We all have dreams, aspirations, and goals that we want to achieve. They can be lofty, like aspiring to be the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. Or they can be more humble, like working out 5 days a week. Whatever the case, setting smaller goals will not only keep you on track but, in fact, accelerate you through the more difficult parts and help you reach your goals quickly and without burnout.
Setting smaller goals is a fantastic way to pump yourself up and not become overwhelmed by larger, loftier goals. By consistently achieving small parts, you feel more on track and this is very energizing. When you are working on how to set up your goals, make sure that you are honest about what is realistic when it comes to time-frame and workload. Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, relevant/Realistic, and Time-boxed. It may feel like it’s slowing you down- and it is. It may feel like it’s stifling your creativity- and it may very well be, temporarily to create more space for freedom. It may seem like minutia- and yet, it is NOT. S.M.A.R.T. goals are designed to ensure you reach your goal. They slow you down and focus your efforts on planning just long enough to set you up for success. The bigger and loftier the goal the more detailed you need to be in your S.M.A.R.T. plan. Let’s continue the example from earlier. Let’s say you want to work out for 2 hours, 5 days a week. Don’t immediately put the 2 hours Monday through Friday into your schedule. You will most likely burn out or fail to meet your goal and feel defeated. Instead, start with more achievable goals and work your way up to your final goal. Start out 3 days a week for an hour. Or take up a couple of classes at the gym. As your body gets used to the more strenuous exercise and builds stamina, add another day or another class. Work your way up in increments, congratulating yourself on the small victories. You will achieve your goal and feel more accomplished with fewer setbacks and stress.
This applies to your career, as well. Let’s say you have been assigned a lofty and lengthy assignment that will take several months to complete. Instead of thinking that you need to get X done by the end of the 6 months, train your brain to break it down. Sit down, either by yourself or with your team, and hammer out the critical points for the project. Decide when those components need to be finished. Then break down those critical points and set attainable goals for those pieces. By doing this, you are not only making sure that the project stays on track, you are also giving yourself and/or your team achievable goals that will keep them motivated, focused, and feeling like they are making progress.
Have the Right Team
There is a well-known African proverb that often hangs out in offices. On whiteboards, bulletin boards, blackboards, this proverb litters the corporate world as it tries to impress the importance of teamwork on unsuspecting employees and leaders everywhere. The proverb is, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
My quarrel with this quote is simply, why not go fast and far? Why are those the only two options? If you have the right team under you then you can accelerate through goals while maintaining the momentum and the stamina to continue. If your team is aligned, honest, and complementary, you will be amazed to find that you will go faster than if you were to go at it alone.
When building your team, make sure you bring people who work well together, compensate for each other’s weaknesses, and embolden each other’s strengths. Strengths Finder is a fantastic tool for this. I used it when building teams in my corporate career and now use it to help my coaching clients build theirs.
Introduce the concept of fit. It’s all about fit. When we force fit, it never works. If people are in the wrong role or the wrong cultural fit, eventually, it will fall apart. Either from them or to them. Be mindful that sometimes the latter is a fit and the former is not, so when possible, move them into a role where they fit. Not every company is agile enough to make that happen. And that’s okay. Help them find their way out. And when you do help them, remember that it’s about them and not you.
Working towards goals is vital to any form of advancement in our lives. How we work towards them is completely up to us and there are better ways to go about it than just, “get it done.” Organize, set realistic expectations of yourself and/or your team, and make sure your support network is solid. You will break through barriers and achieve even the loftiest, most daunting goals without sacrificing your health or your sanity.
I used to run teams through an exercise called the 10% stretch. I would tell each person to take a post-it and put it high up on a wall. Then, I would challenge all of them to take another post-it note and put it at least 10% higher than the original. Now, with a new incentive (the challenge) everyone would jump or reach on their tiptoes to get that second poster higher than the first one. And most everyone would succeed. The material point is this. Human beings will always push themselves a little more given the right incentive. So, don’t sell yourself short. Set achievable goals and incentives and reach a little higher.