a woman standing at the top of a mountain

I’m a dreamer. When I worked for the church part of my specialty was helping ministry groups cast vision and make a plan on how to get there. Now that I’m working in the business world I’m doing much of the same with my clients. I have always had big beautiful dreams and goals and I’m constantly working towards them. My problem for a long time, however, was that no matter what I did, I never seemed to get any closer to accomplishing them. I would say, “I’m gonna do X!” and then send that wish out into the universe hoping it would manifest itself. Spoiler alert, it did not. I came to realize that there is a specific framework you need to follow when planning goals, and if you don’t follow it you aren’t likely to accomplish what you set out to do. Now, this framework in no way guarantees success, but it will drastically increase the likelihood.

1) Set Structured Goals

I first heard of this from Jon Acuff, but have since heard other people speak about it, which makes sense because it works! There are three basic ingredients to a successful goal.

1) the accomplishment
2) the timeline
3) the actions

Let’s start with the accomplishment. This is the thing you actually want to achieve. Whether it’s losing weight, growing your business, or even just getting more followers on Instagram, your accomplishment should be clearly defined. Don’t just say “I’m going to lose weight.” say, “I’m going to lose 20lbs.” That way you have a clear metric by which you can define your success. If you’re growing your business, don’t say, “I’m going to grow my business.” say, “I did $100k in revenue last year, this year I’m going to hit $150k.” Again, that’s a trackable metric. Whatever the goal is, define it in advance so you can have clear benchmarks on your way to achieving it.

Next we have the timeline. How long are you giving yourself to accomplish this goal? Is it one year? 6 months? 5 years? Be specific, and then set up calendar reminders to check in with yourself on how you’re doing with it. Again, this gives you a metric you can track and use to measure your success. Maybe you didn’t lose the 20lbs in 6 months, but you did it in 9. That’s still pretty good, and now, the next time you have a similar goal you can use these metrics to determine how you should act. Which brings us too…

The actions. What steps are you going to take to accomplish your goal? This is another trackable metric you can measure. You tried doing X, it worked really well. You also tried Y, it didn’t work as well. Let’s stop doing Y and focus on X, but we’ll throw in Z and see how that performs. When you pair the actions with the check ins from your timeline, you can have real time measurements and see what strategies you need to adjust or double down on to reach your goal.

2) Set Reasonable Goals

Now, when I say set reasonable goals, I’m not telling you not to dream big. I’m Mr. Dream Big. What I mean is, a really big goal doesn’t just happen, it will require lots of little goals to get you there. You should also have reasonable expectations for your timeline. Getting 100k followers on social probably isn’t feasible within the span of a month (it happens, it’s just not likely). On top of that, you should consider your future goals when planning out your immediate goals. I sometimes coach people on how to pitch to Venture Capitalists and investors, and I always tell them not to take more than they need at the time, because while it will boost your immediate valuation, it will be more difficult to meet the expectations of that valuation, return on your VC’s investment, and raise more money for your next round. Break big goals into smaller goals, and use those as the steps it takes to get there, then apply the three ingredients above to each of those smaller goals.

3) Set up Infrastructure in Advance

Whatever you are hoping to accomplish, you need to start acting as though you’ve already accomplished it. I’m not talking about manifestation through positive thinking, I said earlier that I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. What I’m talking about is preemptively establishing the infrastructure you will need to succeed after the goal is accomplished. Think of it this way, if your goal is to lose weight, you need to start living as a healthier person before you actually get there. You also have to accept the new paradigm of your life, if you start exercising and eating better temporarily as a means to an end and go back to the way you lived before once you hit your goal you will gain the weight back. It’s the same in business. Big businesses operate differently than small businesses. If you want to grow your company you need to establish the infrastructure of a big business before you actually get there, so that when you hit your goal you are well-equipped to keep running the business at that capacity. The same is even true on social media, you need to start posting like you have a big following before you get there. If you find an influencer and go back to their earliest posts, 90% post the same way then as they do now, but with far less engagement. People with large followings know they need to post engaging content often, or they will lose followers, but if they waited to start posting like that until they had a good following they would never have grown their following in the first place. You need to set up the infrastructure you need to keep succeeding before you start your goal.

And there you have it, a near foolproof system for accomplishing your goals. I use this system when I’m coaching a client and so far it’s worked out really well. Start implementing these and then tweet at me to tell me your results (I realize this might take some time, but I look forward to getting some confusing tweets in 6 months to a year and then having to remember that I wrote this.)