January is here and with the new year, a chance to start fresh with our goals for 2017. All too often, these goals quickly fall by the wayside and along with that, the growth we were hoping for in our personal and business lives. Here are three subtle but powerful adjustments to improve your goal-setting process for the new year.
Focus on growth, not maintenance
There’s nothing wrong with maintaining important habits and disciplines you already have in place. However, goal-setting should focus on taking a significant step forward or growing in one area of life or another. Perhaps you’ve already established the habit of regular visits to the gym. Your new goal might focus on a new workout routine to take your strength or endurance training to the next level.
From a business standpoint, Chris McChesney, co-author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution, suggests leaders determine their “WIGs.” These are the Wildly Important Goals that help the organization take a giant step toward realizing its vision.
Unlike maintenance tasks, like paying the bills, WIGs are important new initiatives that won’t happen without special attention. Leaders need to ask, “What lives at the corner of what’s really important but won’t happen on its own?” For example, implementing a new customer relationship management system may be wildly important to building your prospective customer base, but is easily be pushed to the back burner in the midst of the daily grind.
Focus on behavior rather than results
In his new book, The Five Thieves of Happiness, John Izzo points out the danger of focusing on the results of our actions rather than the actions themselves. “Happiness is knowing what we can control and accepting what we cannot control,” he writes.
Izzo suggests that the thief of control misleads us to believe we have more control over our lives than we really do. This leads to discontent when things don’t go well, which may tempt us to give up. Instead, we achieve happiness by focusing on what we can control, like our actions and responses to circumstances, and keep moving forward.
As you set 2017 goals, focus attention on the actions and behaviors necessary to achieve the results you desire. If we perform the right actions, we will achieve the right results, even if it takes longer than we expected. For example, increasing revenue by 20% is a worthy goal, but incomplete without including the actions required to get there.
Avoid the letdown
There’s some debate about the value of going public with your goals. On the surface, it seems like a good way of obtaining accountability. However, research by Peter Gollwitzer indicates that when our identity-related goals are noticed by others, we gain a premature sense of accomplishment. In addition, our behavioral intentions for achieving those goals are undermined.
For instance, if I declare that I’m going to become a marathoner (which I’m not), sharing those intentions with others make it less likely that I’ll do what it takes to run a marathon. I experience a social reality condition that makes me feel like a marathoner without the work required to become one.
Similarly, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, authors of The Knowing-Doing Gap, found that companies often substitute talk for action. Important initiatives are unfinished because leaders feel like talking about plans and goals made something happen, without prioritizing implementation.
To counteract these tendencies, attach required action or implementation steps to your goals whenever you talk about them.
Take the following steps to jump start your success in achieving this year’s goals:
- Identify your WIGs, Wildly Important Goals. Focus on 2-3 key initiatives for the first quarter.
- For each goal, prioritize the actions and behaviors you can control over the intended results.
- Be aware of the tendency to let talk substitute for behavior. Reward action, not talk.
Establish a regular review (weekly, monthly, and quarterly) around these steps and enjoy the progress on your 2017 goals!