I’m a huge advocate of goal setting.
I’ve been setting goals for the past 5 years, ever since reading about goal setting in Bob Etherington’s book - Cold Calling for Chickens.
And since being diligent at setting goals I’ve been able to achieve many things. I cleared all my debts, I bought myself a Porsche, I’ve taken my family to see some of the world’s most amazing cities for short breaks.
As a result of becoming aware of the power of self improvement, I’ve since read many books on topics as diverse as goal setting, time management, productivity, and self-belief.
Books from people such as Grant Cardone, Larry Winget, Steve Chandler, Rob Moore, Jim Rohn, Napoleon Hill and Tony Robbins, amongst others.
I’ve read the classics such as Think and Grow Rich, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Unleash the Giant Within, and Man’s Search for Meaning.
Yet one thing that I see more and more people advocate is the setting of unrealistically big goals.
The thinking goes that most people under-achieve in the short-term, and over achieve in the long-term.
So the setting of big goals means that, even if they’re not met, you’ll be much further ahead than if you set more realistic goals in the first place.
This is the foundation of Grant Cardone’s 10X, which in itself is really a reinterpretation of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goals - popularised in their 1994 book Built to Last.
However, the BHAG’s that Collins and Porras were talking about are different. As it states on Collins’ website:
A BHAG (pronounced “Bee Hag,” short for "Big Hairy Audacious Goal") is a powerful way to stimulate progress. A BHAG is clear and compelling, needing little explanation; people get it right away. Think of the NASA moon mission of the 1960s. The best BHAGs require both building for the long term AND exuding a relentless sense of urgency: What do we need to do today, with monomaniacal focus, and tomorrow, and the next day, to defy the probabilities and ultimately achieve our BHAG?
The BHAG is something that a big company, with a big team, focuses on.
For the consulting business owner, I think setting such big goals can be counter productive.
Setting really big goals only serves to create a sense of underachievement. Of never having quite accomplished what you set out to do.
This prevents you from celebrating the progress you do make. Instead, you end up with this overwhelming sense of always being behind.
The negative effect of this is that your business becomes all consuming.
By never getting on top of your goals - your 10X goals or BHAG’s - you risk ignoring other aspects of your life which, lets face it, can be much more important! Things like family, friends, and just having fun!
In this article I’m going to delve deeper into the topic of goal setting; I’ll share with you how I set goals, and I’ll leave you with 5 recommendations you can implement immediately to improve your chances of goal success.
It all started with a glass Porsche paperweight
People often say that I’m driven. If I’m honest I don’t know of any other way to be.
I get frustrated when people aren’t driven. When they lack ambition. When they’re simply allowing life to pass them by as they plod on through, mostly doing the same jobs and achieving the same results as their parents. To me that seems wasteful.
When it comes to achievement, I always saw my parents as role models of what I didn’t want to be (sorry Mum and Dad).
My Dad worked in a factory - all be it he had a good job there as chief maintenance electrician - and my Mum worked in a supermarket. My Dads’s now retired, and my Mum forged an entirely new career for herself in child protection. So ironically, she was more driven than I ever realised.
When I was young my grandparents bought me a glass Porsche 911 paperweight with the slogan imprinted:
An affordable Porsche
A glass paperweight wasn’t exactly high up on my wish list as a child, but it was responsible for creating my intent to one day own my own real Porsche.
When I was an employee, I longed of reaching retirement, receiving a tax-free pension payout, and finally achieving my dream by blowing it all on a Porsche 911.
But then I had an epiphany.
Why had I become indoctrinated into this belief that you work hard for 40 years, and then you start living?
For one, I might not even make it to retirement, for two, there’s no guarantee I’ll have any money when I get there, and for three I hate the idea of retiring - I mean, what would I do all day?!
For me, realising that I couldn’t wait another 20 or 30 years to get that Porsche and start living my life, I set out to do things differently.
