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How to Set Goals that Really Work

Are you setting goals that lead to success or frustration?

By Richard G. Zalack

One of the most important aspects of effective goals, which often gets lost in the planning process, is that they should inspire. Martin Luther King didn't say, “I have a strategic plan.” He said, “I have a dream.” Everything he did was a step to achieving his dream.

Despite the valiant efforts of people like Zig Ziegler and Anthony Robbins, 97 percent of us don't set goals. However, the three percent of us who do set goals are more successful than the 97 percent who don't! The lessons of life tell us that if you want to be successful, you should set goals. They also tell us the types of goals to set.

There are two kinds of goals: method goals and intention goals. Those who set intention goals are more successful than those who set method goals-and the 97 percent who set no goals at all!

Method goals
At the end of the year, people who set method goals evaluate their present situation and ask themselves, “What can I do to make things better?”

The first step in setting intention goals is to know what you intend to achieve.

Often, they assign a percent increase they'd like to achieve during the next year, say a 10-percent increase in business. Then they proceed to solve problems. They decide to increase sales, so they hire a new salesperson. That requires a new computer program to handle the volume of new data, so they buy one. Then they hire a second salesperson. Eventually, they have too much capacity so they begin expanding into other markets. Along the way they discover they need to add a new product or service, so they develop it. Each of these actions is a reactive goal. Something else prompted the need, and the need prompted the action. At the end of the next year, they evaluate the level of their success and plan new goals, based on whether or not they've achieved their numerical goal for the year. If they only hit a 7- percent growth in business, they may increase next year's goal to 13 percent to make up for the shortfall. Or they may reduce their target to the more realistic figure of 7 percent. Either way, what they've done is reinforce the concept that it's OK to not reach your goals. The result is a continuing process in which there is no focus on a long-term goal.

Intention goals
Intention goals, on the other hand, work like this: When you get into your car to drive somewhere, you cannot see your goal. Yet, you know it's there so you start the car and go. Along the way, you have to drive in the present; you have to watch out for traffic situations around you. But to be an effective driver, you also have to look further down the road. This is driving with intention, and setting intention goals is a similar process.

The first step in setting intention goals is to know what you intend to achieve. Like driving your car, you have to have a destination. Do you want more income? Do you want to create a business to sell or a job from which you can't be fired? The first step in a successful journey is to know where you're going.

Second, create a plan to help you achieve your goal. For example, the goal of doubling your income can be achieved in many ways. You could increase staff or enhance the quality of your clients. You could do both. What you decide determines your plan. And your plan determines your actions.

Third, create your tactics. These are the things you will do according to your plan, which will help you achieve your goals. If your goal is to double your business by increasing your staff, then your tactics might be to define the responsibilities of the job, the characteristics and qualities you are looking for in an employee and then advertise and interview for the position. After a year of using intention goal planning, the first thing you do is review your accomplishments. Then you evaluate those accomplishments and determine what you could improve next year. If something you tried didn't work to your satisfaction, you evaluate it and decide how you could do it differently next year. Write down your results. What you are doing is making a list from which you will choose next year's tactics.

Before you plan for the coming year, review your intention. Is it still the same? Has it changed? Then you decide what you can accomplish next year toward achieving those goals. Finally, determine if there are barriers and what you need to do to overcome them. These answers are your tactics for next year. To be successful, we need to set goals that work. When you follow the intention-goal planning system, you will be able to say “I have a dream.” And you can be quite sure that you will turn that dream into a reality.

Dick Zalack, author of Are you Doing Business or Building One? How to Turn Your Business into Your Benefactor, is an entrepreneurial strategist based in Cleveland, Ohio. He can be reached at 330-225-0707.


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