Perhaps you set some New Year’s goals but are already finding it difficult to follow them. That’s no surprise. Setting goals is easy—it’s sticking to the plan to attain those goals that is difficult.
There’s great reason to set goals (and then follow through on them). Years ago, studies conducted on Harvard University graduates showed that students who set career goals earned three times as much income as their peers who failed to plan. The majority of top producers use written business and marketing plans, as opposed to less than 10 percent of the lowest-producing advisors. As J.C. Penney once said, “Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I will give you a man who will make history. Give me a man without a goal and I will give you a stock clerk.”
But the reality is that it’s tough to change. Chances are you’re still pretty much the way you were five years ago, except for the new clothes you’re wearing and your hair style. Recidivism—prisoners going back to prison within five years of getting out—is a whopping 85 percent nationwide. The divorce rate for second marriages is significantly higher than it is for first marriages. Is prison so much fun that felons are dying to go back? Is divorce more enjoyable the second time around? Of course not! It’s just tough to change. No wonder it’s so difficult to make the really important changes required to achieve our goals.
What it takes
There’s more to achieving your goals than simply deciding that you will. Here are three keys to achieving your goals this year.
Be specific. Years ago, I asked a salesperson I was coaching to name a goal that would motivate him. He said “to be happy.” Then I asked him how he would know when he achieved that goal. He just shrugged his shoulders.
Nebulous goals like “happiness” only serve to frustrate us. Varying degrees of happiness fade in and out daily. I told the salesperson to come up with three specific achievements that would contribute to his sense of happiness. He said, “A Mercedes 560 SL, $100,000 in liquid investments, and to be home at 5 p.m. daily so I can play with my kids.” I then asked him to set dates when he would like to achieve these objectives. When he set dates, the goals became real.
If you haven’t set any goals yet for 2010, make sure the objectives you establish are very specific. If you have already worked on your business plan, make sure your goals aren’t nebulous. They should be measurable. It should be easy to visualize exactly what they are and when you want to achieve them.
Create short-term and mid-term objectives that tie to long-term goals. Your primary goals should be long-term tangible dreams with a timeframe of one to five years. These could be buying a vacation home in Vail, taking a month-long trip around the world, working only two days a week and doing charity work. Try to focus on the deeper reasons behind your numerical or financial goals because those reasons will motivate you more effectively than an otherwise isolated number.
Now, for each primary long-term goal, work backward and set a mid-term goal that can be achieved in one month to a year. This could be doubling your annuity sales from referrals or gaining 15 clients from a new marketing program with a strategic partner. The mid-term goal objective should be a stepping stone to hitting the long-term dream.
Finally, work backward once again from the mid-term goal and set short-term objectives. Short-term objectives are things you want to accomplish today or this week. For example, you may want to ask three clients for introductions before you go to lunch today, or complete the mailing for the marketing program by the end of this week.
This level of specificity really does work. The advisors who are best at setting objectives work to achieve their goals by the day, and often by the hour. They do what they said they’d do or they don’t allow themselves to go home. They are committed to and focused on achieving the goals by the date they want them.
Keep your goals “top of mind.” People are visual creatures. As children, we put posters or photographs of people we looked up to as “heroes” on our bedroom walls: Superman, Batman, rock stars and sports heroes.
We need to do the same thing to visualize our goals: Put a picture, poster, advertisement or some other tangible reminder of your objective at a spot you will look at several times during the day to remind you what it is you’re working toward.
Lastly, come to terms with how your priorities may need to change in order to achieve your goal. H.L. Hunt, the late great Texas oil and ketchup tycoon, was once asked to reveal the secret of his success. “Decide what you want,” he replied, “but also decide what you will do to get it.”
You can’t achieve a goal without changing some aspect of your business or personal life. What are you willing to sacrifice to get what you desire?
Kerry Johnson, M.B.A, Ph.D., is an author and speaker at financial-planning and insurance conferences. His program, Peak Performance Coaching, promises to increase your business by 80 percent in eight weeks. Click on www.kerryjohnson.com/coaching and take a free evaluation test. Call 800-883-8787 for more information.