I started my own consulting business, in my own image, with my own values, and with a view to earn enough money and to create enough freedom to live my life now! Oh, and to get a Porsche.
And six months ago that’s exactly what I did - I bought my first Porsche. At the ripe old age of 42, so effectively 23 years early.
Ok, so it’s not a brand new Porsche. It’s not even a 911.
It’s a Boxster. And I don’t care what views you may or may not have on Boxsters, I love it.
But, the very moment I bought it I started to think about my next Porsche. I’ve probably spent more time looking online at other Porsches than I did to get this one in the first place! I've now fallen in love with the idea of owning a Porsche Targa.
Recently I remembered a proverb that I’d once read that I thought was great:
Love what you’ve got, not get what you love.
That’s definitely contrarian to the current view of entrepreneurialism. It’s almost as if, if you run your own business, your sole purpose in doing so is to become rich. To become a millionaire as if that's somehow where happiness lies - at the bottom of a very full bank account.
Yet I haven’t met many consulting business owners who are ‘in it for the money’, or looking to become millionaires.
For the most part, they’re experienced people looking to turn their talents into a consulting business that they’ll build for the long term. A business that they can enjoy, and that they can grow whilst still delivering their expertise to clients.
To build a business that is first sustainable, then scalable, and maybe one day saleable.
So what’s all this got to do with goal setting?
As I said earlier, the current trend is to set massive goals. 10X goals.
I’ve already said that I’m driven and aspirational, but I have a problem with these big, rarely achievable goals.
They’re getting us down. Leaving us in this perpetual state that what we’ve achieved isn’t enough.
That we should have tried harder. That there’s more to do.
No time to celebrate. No time to reflect.
This relentless pursuit of more - or as the BHAG is defined, an exaggerated and excessive preoccupation and obsession - means our consulting businesses are not bringing us the happiness that they should.
What should you do instead?
Well, let me be clear that I’m not saying don’t set big goals. I still have big goals. Goals to achieve things way in excess of anything I’ve achieved before.
But I do things to make them more achievable, to ensure they don’t become a burden, and to make sure I enjoy myself on the journey.
Here are 5 things I recommend you do to improve your goal setting:
01 Set Goals for All Aspects of Your Life
I set goals around every aspect of my life. This, I believe, is incredibly important to ensure balance.
We all know that what gets measured gets done, and with goals, what gets defined gets focus.
So if you set goals solely for your business, you risk becoming solely focused on your business. And that’s not healthy.
I’m still far from perfect in this respect.
I do have goals for every area of my life, but I’m yet to master perfect prioritisation. I have a tendency to prioritise business goals as that provides the funding for many of the other goals I set.
Of course, I don’t need money to spend time with my wife and children, but for me to be present and in the moment I need to ensure that I’m not preoccupied by money, or lack thereof.
I divide my goals into the following categories:
- Delivery (projects)
- Health & Fitness
- Family & Friends
- Houses & Homes
This may not be right for you, but I advise that you come up with a set of categories that fits with you, your lifestyle and your goals.
02 Make your goals SMART
You’ll almost certainly be aware of SMART goals. There’s many nuanced definitions of the acronyms. The one I’ve always stuck with is:
- Time bound
When I first learned of SMART goals I over complicated it.
I wrote a goal, and then I listed how each of the SMART elements would be covered. It’s not necessary to do that. Once sentence is sufficient.
For example, if I continue with the Porsche goal, I might state:
I’m going to outright buy a Porsche 911 Targa by the time I’m 50.
It’s specific in what it is, it’s time bound, it’s measurable by the fact that I’d both have it and own it outright. I think it’s realistic.
The only thing that might be lacking is ‘agreed’ as my wife would likely want me to do something more sensible with the money (fingers crossed she doesn’t read this blog post then!).
03 Create a vision board
On the back of my study door I have a collage of pictures - a vision board, or sometimes referred to as a mood board - it pictorially represents the desired outcomes of my goals.
