Setting Goals that Actually Get Results

Welcome to 2017.

We are now more than a week into this year, and you are one of three people: you’ve set goals and are plowing full speed ahead; you’ve established goals and have already fallen off course, or you haven’t set any because last week we told you to wait. Yay for all of you! No matter where you are in your New Year’s goals process, we welcome you.

Now, you may think that just trying to “do X better” sounds like a good plan, and maybe it’s not a terrible place to start. But how do you define “X”? How do you define “better”? When should “X” be better? How do you plan on making “X” better? And is making “X” better even the best place to start? 

The truth is, not all goals are created equal, and there are, in fact, a few rules for how to set the right goals the right way with the right plan. Let us help you wade the icy waters of goal setting and get 2017 started off right.

Perhaps you’ve heard the acronym BHAG, and it makes your heart flutter because you remember the first time someone inspired you with a speech about big hairy things and you left believing you had life finally figured out. And if you don’t know, a BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. 

Now these big hairy goals of ours are high. They are what keep us dreaming and achieving. However, sometimes a BHAG can just be a big hairy thing looming in the foreground all shadowy and misunderstood. That’s because we have these BHAG, but we don’t know what to do with them. Well, this first step in goal setting can help tame the monster.

What is your BHAG? Consider it thoughtfully and then take a big hairy step back. The first thing to do is to turn your BHAG into something more closely resembling a Furby than the Beast. (Or maybe a cute little Rambutan!) That big goal, if it is the right kind of goal, should be able to be broken down into reasonable chunks. 

A wise mentor once told me that you start with the vision of your future and work your way back from there. That’s what I want you to do. To get to the big goal, you must start with smaller, more reasonable ones. The reasonable goals are more manageable.

Reasonable goals are the stepping stones that usher you to the big hairy ones.

Now that you have a reasonable goal in front of you, it’s time to make it specific. For example, your BHAG may be “to be the most successful Virtual Assistant the world has ever seen with my own TV show, magazine, and designer coffee (yeah, I’m looking at you, Oprah).” But that isn’t terribly specific in the immediate. Maybe that appears a little more like “increase my client size.” That would be a specific goal that would be a perfect stepping stone to the big, hairy, and audacious one. This brings us to our next tip. 

Please, please, PLEASE make sure your goal is measurable. Who is the most successful Virtual Assistant in the world? Do we even know if this person has a name? How many clients do they have? Have they harvested their DNA so that they can be cloned or are they set to cryogenically frozen to be reawakened in the future to conquer another century with their awesomeness? A measurable goal just means adding a number to your goal. So now your goal may look like this: increase my client list by 10%.

Third, you and your goals don’t live on an island. The odds are pretty good that someone else has done what you are attempting to do. Find that person in your field, if you don’t have your eyes on them already.. Talk to them, if you can. Study them. Learn their routines. It’s not the big things we do only some of the time but the little things we do every day that make us great. What are their little things?

Learn from the people who have gone before you and model them. 

Ok, now that you have some goals or at least know how to set them. The final, and most important piece, is to make sure you work it. You’ve heard the phrase “plan your work and work your plan”? Well, this is it.

To plan your work means to plan action steps to get you to the goals you’ve just set. Let’s take our specific, measurable, reasonable goal and break it down into actions. How do you increase your client list by 10%? Maybe those action steps look like this: implement a marketing strategy; increase social media presence by being more active on Twitter both in posting and in strategic follows; volunteer services to a non-profit; and reconnect with some past business associates by making a few phone calls and setting up coffee dates. 

Your goals may be excellent – specific, reasonable, timely and measurable – but if you don’t have a plan of action to see you to the actual goal, they are just words on a page. Brainstorm, sweat over it if you have to, make a plan, and then work your heart out.

2017 won’t know what hit it.

Your power, knowledge, attitude and work ethic combined with the right goals at the right time with the right plan? That's a powerful force you can use all year. Get ready to make 2016 seriously jealous.