By writing goals onto paper, magic happens. They go from being abstract to being real. They go from being nice-to-have to being things-to-do.
At the beginning of 2010, I put down several goals, including some financial ones. They were a stretch, and not SMART goals, but close enough. As I started hitting them, I saw that I could do even bigger things, if I wanted to work on those goals for 2011. Combined with my ideas about asking better questions, I found that you can really get far if you write your goals down.
Written Vs Stored
Some people say, I have my goals memorized. That’s great, but the world is built to distract you. My goals are on paper and I can refer to that paper daily, many times a day. In fact, I can stick a Post-It on my monitor so that when I get distracted, or when I stray into areas that aren’t part of my goals, those little notes will get me back on course. You can “cheat” a little if they’re not written down, either. So, get your goals onto paper. More than once, if you really want to get better at it.
Big Enough to Stretch
I set my financial goal to be three times higher than last year’s goal. That was a bit challenging, but I figured that if I worked hard enough, then I’d reap the rewards. It appears that I’ll hit the goal. (Never mind the fact that I’m turning around and investing it all into Human Business Works, so I’m not exactly cuddling up to bags of money or anything.) I’m setting similar fitness goals, but for every day that I don’t write it down, and for every day that I don’t stretch beyond what’s easy to accomplish, I just do the bare minimum.
Multiple Dimensions Matter
Stephen R. Covey had a whole thing about “Roles & Goals” in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’ve used that for well over a decade to be sure that my goals match up with the roles that matter most to me in my life: Experimenter, Builder, Teacher. I make sure that my goals can be expressed across all those roles and that they dovetail together reasonably well. Meaning, it’s not all that useful if you improve your business, but lose your family. It’s not that useful if you grow your family’s love for you, but lose all your earning potential and have to sell the house. Everything is in balance, and everything is a measure towards keeping success flowing in all areas of what you’re doing.
The final piece of advice I have for you is to start now. Not tomorrow. Not on your birthday. Not on New Years. If you haven’t written out tangible goals, figure out what you can do between now and the end of the year. Write them around the various roles you have. Write them big enough to stretch. And write them about the larger story that you’re part of, and not the here and now. Work on these goals daily, or you’re just working on doing what others have put in front of you.
Success in the small ones, by the way, is fuel for the big ones.
What say you?