They’re mostly pretty obvious things:
- Savings, investments and pension
- Well educated children
- My own physical health
It’s on an A4 page that I created by simply pasting images into a Word document and arranging them in a collage, then saving as a PDF.
To take this one step further, I take a screen shot of the PDF and then set the image as the wallpaper on my phone and iPad. That way, whenever I have to unlock my phone or iPad I am reminded of my goals and the things that I am striving to achieve.
I thoroughly believe that having this omnipresent reminder of my goals helps me to focus on the things that matter.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes find myself doing things contrary to my goals - I am human after all. But generally the things that I do are beneficial to the pursuit of my goals.
04 Utilise Project Management Principles to Adapt Your Goals
As I said, I do have big goals, but I create them in a way that enables me to be flexible. I use project management fundamentals to do this.
Any good project manager - or advocate of the Prince2 methodology - will tell you that a project has 6 fundamental areas of tolerance. They are:
So for each of my goals, I consider each 'tolerance' For example, in what timescale is it realistic to achieve it, and when things aren’t going to plan, I change it.
I might have originally intended to achieve something in 5 years, or 10 years, but If I’m behind, I’ll adjust the timeframe. I might move something out by a few months, or even years!
Time is the most common variable I adjust.
You’d be surprised how good it feels when you release a bit of the self-induced pressure you’ve created by simply extending a goal timeframe.
Second to time is scope.
For example, I’ve have a goal to own a property in France that we can let out when we’re not using it. When things are flying along and I’m feeling good, I might be aiming to buy a 5 bedroom chateaux.
But when things aren’t going great, I might adjust my goal to keep the timeline fixed, but instead change the scope. So I’ll aim for a 2 bedroom apartment. It’s still remains the goal of having ‘a property in France’.
If things are way off plan, I might adjust the quality such that I change to buying a 2-bedroom fixer-upper!
In turn that will negatively impact the benefits as it might take longer before it can be rented out in order to make a return on the investment.
I can apply these principles to any of my goals.
I’m still achieving my big goals, I’m just adjusting the variables.
05 Celebrate the successes
This year has been challenging for me. I’ve been working hard to pivot my business and include coaching and training as core service offerings. Because of this relentless pursuit of my goals we didn’t take a family summer vacation this year.
Instead I invested the money into Facebook ads to grow my business.
This is what happens in a real business. A series of compromises. Of difficult, and sometimes seemingly selfish decisions.
The reality of business is far from the exaggerated pictures you see plastered all over social media - of super yachts, supercars, private jets and helicopters.
So when success does happen, no matter how small, it’s important to take the time to recognise it. To stop and celebrate the success.
How you choose to celebrate is entirely up to you. But if you don't celebrate, you know what they say,
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Most consulting business owners are in it for the long-term. A consulting business is not something that’s built for sudden and rapid scale, then a sale. The sale, if it comes at all, is typically a result of decades of diligent and steady growth.
So set long-term goals based on building a sustainable and scalable consulting business first, not a startup unicorn.
Setting goals is really important. But at the end of the day we’re all different, motivated by different things in different ways. That what’s makes us human.
What works for me may or may not work for you.
I’m not against 10X goals.
My business BHAG remains to build a successful coaching and consulting business. I’ve learnt to become entirely open as to the timeline for that.
I also make sure that I have BHAG’s for the other aspects of my life too. Most importantly, I make sure I remain flexible on all of them. For example, as I sit here in a bar in London’s West End drinking a Camden Pale Ale, I suspect my goal for 6-pack abs will require a timeline adjustment!
My Porsche Targa probably remains a few years off too. However, on the positive, Playmobil currently has a Porsche Targa set! I may settle for that as an ornament to adorn my study with and to replace my long lost glass paperweight 911.
What about you? Do you set goals? Are they big scary goals or more modest? What works best for you in your goal setting?