5 secrets to setting and achieving your goals

April 1, 2022
When you commit to setting goals the right way, you will be more likely to act to achieve them

It was the first week of January, and the gym was packed. It was hard to get a machine. It was hard to find room to work out.

People were starting their year off on the right foot, but now it's later in the year, and the gym crowd is thinning out. Why does this happen? Most people create resolutions instead of goals.

A resolution is a firm decision to do something. For example, you've decided that you're going to lose weight, that you're going to work out, or that you're going to read the rest of this article. These are merely decisions until you do them. There's a big difference between deciding to do something and doing what you decided. When you commit to setting goals the right way, you will be more likely to act and less likely to forget about what you "decided" to do. 

The below are five secrets to setting and achieving your goals.

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1. Fast forward to the future

Imagine that you have time-traveled exactly one year into the future. You're talking with your business partner or spouse, and you say, "We did it! This was the best year ever!"

What did you do? What are three to five accomplishments that would make you feel like you had your best year ever? Here are the five most common answers that I hear from shop owners: 

  • We paid off that line of credit.
  • We grossed $2.5 million in revenue.
  • We hired my replacement in the business.
  • We added a second location.
  • We took that vacation trip that we always talked about.

What specific accomplishments would make your future list? You should include whatever you say next on your list of goals. It's harder to see your future when your focus is limited to the present. Fast-forwarding shifts your perspective and helps you gain clarity on what you really want.

2. Get specific

I have a weird scheduling habit when planning Zoom meetings with the shops that I coach. I schedule them to start at 2:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time! Why do I start six minutes after the hour when everyone else starts right on the hour? I do this because 2 p.m. means different things to different people. For those who have a military background, 2 p.m. means 1:55 p.m. For others who prefer to be fashionably late, 2 p.m. means "2-ish," and they will arrive within five minutes. But 2:06 p.m. is specific. There is no gray area or wiggle room. So, I challenge you to remove the gray area and wiggle room from your goals!

For example, setting a goal to "make more money" is vague. Do you want an extra penny, a dollar, or an extra hundred dollars? There's a lot of wiggle room!

On the other hand, setting a goal to generate an additional $100,000 in net profit by Dec. 31 is clear and specific. Setting clear and specific goals will inspire you to take clear and specific actions. Getting specific can get you to your destination ahead of schedule. Being vague and failing to establish a due date will leave you feeling like you are fashionably late for the opportunity of your dreams.

3. Set stretch goals

Okay, here is where you and I may disagree. The common thought is that you must be "realistic" when setting goals. Most people are afraid to stretch because falling short will make them feel like failures and losers. Have you ever felt like "most people?" Here's what "the experts" don't tell you about goal setting:

You may come up a little short on many of the targets you set. The key is to aim high enough with your goals,  so that even if you do fall short, you're still winning!

For example, I coach a shop owner named Helen, who finished last year with $1.8 million in revenue. Her initial goal for this year was to do $2 million.

"I would like to do $2 million in revenue, coach, but I would love to do $2.5 million," Helen said.

We agreed to set a stretch goal of $2.7 million. If she falls short and finishes the year at $2.5 million, she's still winning.

Focusing on a larger outcome will force you to stretch to become a larger person. It will require reading more books, listening to more podcasts, taking more classes, and engaging more with your 20 group members. Helen will have to become a better version of herself to achieve the 2.7-million-dollar goal. If you can achieve your current goals without having to get better, you aren't aiming high enough.

4. Include family-related goals

In 1974, singer and songwriter Harry Chapin released the number 1 hit song "Cat's in The Cradle." In the song, Chapin reflects on a time when his son was 10-years-old and wanted to throw the ball around with him in the yard. Chapin responded by telling his son, "I'm too busy with stuff at work, but I'll catch up with you later." The son replies with a smile, "I'm going to be just like you, dad."

Later in life, the dad is now retired and wants to spend time with the son.

"Hey, son, I haven't seen you for a while; let's catch up," the dad says. The son replies, "Dad, I'd love to, but I'm having a hard time at work, and the kids have the flu, but it's sure nice talking to you." As the dad hangs up the phone, he realizes: "My son is just like me."

"The Cat's in The Cradle" reminds us that we should prioritize time with our loved ones while we are still a top priority to them. Of course, it's good to have goals in the areas of gross profit, net profit, hiring, and sales, but do you have any goals to make your family more of a priority? I must confess that I haven't always been good at this. As your typical type "A" personality, my natural tendency is to put the blinders on and focus on work, but this year, my family-related goal is to schedule a minimum of three family activities per month on my calendar. 

Each month, I will have a date night with my wife, daddy-daughter day with my daughter, and my son and I will schedule to watch professional wrestling! I use a special goal-setting worksheet to notate both my professional and personal goals. You can access it by clicking on the link at the top of this article. Using this worksheet can help you deal with those Cat's in The Cradle!

5. Make your goals visible

Several Januarys ago, I had a coaching call with a shop owner named Sam. We discussed his goals for the coming year, and he was excited.

A month later, I asked him again, "Sam, how are you progressing with your goals?" to which he replied, "What were my goals again? I wrote them down on a sheet of paper that's at home in the shed!"

Since this encounter, I've learned to stress the importance of making your goals visible.

Having your goals taped to your main computer screen or having them as the screen saver on your smartphone are two methods that work well. Always keep your goals in a visible place where you are forced to look at them every day. Your mind is like an internet algorithm in that you will see more examples of whatever you are focused on. For example, if you are surfing the internet with a focus on cat videos, the internet will recommend more cat videos for you to watch!

Likewise, if you are focused on your goals, your mind will recommend more people and situations aligned with what you want to achieve. The following question will confirm if you have made your goals visible. You always have a detailed and updated answer to the question, "How are you doing with your goals?" If your answer is, "The goal sheet is at home in the shed," — it's time to make your goals visible.

So, there you have it. It's been said that the heaviest weight at the gym is the front door. If you commit to implementing the five secrets to setting and achieving your goals, you will open the door to the gym,  and everything else you want in life.

About the Author

Eric M. Twiggs

Eric Twiggs, the Accountability Coach, is an executive coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Twiggs came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left. ATI's 34 full-time, certified coaches have helped ATI's members earn over $2.5 billion in return on their coaching investment since ATI was founded.

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