How to make someday happen now: the art of goal setting

by | Apr 19, 2010

Most methods of goal setting don’t work for renaissance people. People who have multiple interests and talents. Larger visions that don’t want to be crammed into a linear system.
Yet successful self-employment requires focus. Your odds of getting somewhere–anywhere–shrink catastrophically when you don’t know where you are going. Or when you set off in too many directions at once.
It’s like flying a plane without deciding on a destination. Basically, you go until you run out of fuel and are forced to land.
This came to the fore recently when a creative, multi-talented Shaboom County member asked how to set goals for her business so she could know what to do next. She especially wanted to know what questions I ask myself when I’m setting goals.
Here’s my answer.

Start with a long horizon
One reason Accidental Entrepreneurs get confused by too many options is that they think in terms of short term goals. This makes you vulnerable to Bright Shiny Objects that can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
The latest Internet Marketing scheme. An MLM venture that promises to bring you immediate income. Even things like starting a blog or creating a new product can be distractions unless they are related to a long term goal.

Questions for thinking long term
These are the kinds of questions to ask before you begin to choose near term goals.

  • What do I want my life to be like in five years?
  • How much will I need to earn to sustain that way of living?
  • What would my business look like to fit with that?
  • Who do I need to be in order to have that kind of business?

When asking yourself these questions, it is wise to come up with three scenarios for your life: wildly successful, minimally acceptable, and a sweet spot somewhere in between. (I stole that from my Master Mind buddy, Michael Bungay Stanier.)
Asking and answering these questions will help you feel into the right-sized and type of business for you. Usually the wildly successful scenario feels a bit ungrounded. (Clue: putting yourself in that vision gives you vertigo.) The minimally successful scenario can leave you feeling somewhat resentful and deprived.
The sweet spot is where you can really imagine myself being with a good, healthy stretch.
Now, how will you get there?

The stops along the way
When you fly from Seattle to Paris, the pilot files a flight plan that shows intermediate locations. That’s your next step, too.
Back up from five years to three years and ask questions like these:

  • Where do I need to be in order to reach my five-year sweet spot?
  • What will I need to be earning?
  • What sources of income will help me earn that?
  • How much would I be working? At what kinds of things?
  • How will I know I’m on track?

After you’ve dialed in the three year picture, repeat the questions for one year. (If it helps, you can imagine two years out first.)

This does NOT take a lot of time and effort
I know this can seem tedious, but it’s really not. Compared to the tedium of ending up where you started over and over again, it’s practically a party. Let yourself enter into the spirit of being successful. Remind yourself that this can really work!

From “What?” to “How?”
Here’s a tip worth memorizing. You can’t figure out what you want. You can only get in touch with the truth of it that already exists inside of you. That’s what you’ve been doing so far, and now you are ready to decide how you’re going to get what you want.
Working with a coach or Master Mind group, look at the various ways you can get from where you are to where you want to be at this time next year. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What resources do I have for going where I want to go? This is so important. If you don’t know where you’re going to get the plane and the fuel, you’re never going to get to Paris.
  • What kind of work can I do using those resources? Here’s where you brainstorm the kind of work you will do. (Yes, you are going to need to choose one main focus.) Then think of the kinds of clients you might reach out to (also known as your niche). Finally, imagine the products and services you might offer.
  • Where’s the sweet spot where my resources match the kind of work? If you hate to write, it doesn’t make sense to choose writing ebooks as a source of income. I’m guessing you are already over-qualified, so discard any option that requires you to get additional training.

What’s at stake here is your income, the source of life energy that will support your five year vision. It’s worth making some hard choices.

Nailing down the goals
If you’ve followed the instructions so far, you will have a compelling reason to set goals and choose priorities. You’ll see how you can get to Paris, and you’ll be motivated to file a flight plan and to set aside alternative destinations for another time.
The idea of nailing down some goals isn’t nearly as daunting when you know what you’re creating.
At this stage, the questions are:

  • What are the three most important things for me to focus on in the next six months?
  • What has to happen in those three areas?

Simple, not easy
This is a simple system for setting goals that takes into account your multiple talents and interests. It works very well (I’ve been using it for years. That is, I use it (and it works), then I forget to use it (and it doesn’t work).
Using it is better.
That said, it is vastly more effective to do this work with the support of a mindful community. Other people will see your your gifts more clearly. They’ll also be able to spot patterns of distraction. Earlier I mentioned working with a coach or Master Mind group. Both are wise choices.

You can make someday happen now
If you are pretty much where you were six months ago, it’s likely because your time and attention have been spread all over the place.
It’s not that you haven’t been trying. More likely you’ve been trying too hard on too many things for too short a time.
No matter how creative you are, no matter how many interests you have, you can create a good income in work that engages and delights you.
It begins with a vision supported by specific goals.
Until next week, be well,

Photo credit: Umair Mohsin via Flickr
Under a Creative Commons License