Barrelling toward failure

Setting goals that align with your vision for business and personal growth

A few years ago, I set a goal to run a marathon by the end of the year. It was a good goal in that with some regular training, it was achievable – even if at the time I could barely run a mile without being winded. I had two young kids – one not yet a year old – and was working in a very demanding corporate role. I was sleep deprived, still holding onto my baby weight, and pushing for my next promotion. And, the thing is, even with all of that going on, running a marathon could still be achievable. But, did I run a marathon? That is a big, fat nope.

Do you feel doomed to fail?  Setting goals that align with your vision is an important first step.  For goals and resolutions to work, we need to base them in WANT vs. SHOULD.
Photo by Kammeran Gonzalez-Keola on Pexels.com

So, what went wrong? And, how can you change the trajectory for yourself personally or your business? In my case, running a marathon wasn’t part of my broader vision. I was used to setting stretch goals and I thought if I set a really lofty goal, I would at least run a few miles every week. In reality, I never really wanted to run a marathon and my own self will saw right through me. What I really wanted was to be healthy again. If I had taken the time to understand that, I might have set a goal that aligned more with my life at the time. The reality was that spending a few hours running a week, let alone in a day, wasn’t going to happen, but a bit of yoga with a toddler climbing on me was very do-able, and a weekly Barre(R) class with my girlfriend very nicely ticked the boxes of having fun, being healthy, and enjoying my social life.

Whether you are looking at goals for your business or from a personal perspective, it’s important to understand your broader vision. Even when I started my consulting agency a few years back, I had a very basic website with a list of all of the things I COULD do (not great marketing I know). By not realising what I really wanted to do and clearly stating that, it made it harder for my prospective clients to find me and it, not only slowed my initial growth, it prevented me from building a business doing what I loved. While I have corrected for that and continue to fine tune as my vision evolves, it made me realise that growth – both personal and financial, requires seeing that long-term view and being truly connected to it. Who will your business be when it grows up? And, where do YOU want to be as it happens?

Here are some common areas we go wrong with resolutions and goals:

  1. Setting goals that are not connected to your broader vision. Look at your goals by envisioning your future. For example, twenty years from now or even fifty years from now, do you see marathon medals in your life? In looking at myself, I wanted more health, more laughter, more time with friends and family, more time working on things that challenged me intellectually and allowed me to connect with others. If you start in this broad space, it allows you to think more critically about the goal your setting. If my long-term vision includes a healthy me, it might mean I choose to run a marathon, or in my case, it might mean taking a smaller step that fit better with my lifestyle knowing that I’m playing a long game. Often goals that are not connected to a broader vision have the word “SHOULD” in front of them. For example: I SHOULD run a marathon vs. I WANT to run a marathon. I SHOULD take on business in this industry vs. I WANT to take on business in this industry. If you can’t substitute the word WANT for SHOULD in your sentence without feeling that tingling feeling in your gut (or feet or where ever it is that your personal “something’s not right here” detector goes off), it’s not part of your broader vision.
  2. Taking on too big of a step to start off. Stretch goals can be great in the right context but can also be highly demotivating if not aligned with your vision and broken into a first step. For example, your vision should be big. Sanofi Pasteur® states that they “work every day so that no one suffers or dies from a vaccine preventable disease.” Amazon®’s vision “is to be earth’s most customer centric company… “. My vision is to help purpose-based leaders and entrepreneurs change the world. However, changing the world overnight feels a bit lofty… Therefore, what’s one small tangible step I can take toward my vision and mission? An example for me was to identify a list of people I wanted to connect with in the first two weeks of starting my business. I cannot help leaders change the world if I’m not working with any of them. Making a list of people to talk to didn’t feel “sexy” but it’s in service of my broader vision and a great first step that can be measured in a relatively short amount of time. What’s one small step you can take toward your broader vision or goal? Build the momentum and go from there. Those first few steps did not immediately translate to my broader vision of changing the world but it was a do-able first step that I could commit to and in service to my broader vision so I felt more compelled to do it.
  3. Not allowing for flexibility/lack of control. This is very much connected to having a broader vision. The thing is no matter how much we plan, things come up that we can’t possible control for (hello Covid-19!). By connecting into a broader long-term vision, you can more easily pivot as you need to reach your goals. For example, when I started my business, I had plans for travel to connect with colleagues and help grow my opportunities. Covid-19 put a bit of a damper on that so I had to rethink my goal. Knowing that my long-term goal was to connect with more people and grow my business, I pivoted to using online means to connect and resorted to zoom coffee chats. It wasn’t quite the same but did it work? Yes. If you know WHY you are setting your goal, you are more likely to follow through and adjust as you need.
  4. Not building in enjoyment. Let’s face it, not everything we do is enjoyable – and sometimes you will have to do things you don’t absolutely love in service of your broader vision. I’ve shared before my not so love of accounting, but the reality is I have to know at least the basics to get things rolling and input at least some information so my accounting software and accountant can do what they need to do! In Katy Milkman’s 2014 study, 29% of participants were more likely to keep exercising when they paired the workout with an audio book that they would only listen to while working out at the gym(1). She showed that by bundling things we enjoy with things that we don’t, we are more likely to continue to do them. I use this concept with my accounting work. I only allow myself to binge on 1980’s pop music while updating my accounting inputs and/or preparing for my accountant during weekdays. What’s something you enjoy that you can pair with your goal to make you WANT to do it?
  5. Not recognising where you are & celebrating. So often, we hit our first goal and look at what we need to do next. We essentially move the goal post. Pausing to celebrate your achievements is critical and one of the things I work on most with my clients. As a high-achiever, I was always looking at what I could do more of, how I could improve things, or where I could be better? The great thing with this kind of thinking is that often you do progress. However, it often comes with a cost. For me, I lived in a very high stress, sleep deprived state, and this often resulted in a struggle to be fully present in all parts of my life. Improvement is great but it’s it’s important to also recognise what you are currently doing and being. When you take time to celebrate your achievement before moving on, it gives you a chance to reset and will allow you to both lead and contribute in broader and more creative ways to both your business and your life in general.

Long story short, the more you understand what you actually want, the more likely you’ll set goals that work for you – that you will achieve.

Your future does not have to be defined in specifics such as the corporate title you want in 5 years. Look at it in broader terms. What do you want more of? What do you want less of? Jot down words. Gather images. Find a way to capture the feelings and things that inspire you in one place. As you grow, so can your vision – and this way you can invite yourself to explore, pivot, and redefine things as you find your own path toward success.

And, remember that if you do “fail,” it’s only a first attempt in learning. What are you noticing about the goal you set? What might need to be different for you to achieve it or how you might you pivot? My failure to run a marathon has not been the defining event of my life but joining a social running club that lets me jog my way toward health has been a game-changer.

If you want help defining your vision and goals for your business or from the broader view of your life, we, at Livthentic, are going to be updating ours the week of January 24th and would love for you to join us. By signing up for our mailing list, we’ll send you daily prompts to help you get started and provide some opportunities to connect and share informally. Or, of course, you can always reach out and schedule a free introduction.

(1) Milkman, Katherine L., Julia A Minson, et al. “Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling,” Manage Sci. 2014 Feb; 60(2): 283–299.

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