6 Steps to Setting Better Goals

May 16, 2016

 Back when I was a flight instructor, I taught each student two ways to fly in order to reach his destination: pilotage and dead reckoning. Pilotage is looking at the map and determining location based on landmarks. Dead reckoning is flying the plane with instruments (think compass headings, ground speeds, and math). Most private pilots use the two methods simultaneously.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the fact that setting and meeting goals is not much different.

The best way to make sure an airplane is on course is to set the compass heading, then look out into the horizon 10, 20, or 30 miles for a point along the route (like a tower, ridge or group of buildings) to which you can fly directly. Goals are a lot like that. Whether in business or our personal lives, we benefit from setting a direction, picking a point somewhere in the future (be it six months, a year, three years), then choosing points along the route to which we can make a beeline to get us to our destination.

The #1 Deterrent from Goal-Setting

Goal-setting is a proven way to advance in business and life in general, but experience tells me that many of us are reluctant to set goals because we have a poor track record of keeping them. It’s easier to blindly push forward than to deal with feelings of failure and disappointment from unmet goals time and again. Sound familiar? Well, take heart. Here are six simple tips to setting – and reaching – the goals that will drive you and your greenhouse business forward.

6 Simple Tips to Setting and Keeping Goals

Step 1 – Choose a theme.

If you’re like me, you’ll find reaching goals to be a challenge because you’re just too busy. Between business, family, personal fitness, community activities, and hobbies, there’s just too much to keep up with. The business alone can have multiple pressing needs: higher sales, continuing education, lower turnover, changing team culture, etc. Setting goals in too many areas at one time can be overwhelming, and it’s a sure‐fire way to reach few, if any of them.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage, talks about theme-based goals as they pertain to leadership teams, but we can apply that same wisdom as we set goals for ourselves:

“The thematic goal is the answer to our question, ‘What is most important right now?'”

Choose one area of top priority and intentionally focus time and energy on that area for six or eight weeks. As that area becomes a habit or improves, consider the next priority area and tackle it, too. Remember: the sun can light the entire sky at once, but it can only start a fire if its intensity gets focused into a small area. You have to keep that focus in order to “move the needle.”

Step 2 – Break the theme into actionable steps.

Some goals are big. Big enough that you can’t take them on all at once. Set intermediate action steps to take you from where you are to where you want to be (like the tower in the distance when scanning the horizon ahead of you from an airplane). In order for your goals to be successful, they must be achievable. If you want to grow your business, don’t set a sweeping goal like, “I will double sales this year.” Create stepping stones to lead you toward that larger goal. Start with something like, “I will improve our website” or “I will increase our social media presence.”

I am currently working on some big goals in the area of personal fitness. I really wanted to lose weight as my overall goal, but in order to do that I needed to set a few small targets along the way. I decided to shoot for running 3 times a week, eating only 1,800 calories a day, and dropping sodas for water only. Having smaller action steps gave me a list to check off every day while I moved toward that bigger goal of “lose 20 pounds.”

Step 3 – Make it measurable.

Objectify action steps by making them concretely measurable. Instead of aiming to “get into shape,” “change our company’s culture,” or “have more quality family time,” try something like “lose 10 pounds,” “meet with key leaders once a week to discuss our company’s challenges,” or “play games with the kids every Saturday night.” By adding a definitive measurement to the statement, we can take a look at the end of the day and ask ourselves, “Did I meet that objective?”

Step 4 – Give it a deadline.

Part B of making a goal measurable is giving it a deadline. Deadlines help us procrastinators know that it’s time to get moving. When hundreds of things are vying for our attention, a deadline helps us to remember that we’ve decided to make this goal a priority right now.

Deadlines also help us recognize that there is an end to this goal: it won’t hang over us forever. A deadline signifies the end of a set time of intensity on a certain subject in order to better our lives or the lives of those around us.

Measurable goals with deadlines will look something like this:

  • I will run 3 times a week for the next 6 weeks and then run in our local community’s 5K race on May 21st.
  • I will seek to increase sales by posting engaging content on our company Facebook page every day for the next month.
  • I will change our company’s culture by reading at least one leadership book a month for the next 6 months to grow myself as a leader.

Step 5 – Keep it visible.

Putting your goal in writing is the number one way to encourage yourself to actually keep it. Posting your goal somewhere visible is a close second. Put it somewhere prominent where you will see it every. single. day

Set your goals carefully, because once you have them in writing and posted where you and others can see them daily, they become the boss, casting a scornful gaze at you while you try to ignore what you yourself said would be a priority in your life.

Remember that weight loss goal I have? It’s posted on my bathroom mirror where my wife and I can see it (talk about accountability!) along with a line graph to show how close (or far) I am when I weigh in each week.

Step 6 – Assess it often.

The saying goes, “don’t expect what you don’t inspect.” Your own actions are no exception. Setting measureable goals with deadlines is ultimately ineffective if you don’t hold yourself accountable to complete them. If you struggle with this, ask a friend or mentor to keep a check on things for you to keep you motivated.

Don’t wait till the end to assess whether or not you met your goal; do it all along the way.

Remember my student pilots? The way they learn to make it to their destination is to set their heading and constantly reassess how they are doing based on the map. If the wind changes or they drift off course, it requires a correction. The only way they know they need that correction is by constant vigilance on the current path.

Are you steady toward that tower on the horizon? Are you drifting? Maybe the goal needs to be tweaked. Maybe you need to take it more seriously. Visiting your goals daily will help you to know how you are tracking so you can make the adjustments you need to stay on course and reach the destination.

Gaining Momentum

While setting and keeping goals may be challenging for some of us, reaching smaller achievements will give us the direction and momentum to keep pressing on toward bigger dreams. So think through your priority issues, pick the most important ones, break them down into measurable steps, give yourself deadlines, keep it all visible, and constantly reassess how you’re doing.

Proverbs 4:25-26 states, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.”

In no time you’ll be able to look back at how far you’ve come – thankful you ended up exactly where you wanted to be.