: starting my web tech business and working from home. I immediately began my process for setting and achieving goals I would need to fulfill this dream.
I knew I was no online business expert but I knew I could learn whatever I needed to know, as I needed to know it, as long as I kept working at it. There was no doubt that running a successful online business was well within my capabilities.
Long ago, I learned that doing well at anything, in business or in life, goes way beyond any ability I might have to learn quickly and easily. Most people assume that I do, in fact, learn quickly and easily – in actuality, that is far from the truth. It’s true that there are very few goals that I have set that I have not reached, but what is it about me that makes me good at setting and achieving goals? One, potentially less than ideal, characteristic of my personality, is that I am stubborn.
Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania says a key quality she’s found that separates the winners from the losers, is grit.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.”
My Science to Setting and Achieving Goals
The word I like to use? Tenacity.
I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Long story, short, the tortoise and the Hare are in a race and the Hare is so cocky about being so fast, he falls asleep. While he is sleeping the Tortoise slowly and steadily passes the Hare. The Hare awakes only to realize that he has slept too long and cannot beat the Tortoise to the finish line. The moral of the story from the Tortoise’s perspective is that you can reach any goal when you pace yourself: not pushing too hard or too fast and exhausting your energy while also not backing down when it gets tough. That tortoise had tenacity. That tortoise was great at setting and achieving his goal.
So how does this relate to me setting and achieving goals in business and life?
Mindset and The Power of Positive Thinking
I was raised, and truly believe, that I can do anything I set my mind to. I have the mindset that my abilities are not fixed. With time, determination and drive, my abilities can be developed and strengthened. I continually challenge myself to learn and grow, setting and achieving goals that are building upon one another – slowly and steadily.
Some research has found that those with more grit were far more likely to finish what they set out to accomplish than others. Individuals with the tenacity to keep going for as long as it takes were, and will continue to be, the ones who fare best overall.
Set SMARTER Goals
Challenging myself to grow on a daily basis required setting and achieving goals that would eventually add up to and meet my long-term goals and objectives. If I expect to reach my long-term goals, the little things I do every day MUST be the things that intentionally move me closer to achieving the goals I have. Many people believe their best chance to achieve their goals and desires, they must be SMARTER. In this case, meet Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound parameters. In addition, you must Evaluate and Re-evaluate your goals or desires regularly.
Many people believe their best chance to setting and achieving goals and desires is a matter of setting SMARTER goals. In this case, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound goals. And adding on an ER, you include Evaluate and Re-evaluate to your goals or desires regularly.
Importance of Accountability
There is no way I could run my business alone, so my team is a huge part of me being successful. My team does not have to work for me and I do not have to work for my team – though, on occasion, both sides of that do occur.
The most relevant way that my team contributes to my success is by assisting me to be accountable. I am accountable for myself and to my team. Let’s face it, not much of anything can get done without accountability. Accountability and consequences.
Some events revolving around accountability have clear consequences, like paying late fees when I forget to pay an invoice or an unsuccessful presentation because I did not adequately prepare. But for less tangible goals like moving myself from where I am to where I want to be as a person or with my business, holding myself accountable can become more elusive. Teams can assist with this.
Shifting Behavior with Intentional Rewards and Penalties
There are also disparities between rewards and penalties when it comes to reaching and sticking with long-term goals, according to prominent research economists. Here’s an illustration of the results of their research that I can relate to.
Example 1. An ongoing weekly task with a financial incentive of $25/week, but only for one month. If the financial incentive ended after 4 weeks the likelihood of me continuing to complete the task after a month is slim to none.
Example 2. An ongoing weekly task with the incentive in the form of a contract with myself to pay $25 to a saving account if the chore does not get completed. When the incentive is contract based, there is a much better chance of me completing that task on an ongoing basis.
There is a long-term shift in my behavior in the two examples. Applying this shift when setting goals will increase your rate of success in reaching for and keeping long-term goals.
You might have also noticed that my goal and the consequence I set for myself, ensured that either result would be beneficial to other goals and desires that I might have for myself or my business. This was an example of being intentional when I set my goal.
Of course, ambition is important in reaching goals but it is one thing to set a goal of being a professional basketball player if I were tall. However, it is probably an unrealistic expectation for a vertically challenged person, such as myself, to set such a goal, no matter how much I might love the sport.
Unrealistic goal setting will only create false hope, so not adhering to my realistic capabilities is dangerous because it sets me up for failure. Unrealistic goals are goals that I realistically could never. Keep in mind, there are differences between and unrealistic goals and unlikely goals. Unlikely goals are plausible so may be more difficult to reach but they are still attainable. Different still is creating goals that momentarily are just beyond my current capability and by design will encourage my growth.
“It is important to learn to distinguish between potentially feasible and impossible self-change goals in order to avoid overconfidence and false hopes leading to eventual failure and distress,” ~ Janet Polivy, University of Toronto
We must understand that we are going to sometimes fail. Knowing that a failure at some point will be imminent is most often the push we need to see us through when it pertains to any goals other than any unrealistic goals.
My greatest desire is to finish my puzzle – the big picture of who I am or where I want to be. The only way I get to see the big picture is to find and connect all of the little pieces. Each piece of my puzzle is a goal I need to reach for, attain and connect to a previously found piece of the puzzle or accomplished goal. Every piece of the puzzle I connect is moving me slowly toward achieving my greatest desires.
Instead of placing my focus on my desired end result, I break the big picture down into small, manageable pieces. I focus on the details and the goals I can reach regularly to get closer to my end result. Maybe at first this was just defining the edges. May I am working on completing a small, specific detailed section of my puzzle. Sometimes, I may even be starting many different areas within the big picture and by gradually expanding all of the areas, the big picture suddenly becomes clear.
Bottom Line to Setting and Achieving Goals
Here’s what I hope you take away with you; when we keep the growth mindset, we keep moving forward. When we apply tenacity, we can reach any realistic goals we set.