How to Focus and Follow Through to Achieve Results
By Lorie Rosenberg
It’s important to realize that if you want to accomplish anything in your business or life, you need to set goals and you must have a plan to make them a reality. That's why the saying in the image on the left is so appropriate. "A goal without a plan is just a wish." And we can wish for a lot of things but they won't come true until we put out the intention, develop a plan of how we're going to accomplish them, and focus and follow through until they're completed.
For example, “I want to build my business and make more money.” What does that actually mean? How do you want to build your business? What is the time frame for growing the business? How many more customers do you want to add? How much more money do you want to make each quarter…each year…by the time you sell your business? What are the specific steps are you are going to take or what do you need to put into place to make it happen?
Another example, “I want to lose weight.” How much weight do you want to lose? What is the time frame for losing the weight? What steps are you going to take to lose the weight? Is there a particular diet you’re going to use? How are you going to handle vacations or holidays on your weight loss goals? What help can you get from your friends and family to keep on track? What will keep you motivated with your goal? What are the benefits you’ll get when you accomplish this goal? Are you ready to make the sacrifices that will contribute to your success?
Focus on Your Goal
You see…goals are not easy to accomplish and some are more difficult than others. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be goals. They’d be business as usual. You could do them without a lot of thought or effort. That’s why to make your goals a reality, you have to relentlessly pursue them. You have to focus your effort to make them happen. They have to be so much a part of your life, that you live and breathe them. There has to be such an incredible desire for success that any setbacks you experience will not keep you from your pursuit. You simply tackle the obstacle that’s in your path and you continue on your way. You are what you focus on and what you focus on becomes your reality.
Sometimes people fail to accomplish their goals because they just can't seem to work on them seriously enough to fulfill them. Some people don't even have goals. It may be that they have no idea what they want to do or how to even get there if they had a goal.
The reason for this is that a lot of goals just aren't realistic and the likelihood that someone will complete them is slim to none. Here are some ideas that will ensure that your goal is a "SMART" one. The smarter the goal the greater likelihood that you'll actually achieve it!
Is Your Goal SMART?
Here is a great way for remembering how to develop goals that you can accomplish. Be sure that they're SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
A specific goal has a greater likelihood of being accomplished than a general one. So make sure you have a specific outcome in mind for the goal you’re trying to achieve.
It’s important that your goal be specific with measurable objectives. The more specific you make your goal, the more tangible it is. When you know exactly what you want to accomplish, how you’re going to get there, and what you’ll get in the end, the more successful you’ll be. Let me give you a couple of examples of broad and more specific goals.
Broad: Get a college education.
Specific: Get a 4-year degree in Graphic Arts from an accredited university.
Even more specific: Attend Rochester Institute of Technology in the graphic arts program. Take 16 credits each quarter with courses based on the graphic arts curriculum. At the end of the 4 years, walk down the aisle in a cap and gown and receive a Bachelor of Science Degree with a GPA of 3.5 or greater!
It’s the same with your business or personal goals. You need to break them down into manageable pieces with periodic deliverables and measurable objectives. That way you can see that progress you’re making to complete your goals.
When determining your goal, make sure you write down the specific steps you need to take towards achieving it and concrete criteria for measuring your progress along the way.
Measurement is so important to ensuring you make progress on your goals. In the example I gave above, the goal to achieve a college degree is very complex and long term. That’s why a lot of students don’t finish. It’s too overwhelming, the time frame is too lengthy, the effort is too great, and the rewards of completion aren’t strong enough to keep them motivated.
That’s why with any goal – no matter how lengthy or how complex – it should be broken down into manageable, measurable steps.
The individual steps are easier to accomplish and you can see progress towards your overall goals. For instance, each quarter or semester, college students take courses: some general education and some core courses to meet the requirements of their degree. They can use their syllabus and start checking off their requirements. They can see visually how many they’ve accomplished; feel good about their progress, and the rest of the goal doesn’t seem as daunting.
