How to Set Goals and Stick to Them!

Sep 7, 2010

If you are like me, when you hear about “goal setting,” you may want to fall asleep. It’s pretty hard to get excited about a subject like this. I can relate, as I spent most of my previous career without specific goals and had no interest in setting them. A paycheck every two weeks, performance reviews and regular raises and promotions, an office and a desk and telephone and a boss….who needed to set goals in that environment? That all changed when I decided to make the leap from my corporate career (I call it my 20 years in the cubicle) to entrepreneurship.

This was in the summer of 2007. I felt the rush of freedom that came with being my own boss, but I also sensed a need to add some structure to my life and my daily activities. With this motivation, I connected with a life coach, Dr. Tom Hill. Dr. Hill encouraged me to start establishing and writing down my goals. I subsequently read several books on goal setting and found a common theme. It became clear to me, with tons of evidence, that people who set specific goals and write them down are dramatically more likely to achieve their goals and be high performers.

Since this time, for the past three years I have been an avid written goal setter.  I re-write my goals every morning on a 3×5 inch index card and carry it in my pocket. I’m convinced that my success as a recruiter (Sanford Rose Associates – Brighton) has partially been a result of this new discipline. Another element of living a successful life, I believe, is to intentionally work towards life balance. For me, learning, growing and being in balance are the earmarks of true success.

A real challenge with goal setting is “how to stay on the right track.” With the ever increasing speed of change in the web-connected techno-crazy world we live in, it is extremely difficult to make long-term goal setting and the discipline to stay the course a reality.

For me, a way to stay true to my goals is to plan my days, and the specific actions that I’ve chosen to improve my life, on 18-month time horizons. Anything shorter than this may not be a long enough duration to drive permanent changes. A planning horizon longer than this is hard to visualize in any specific detail. My life coach, Dr. Tom Hill, has taught me the process of setting goals in 18 month time buckets, and he refers to this time horizon as a G-Curve (standing for Growth Curve).

Similar to the concepts written in Seth Godin’s great book, “The Dip,” the G-Curve concept acknowledges that at some point over the 18-month period, one will typically see improvements in performance begin to flatten. What usually follows is a period of decline, (a dip), and sometimes this decline is dramatic. This dip often happens after about a year of effort, and is a natural course for nearly any new endeavor. (With an exception being new weight-loss and/or exercise programs, which usually fail much sooner.) The key question is what to do when the decline starts to take place. For the vast majority of people, once the decline in performance shows up, they will simply quit. This is why most weight loss diets don’t work. This is why most people have trouble quitting smoking. This is why some new recruiters don’t make it in this business. Commitments to most improvement efforts go through this natural cycle. Have you ever noticed how busy the gym is during the days and weeks after New Year’s? People get excited and make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get healthy, eat right, etc. Without dedicated, written goals lasting a long time (like 18 months), the pain of improvement often is so discouraging that people quit before gains can be realized. True winners, those who have the discipline and determination to achieve their goals, will “lean into” the dip, and pull up to even higher levels of performance. At the end of the 18-month planning cycle, a new 18-month plan is put in place, a dip will be recognized, embraced, and leaned into, and performance improves again. Following this process time after time can lead to life altering improvements in any chosen direction.

The same concept applies well to desires and goals to become a great recruiter. This business is TOUGH. There’s no disguising that fact. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. This is not a business for the faint-hearted. This is not a business for part timers, for people who want an easy lifestyle, or for people who can’t handle the roller coaster of life with the most unpredictable thing in our economy….other people. But for those who love to work with people and are hard-working, dedicated, and committed, this can be a GREAT business.

I believe that the key to improvement in this business (or any other business) is to set WRITTEN goals, and have a long (18-month) time horizon. I then break down these 18-month goals into 90-day sub-goals. I’m currently working on my personal July 1st through September 30th, 2010 goals. I break my goals down into six priority areas, as mentioned in my Fordyce Letter Article of August, 2010, which are:

  • Spiritual
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Financial/Business

I review my written goals and actual performance against them on a monthly basis with my coach and also another accountability partner. I only establish goals that I truly plan to achieve, and then I set myself to achieving them. I don’t “try” to do anything. I either do it, or I don’t do it. To knowingly “try” something is a bit of self-deceit and usually leads to failure or disappointment.

One of my favorite slogans is “Make a Habit of Changing Your Habits.” I’m soon turning 50 years old. I know many who are 50 or older who would say that it’s too late to change habits and that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I disagree. This old dog is learning many new tricks; one of them is how to be the very best recruiter I can be. I pray (part of my spiritual goal-setting priority) often, and one thing I pray is that I am better today than I was yesterday. If I continue to improve, each and every day, then at some point in the future, I should be pretty darn good. As I observe people, I find very few who have the determination and discipline to improve, regardless of what they are improving in, each and every day. Sticking to a plan, especially a plan of growth and improvement, simply requires more effort, focus, and strength than what the average person can muster up. I believe this is what separates the world class from average performers. Setting long term written goals is one tool, one enabler, upon which world class recruiters rely to drive their growth and performance.

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