Fast Company

The 10-Minute Exercise That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

Six months ago, I wrote a post about setting your strategic goals for 2012. Whatever process you used to set your annual goals, in January you probably felt pretty good about your potential. You were energized. You saw you could realize your vision.

But six months later, as we approach mid-year, you may now be less sure. You are wondering if you should change (or even abandon) the goals you set out for yourself. You are thinking, “I’m never going to learn Chinese” or “I’ll get that promotion next year instead.”

You are approaching a critical mark, the mid-step, that separates people who make it happen from those who only dream. And what I have found by interviewing people who have achieved great things is interesting. At this critical mid-point, they don’t do what I would expect them to do. They don’t just push on, relentlessly pursuing their vision. Instead, they adjust, reset their strategy, and recreate “strategic clarity” in a way that reenergizes them.

If you do that now, you will be like the marathon runner who rediscovers his legs at mile 13, who starts sliding past the pack as his fellow runners look on exhausted. Call it your second wind, reboot, refresh, whatever you want. But take 10 minutes now to do it. You can download a simple form I created to help you through this process here and see a short video blog about how to do this by going to kaihan.net (click on "Insight and Ideas," then "Video Blog" to watch "Refresh and Reenergize").

First, orient. Review your annual goals and for each assess whether you are on track, ahead, or behind. 

This helps suck out that distracting chatter from your mind. You stop justifying, explaining, avoiding the truth. You are where you are and there is nothing wrong with that. John Boyd, a famous fighter pilot who I consider the Sun Tzu of modern times, identified that this ability to orient ourselves to what is going on quickly, honestly, and coldly is essential to winning.

Second: assess. There are two reasons why you might want to change your plan--either your goal is wrong or your strategy for achieving the goal is wrong. You’ve learned something new over the last six months, so now is the time to incorporate that knowledge into your plan. For each goal answer two questions:

  1. Is this the wrong goal? When you look at the end goal, does it still excite and inspire you? When I did this for myself I realized that my goal of having my own TV show still makes my heart race, so I’m keeping it, but my goal of teaching at a top school (after I earn my PhD) is not exactly right. By December 2012, I probably won’t already be teaching. It’s enough for me just to have secured a teaching position and to know I’ll be starting soon.
  2. Is this the wrong strategy? Maybe your goal is still a good one, but how you achieve the goal is wrong. For example, I am behind in my goals of building my speaking business, but I think the strategy is still right (get more training, get a speakers bureau). I don’t need to change my strategy; I just need to invest more time there. In the area of building a private equity fund, what I’ve come to realize is that I was thinking too narrowly. What I want is access to $100 million so that I can invest in some of these great Outthinkers that I come across. My strategy of building a traditional private equity fund is one way to achieve this, but it’s not the only way. I’ve learned of other structures I could pursue.

Third: reset and recommit. Now you step back and look at your goals. Some you want to change because they are no longer inspiring. Some you want to raise. Some you want to lower. Probably you will find many that you want to keep. For example, I changed “raise $100 million” to “gain access to $100 million” for my fund. I changed “teach at top school” to “sign on to teach at top school” under my PhD line. Finally, recommit to your new goals and start passing up those tired souls huffing and puffing into July.

See you at the finish at line!

[Image: Flickr user Fábio Pinheiro]

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1 Comments

  • David G. Jones

    If you want to reference Sun Tzu (which is actually Ping-fa in Chinese) please ensure that you and your readers understand that the Ping-fa message is about achievement - not about winning. And that achievement is shared. The military has had this wrong for a century. The correct read on Ping-fa is here: 
    http://tinyurl.com/bq5klsn