Goal Setting and Planning — What Separates Leaders from Laggards

by Jake Smolarek
Three darts laying on a table

We all have dreams. We all have wishes. We all have goals. So, how is it that some people are able to attain their dreams while others languish in failure?

Well, there are a few reasons. Let’s start with the basics:

Dreams, Wishes, and Goals: There Is a Difference

You’ve probably heard this saying or some variation of it before: “dreams without goals are just dreams.” It’s true, if you keep dreaming and wishing for something without taking any type of action to attain it, then you might as well go back to sleep. In a nutshell, nothing’s going to happen for you without some planning and elbow grease.

The Power of Writing and Planning

Having a goal is great, but you cannot let it reside in your mind. You must write it down and create a plan around it to make it actionable. It’s the same as getting groceries. You have an item, you make a list, you plan to go to the grocery store, you go to the grocery store, and you cross that item off your list. Write it down, plan for it, do it, and cross it off. Obviously, most audacious goals aren’t as easy as going to the grocery store, and there will likely be many steps between planning and achievement—but that’s the point. If you make a detailed and thorough plan, you’ll have a tangible path toward your goal, and this will motivate you to take the next step.

Set a Timeline and Determine How You Are Going to Achieve Your Goal

If you really are dedicated to achieving your goal, you’ll want to have a realistic timeline. For example, a non-definitive goal of “I want to be a millionaire,” becomes much more concrete when you add when and how you are going to get there. “I want to be a millionaire” turns into “I want to be a millionaire by the time I am 40 through my online retail business,”— that is a concrete goal.

Move Toward Your Goal Every Day

Many clients come to me when they have set a goal, but they are stuck with making progress. One of the biggest mistakes I see them making is not working toward their goal every day. Many have created pretty good plans, but they don’t incorporate a daily routine to act on the plan, and this makes the entire goal stagnant.

Dedication to your goal requires working on it every day. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your full-time job if you’re just starting out, and it doesn’t mean you have to pull 14-hour days either. What it means is that you have to do some work on it every day. This could be as little as one hour a day, or up to eight hours a day. The time depends on what you can handle, but it’s the daily routine that’s critical to making progress. 365 days at an hour a day is a lot of time. With 365 hours of work, it will be impossible for you not to make progress.

Fail Forward and Take Risks

To succeed with your goals, you must accept failure and learn from it productively. The most successful people aren’t lucky. They’ve had more failures than you can count, but they’ve taken those risks, learned from their mistakes and kept going. Steve Jobs, J. K. Rowling, Richard Branson… they’ve all had major failures in their careers, but they learned from them and used them to propel them toward better goals. Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was rejected 12 times before being accepted by a publisher—imagine what her life would have been if she stopped after the first rejection?

Risk rejection and failure for the promise of success. If you think that taking risks is costly, understand that not taking any risks is even more costly. I like to quote Nelson Mandela when I discuss this concept with clients. He said: “There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” This is a mantra that everyone should abide by.

More Goals Means More Chances for Success

Have many goals and write them down. The more goals you have, the better. Have big goals like starting a successful business, small goals like getting your first client and very tiny goals—like buying yourself a new computer for your work. The more goals you set, the more you’ll feel fulfilled by achieving them and crossing them off. Here’s why: when you accomplish a goal, a dose of dopamine gets released in your body. This hormone and neurotransmitter makes you feel good, motivating you to keep moving toward your other goals.

More importantly, when you have many goals, your average for attaining them becomes higher. If you have 100 goals, that range from large to small, there is no way you won’t accomplish any of them if you try for all of them.

Smart goal setting takes practice, but those who learn how to do it well become successful. Want to learn more about my techniques, which include creating priorities, resolutions and themes? Contact me.

About the Author

Jake Smolarek

Life and Business Coach & Entrepreneur

For over 10 years I have been helping people achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals faster and easier than they've ever imagined.

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