Goals Setting- the Key to Success
How to Establish and Achieve Them
By Ian Lamont
The most important quality you can develop for lifelong personal and professional success is the habit of establishing and achieving your goals, plans and ideas.
As a business strategist, leadership/motivational teacher and speaker I am often asked about the best practices in goal setting. While some of the idiosyncrasies in goal setting are specific to the individual, there are integral steps for establishing and achieving goals and for living a successful personal and professional life as a result.
If you embrace these integral steps, you should be able to accomplish more in less time, better identify your goals and most importantly set goals properly so that you can achieve them.
Let me be crystal clear here: Success is goals; all else is commentary. All successful people are intensely goal-oriented. The people you respect the most for being successful in all facets of their life have the ability to identify their goals, establish a plan to attain them and use the full scope of their personal idiosyncrasies to achieve their dreams.
In a study done at Harvard in 2003, researchers discovered that the top 3 percent of people in most business and service sectors have a special attitude (a success formula) that set them apart from even above average performers in their industries. These “best of the best star” performers viewed themselves as self-employed throughout their careers, no matter who signed their paychecks. They saw themselves as responsible for their companies, exactly as if they owned the companies personally.
Ask yourself if you would work “different” if you owned the company or organization where you work. You know the answer would be yes! So, if you want to be successful, adopt this entrepreneurial spirit from this point forward.
We live in an era where no one seems to be accountable for their actions. You want to be successful? Then be accountable! No one else is responsible for your lot in life or for the emotional reactions you have to various aspects of life. You are not a victim, even when you do get the proverbial short end of the stick in life. So stop complaining, stop whining, stop making excuses and start taking control of your life. Only when you accept full responsibility for your life can you start to set goals and move ahead rapidly.
I am going to digress to make a point. Albert Einstein was sent home from school as a young man with a learning disability. His parents were told he was incapable of being educated. They refused to accept this diagnosis and eventually arranged for him to get an excellent education.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer had the same problems at school as a boy. His parents were encouraged to apprentice him as a shoemaker so that he would have a safe, secure job when he grew up.
Both men went on to earn doctorates before age 20, and to leave their marks on the history and science of the 20th century.
I will even add a personal anecdote. I was not the greatest student in high school and was told by my guidance counselor after being tested that I was best suited to be a “bricklayer.” And while I am certainly no Einstein or Schweitzer, I was able to have a fabulous, high-achieving career.
So it is not surprising that Fortune magazine has chronicled that many presidents and senior executives of today’s Fortune 500 companies were diagnosed in school as being not particularly bright or capable. By virtue of hard work, however, they went on to achieve great success in their industries.
Imagine what would have happened — or, more to the point, not happened — had Einstein or Schweitzer or Lamont (only time my name will be in that company) internalized the self-limiting beliefs those “others” tried to impose on them. Thank goodness they and their parents recognized that limiting ideas about oneself are not based on fact at all!
My point is that goal setting works for everyone, not just the smartest or the brightest or even the most energized. You start by analyzing where you are today and how you are doing in each of the important areas of your professional and personal life, especially as they relate to your present goals.
When you begin to plan your future, a valuable exercise is zero-based thinking. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make progress in your life if you allow yourself to be held back by decisions you have made in the past. No matter who you are or what you are doing, there are certain things in your life that, knowing what you know now, you would not get into today if you had them to do over.
The next thing to ask yourself is, “What do I do to change them?” Apply this to every aspect of your life and career — to the people with whom you associate, the jobs you have taken, the activities in your business, and the investments you have made. Once you have identified these things, be prepared to make any necessary changes by doing the following:
● Determine what is holding you back. What is the major reason you are not doing the things you truly want to do?
● Determine your level of skills and ability. Identify the key result areas of your work — the critical tasks that you must have in order to do your job well. You must become good in every area in order to achieve the highest levels of success in what you do.
● Identify your weakest areas. Identify where you are below average or poor. What key skills do you lack that are essential for your success? Identify them accurately and honestly and make a plan to improve each one.
● Imagine starting over. Never allow yourself to feel locked in or trapped by a particular decision from the past. At any time you could start your career over again, if you feel there is a limited future in your current direction.
● Be prepared to reinvent yourself. Stand back and think about starting your career over again today, knowing what you know now. If you had to start over again today, with your special combination of talents and skills, what would you choose to do differently from what you are doing now?
There are three keys to peak performance in achieving your goals —commitment, completion and closure. When you make a firm commitment to achieve a particular goal, you enable yourself to be more creative, determined and focused than ever before.
You must fight the temptations that keep you from completion of the tasks that lead to achievement. You must force yourself to resist these temptations and push through to completion. Set achievable benchmarks, metrics and deadlines for every key task.
Bringing closure to an issue in your personal or professional life is a wonderful feeling and absolutely essential for you to be in control of your success. Lack of closure is a major source of stress, dissatisfaction and even failure in business.
Despite all the preparation, analysis and effort that goes into creating new goals, most people give up on their goals far too easily, many after one attempt at achieving them. Some do not even progress beyond the effort of setting the goals themselves.
The reason they give up is because of all the obstacles, problems and roadblocks that appear as soon as one decides to do something they have never done before.
Consider this -- Successful people fail far more often than unsuccessful people. Successful people try more things, fall down, pick themselves up and try again. They try over and over again, before they achieve what they set out to achieve. Unsuccessful people try a few things, if they try at all and soon quit to go back to their previous path.
There will always be obstacles that stand between you and anything you want to accomplish. The ability to solve problems is essential in any successful endeavor, and you possess that ability, if you desire the goal intensely enough; nothing can prevent you from achieving your goal.
Goal establishing is hard. Goal achieving is harder still. Having a successful personal and professional life is the hardest of all. Winston Churchill defined succinctly what it takes:
“I can summarize the lessons of my life in seven words — never give in; never, never give in.” - Winston Churchill
Ian Lamont works with his two sons at The Lamont Group (TLG). Recently retired, Ian spend the last 18 years of his career as a CEO of multimedia and energy businesses. At TLG Ian's focus is assisting entrepreneurs and their companies to plan, grow and achieve. Ian can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 562-544-5822. Ian's column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the Long Beach Business Journal.