Thursday, January 3, 2013


Do you set goals for yourself? Do you actually write them down?

I have to admit I’m guilty of not always putting them in writing. And that does lead to leaving them by the wayside at times.

Back in the land of Corporate America I had to write down my goals all the time. It’s what you do. At times my compensation was tied to how well I met my goals. I guess I didn’t realize until recently how many people don’t set goals, let alone write them down.

Every January – or even December for the proactive – I’d go through how I did for the previous year. At one company we were expected to write it up ourselves so our manager would have the start of our annual review. Not a bad thing necessarily … you can point out how awesome you are. 

The more frequently you review your progress against goals, the fewer surprises you’re likely to get at the end of the year. Oops, that project never did get approved … how do I explain that away. Oops, we were two weeks later than we said … and even though the reason is legit and it didn’t matter in the end, am I going to get in trouble for it?

Oh, and everyone’s goals must align. Your goals must support your manager’s goals which must support his manager’s goals and so on, and so on. You didn’t think you actually got to set your own, did you? You might get a gimme or two thrown in under professional development or something, but really one must wait until “the organization’s” goals are published before finalizing the slate of things-someone-else-has-determined-you-must-do.

There was one plant in particular that always made me laugh. The plant manager’s goals were aligned with my goals and everyone else’s goals … and when we started getting close to a deadline I was responsible for … the phone calls would start. Not usually from the plant manager himself, but from his staff. Are we going to meet it? We’re going to meet it, right? What are we doing to meet it? It’s all gonna be ok, right?!? Tell me it’s all gonna be ok!

I may have elaborated slightly on those last couple of sentences.

In setting your goals for the year in Corporate America, you want to make really, really sure they’re achievable. Your bonus may depend on it. Your manager’s bonus may depend on it. Your continued employment may depend on it. So make sure they’re achievable. You may even want to make sure they’re conservative. Basically you’re setting your goals from a position of fear … fear of what-if-you-don’t-meet-them.

In real life and entrepreneurship it’s a little different.

Sure, achievable is important, but conservative isn’t necessarily the way to go. What is it you really want? Say it out loud. Write it down. People setting their goals – or refusing to set any goals at all – from a position of fear or lack of self-esteem just kills me.

Here are some things I’ve heard lately when coaching others on goal-setting …

  • I’ll just see what I can do. (Someone bring me the duct tape so I can wrap it around my head to keep it from exploding.)
  • I’m not really good at setting goals.
  • I haven’t been getting results lately, so I’ll set my goal really low. (I’m thinking maybe look at alternate strategies instead.)
  • I don’t want to miss my goal, so I’ll set it a little low.

Here’s a newsflash. Your goals tend to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And, as Henry Ford said, whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.

Here’s another newsflash. What’s gonna happen if you don’t 100% meet a goal you set for your own personal life? Are you gonna cry about it? There’s no crying in goal setting!

I think fear and self-esteem issues play a role in not aiming high enough, but cultural and religious influences are present as well. Maybe gender, too … good little girls don’t rock the boat after all. A good puritan work ethic says, well, just do your work, work hard. And wanting more out of life … that might not qualify as humble and meek … if I lay out a bold plan, that might imply I think my plan is better than God’s … and that’s bad, really bad.

You know there’s meek and then there’s meek.

I understand more as time goes on that God wants me to help people. A lot of people. We serve God by serving others, right? I often pray about when I should speak and when I should shut up. When I should act and when I should wait. I do my best to listen and follow suit.

I have the boldness thing mastered fairly well when it comes to reaching out to people, but in order to help a lot of people I also have to help myself to an extent first. (Please secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others …) Physically healthy habits like sleep, nutrition, exercise … spiritually healthy habits like prayer and scripture reading … mentally healthy habits like unplugging now and again. An actual quote from a friend recently … “maybe God wanted you to be unplugged for a day”.

I include all of these types of things in my written goals. This year I have them sorted into business, health, personal / spiritual, and travel categories.

I do pray about what my goals should be. In Corporate America we align our goals with the CEO and the board. In real life and entrepreneurship, I recommend aligning with God. Just a suggestion. Go ahead. It’s ok. One of my goals for this year actually ends with the words, “Let God Lead”. Capitalized and underlined. J

So if you’re a praying Jesus freak like me, pray about your goals. And then write them down. Go, do it now.

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