It’s the same with your business goals. If you want to grow your business, you may want to make a goal of adding a specific number of new customers or members every month. How would you need to do that? You would make specific steps you would need to take to meet that goal. During the month you could measure your progress and possibly revise your plan based on the progress you’re making. You may need to reevaluate your goal or you may need to add additional tasks to your goal.
Be sure that your goal isn’t overly lofty so that you’re able to achieve it within the specific time frame. (You can attain most any goal with proper planning, motivation, and execution.)
When Ron was in software development back in the day, he would come home and tell me how his management would ask him, “How long will it take you to complete this software project in the next three months?” It didn’t really matter if it could be reasonably accomplished in three months, the customer needed it by then, so that was the time frame it needed to be completed in.
That’s not really a very realistic or reasonable way to create a goal or objective. A better way is to take a look at your goals and determine what a reasonable time frame will be based on the complexity of the goal, who is involved in making it happen, and what problems may arise during the process. You would want to break down the objective into the specific steps with practical, doable deadlines and then determine how long that goal will take. You’d probably want to add in extra time because everything takes longer than you think it will and this will give you an added cushion.
Also it’s a good idea, when considering if your goal is reasonable and not too lofty, to look at the outcome you’re expecting. Do you really feel you can accomplish it? For example, is it reasonable for me to become fluent in French for a trip I’m taking to France in 6 months? Not likely, the goal is way beyond my capability. Now maybe it wouldn’t be for people who are also fluent in other languages and this is a strength of theirs. They might not have a problem achieving this goal. For me, I would need a lot more time and a lot more help to achieve the same outcome. Plus I would need to find ways to keep myself motivated because this is a very challenging goal for me. And it may not even be a realistic goal for me.
Your goal must represent a realistic objective that you are willing and able to work towards. High motivation and focused effort are the keys to achieving your goals.
It’s important to determine if your goals are actually reasonable and that you’ll continue to be motivated to complete them. There’s nothing worse than making a goal, losing interest when the going gets tough, and then never completing it. This can become a habit and people will stop believing you when you tell them what you’re going to do next:
You: “Hey, I’m going to start working out, drop 30 pounds and get into shape again.”
Them: “Um, sure, okay, whatever…?
How many times have you heard someone say they’re going to do this or that…and you already know that the goal is dead on arrival? That’s because they never complete anything they say they’re going to do. Most of the time it’s because the goal they’re making is beyond their skills or capabilities. The goal is simply too lofty and not realistic for them.
In the past, if you’ve made goals you haven’t completed, was the reason because they weren’t realistic for you, they were too difficult, or they were beyond your capability? If you’re not sure of the reason, you need to take a long hard look at whether the goals you’ve been setting were “SMART” ones. If they weren’t, then you need to evaluate any goal based on these criteria before you proceed.
Your goal should have a specific time frame for completing it. Without a deadline, there is no sense of urgency in accomplishing it. When you have a specific end date it mind, it gives you the necessary motivation to keep on track.
Putting a time frame on your goals is so important to their success. With the example I mentioned above, getting a Bachelor’s degree is a 4- or 5-year commitment, not a 7-year goal unless you’re like some young people nowadays that don’t want to actually get a job, but would rather coast on their parents’ dollar forever.
I know as a parent, I told my children that college was a 4-year experience, not a 5- or 6-year experience. After the four years, they were on their own. That’s the type of motivation that kept them on track and working towards completion because they knew they would be on the line for their expenses after four years. Now our son did take an extra semester to complete his degree…but he had transferred from another college after his first year and some of his credits didn’t carry over to the new program.
When you put specific deadlines on your goals it supplies the incentive – and pressure – that’s needed to keep you moving forward to complete them.
Focus and Follow Through
The key to accomplishing any goal is your level of desire. You're never going to complete any goal if your level of desire is lukewarm. That's because when you experience some challenges or setbacks, they're sure to stop you dead in your tracks.
So before you start working towards any goal, determine how committed you are to it. How much do you really want it? To accomplish any goal worth working diligently on, the reward for completion has to exceed the effort you put into it.
Just remember you can't get anywhere in business or in life without goals. What do you want to work on next? It's sure to take you places you've only imagined...and some day you'll be there!