Setting Goals vs. Achieving Them: Two Very Different Things

Setting goals is the easy part. Following through with them? Not so much. There are so many articles these days about goal setting for the future, how important it is, and how rewarding it can feel. But the advice stops there. When it comes time to really talk about following up with your goals and detailing how to plan to achieve them, those advice givers are nowhere to be found.

Here’s a classic example many of us have found ourselves in. It’s the end of December, you’ve eaten more cookies and candies in the past month than you have all year. You’ve had four course meals with your family, friends, and in-laws (sometimes on the same day), and by the end of it, you feel like beached whale. So naturally, your New Year’s resolution? Join a gym, lose all that weight you gained, and live a healthier lifestyle.

For many years I had this resolution set for myself, and even created action plans to ensure my success. However, at the end of the year, I found myself at the same weight, because my problem was that I didn’t follow through with my plan. How did I overcome this?

I broke down my goals into small chunks and created an action plan for each, and I set several small goals leading up to the ultimate one. My weight loss goal become three smaller goals: go to the gym twice a week, attend spin class three times a week, and spend several hours on the weekend meal planning and prepping for my week ahead.

Pro Tip: WRITE IT DOWN! I did more than think about these things, or have a vague idea of my weekly schedule in my head. Visualizing goals by setting timelines and itineraries for yourself can be a very helpful guide to keep you on track. I created a calendar and checklist that I began reviewing as part of my nighttime routine to confirm I’d accomplished my plans for that day. I stuck firmly to my plan and schedule. Before I knew it, it was December again, and I had achieved my goal.

So how does a New Year’s Resolution for weight loss tie into business? Well, the goal may be different, but the execution is the same.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a goal to increase your profits by 10% year over year.

How do you figure out how you can make this happen and create an action plan? You have to take a look at your numbers. A good place to start is by looking at your sales and profits by month. Once you have that information, begin planning how you’ll adjust these revenue and cost elements. Calculate how many items you need to sell and at what price in order to meet your 10% increase. Chunk down your year-long goal into 12 monthly goals. Determine if any of your current costs can be optimized, automated, or outsourced. If outsourcing, delegate appropriately and be clear about your targets and timelines. A word of caution: assigning your reliable employees tasks can take a lot off your plate, but don’t lose sight of your original goal. Check in and follow up often.

Great! You have created an action plan. Now the fun part: following up.

Just as in my weight loss example, making sure to have these goals documented is vital to your success. You’ll want to be able to look back and compare your progress to earlier months (it can also feel rewarding and motivating when you can see your improvement on paper). Create daily/weekly/monthly reports on your progress and receive feedback from your team. Additionally, set up frequent meetings with them to check your pace and milestones. If you find any deviation from your monthly goals, adjust for the change in future months. Do this consistently and with determination, and you will achieve your goals.

Don’t give up! If your objective seems overwhelming, don’t be afraid to it chunk down into bite-sized accomplishments. They add up fast! If your action plan needs adjusting, don’t feel like it’s set in stone. Make changes where ever necessary.

Now, while you go write out your action plan, I’ve got spin class!