How To Set Achievable Goals
Almost exactly a year ago I made a decision that changed my life. I decided that I wanted to be my own boss. I felt trapped and cornered by my full-time job. I needed the money to pay the bills, but working all day seemed meaningless. I needed time to work on my personal goals and dreams, but that time disappeared every day at work. I wanted to find a way to escape from the rat race and work towards a lifestyle of freedom to choose what to do with my time. I also hoped to find a way to make more money in less time. I must admit that I have not reached my original goal of making a million dollars in a year’s time.
When I began my Amazon business, things were looking pretty good. I had no idea that the platform was about to make significant changes that would affect my ability to make money. I realize now that I had no idea what obstacles I would face. It just seemed like a good idea to make a big goal and shoot high.
The trouble with starting something new is that there is no way to know how difficult the obstacles will be. I was entirely new to being an entrepreneur and had never tried to run a business of any kind. I had no experience to prepare me for what was in store.
When setting goals, it is best to start small.
Last week, I went on an awesome hike with my wife to “the waterfall.” The waterfall hike was a favorite for me back in the days when my wife worked nights and slept during the day. I would take the kids out for a hike to the waterfall to keep them out of the house so mom could sleep.
The waterfall was a great hike because it was short and easy. Still, hiking never sounds good at first to the kids. To get them moving, I would take them to the store and let them pick out some snacks. I would then use the snacks as bribes to get them to do the hiking with fewer complaints. We also named some of the landmarks on the trail to make it more fun.
I stopped and pointed to the big mossy rock formations and told my wife, “Look, there’s snack rock!” I showed her the spot where I would stop and let the kids have some snacks. We would climb on the rocks a bit, then head on down the trail to the next snack spot, “breakdown rock.” Breakdown rock is where I remember tears and whining the most. We would have to stop and eat some more snacks to get everyone’s mood back up to make it through the next leg of the hike. By the time we made it to the waterfall, everyone would be in good spirits. The kids would become lost in the wonder of the smooth rocks, water, and beautiful nature. Often we would hike on and find more cool sticks and snack spots. It was a great way to entertain the kids, get some exercise, and enjoy nature all at the same time. All while letting mom sleep in silence.
While hiking with my wife, it occurred to me that the waterfall hike is a good metaphor for the concept I am working on with this article. I realized it also ties in well with what I learned in my recent interview with a famous author.
On the hike with the kids, it helped to set small attainable goals. When the kids got frustrated, we just had to look forward to the next snack spot and forget about the rest. I think we can all use this psychology on our minds when the going gets tough.
In an entrepreneur group on Facebook, my friend Kaylee posted a challenge to write a letter to a hero. After writing a letter to Thomas M. Sterner, I woke up astounded the next day to find his well thought out answers to my questions. Tom is a humble and kind gentleman. He took an hour out of his busy schedule to talk on the phone with me and record an excellent podcast episode.
In his self-published book, “The Practicing Mind,” Tom tells remarkable stories from his personal life. I found his lessons educational and inspiring. He illustrates simple methods for dealing with overwhelming situations. In Tom’s second book, he has a chapter that deals with setting goals using inaccurate data.
As in the case of my million-dollar pipe dream, I had no idea what I was up against, so I set an unrealistic goal. I am not suggesting that you should quit setting goals. In fact, I have enjoyed many small success points in the last year as a result of setting weekly goals. What I have learned is that it is best to set mini-goals that are achievable. Tom Sterner’s system called ‘The Four S’s’ has helped me through some of the hardest times.
Short, Small, Simple and Slow
The idea is to keep it simple.
Suppose you are dealing with a huge problem, like a long arduous hike in the forest. You can give yourself a small goal to make it manageable. To start, try making it to snack rock, where you can have a reward and prepare for the next leg of the journey. Rather than thinking about the whole hike, just keep your eye on each footstep and each breath. You have to glance up from time to time to make sure you are on the right path, but most of the journey is the moment you are currently experiencing. The idea is to enjoy making one movement at a time.
Slow down and take it easy.
My realization after a year of working as an entrepreneur is that it is going to take some time. My friend Michael said that starting a business, as a solo-preneur is “not so much of a sprint as it is a marathon.” His encouraging words remind me that the lessons I learned this year are worth more that money. I have not reached my financial goals, but I have learned lessons that are invaluable.
When I am feeling anxious or stressed, I remember Tom’s advice to slow down. I stop and create a small mini-goal that I can handle. A good rule of thumb is to stick to one or two primary goals per day. I love days where I cross ten or twelve things off my to-do list, yet inevitably there will be the tough days too. On those days one small, short, and simple thing will be enough.
If you are taking on a new venture, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Give yourself plenty of time and take it slow and steady. I highly recommend Thomas M. Sterner’s books. Find his work at this website:
I’m Starting From Scratch Podcast
Give some thought to this method of setting goals. Practice living in the present moment. See it work for you.