When I was heading back from a quick trip last week, I found myself behind a fertilizer truck with a sign on the back that always makes me do a doubletake. “Safety is our goal” it proclaimed.
What’s wrong with this claim?
Since a goal is something we haven’t accomplished yet, the message literally declares that the business is working on safety, but they haven’t reached it yet. That doesn’t seem like something a business should be bragging about.
In fact, I’m not sure that personal and business goals are something that should be publicly shared at all—which is not to say we should abandon setting goals in the first place.
What’s the difference between those who consistently achieve their goals and those who don’t? It’s not the concept that’s at fault; it’s the approach that has a positive or negative impact on results.
When my granddaughter Zoe was four, she and her mother flew to Las Vegas for a visit. As we were leaving the airport, a billboard caught Zoe’s eye. “What is that red bird?” she wanted to know.
I explained that it was an ad for Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. I told her it was a favorite show of mine and thought that was the end of it.
Zoe had a different idea. “Can I see it?” she asked. I told her that when she was a little bit older, I’d be delighted to share it with her.
Every time we were together for the next two years, she’d inquire about “the red bird show.” I sent her a magazine ad for the show which she promptly displayed on the wall of her room.
In July, the time had finally arrived for Zoe’s first encounter with a Cirque show. I was almost as nervous as she was. Would she like it? Had I oversold it?
On our drive to the theater, we listened to the music from Mystere to get in the mood. She seemed a little bored with the unfamiliar tunes. I wondered if I was about to witness a big disappointment.
We took our seats. The lights went down, the music came up and Zoe was spellbound for the next ninety minutes.
On our way out of the theater she asked, “Can we come back tomorrow night?” I laughed and told her that a return visit would have to wait. Nevertheless, the magic of that night lingered on.
A few days later, I was driving Zoe back to her new home in California and put on the Mystere soundtrack again. This time she not only listened, but accurately recalled what was happening during each piece of music.
Then early in August, my daughter called to say that Zoe had decided on her Halloween costume. Did I want to guess what it was? “The red bird?” I ventured.
Of course, I was correct. Little did I realize that Zoe had also decided that I would be the costume designer for this elaborate get-up.
Besides the fact that I’m a pushover for Zoe’s requests, what characteristics of successful goal setting were operating here? More significantly, what can you do to make your goal setting more effective?
Here are four simple things:
1. Set authentic goals that make your heart sing. An authentic goal is not one that is accompanied by thoughts of “this is what I should be doing” or “this is what my parents/teachers/spouse expects me to do.” An authentic goal is aligned with your purpose and passion.
2. Use visual reminders. It’s a noisy, distracting world we live in. Having visual reminders (i.e. Zoe’s Mystere poster) keep our important goals front and center. Create a vision board, carry a talisman, practice creative visualization.
3. Seek help from people who can help. Zoe didn’t waste time asking her parents, other grandparents or friends to take her to the show. I was her Las Vegas connection and she didn’t let me forget it.
4. Celebrate. After weeks of searching for a new home, I finally found my next World Headquarters. When I told my daughter and sister (who had shared the ups and downs of this quest), they both reacted the same way: “How do you want to celebrate?”
The best way to regularly accomplish your goals is to give yourself credit for the things you have already done successfully. Success really does breed success—but only if you notice.