How to succeed the wise way – learn from our mistakes in goals
Goal Buddy is based on our experience. Be aware – all the knowledge and wisdom was acquired and learned the hard way. We weren’t born with a “silver spoon” when it comes to success.
For more than 10 years we were working and, more importantly, making tons of mistakes in goals. We had objectives poorly formulated, or with an an unrealistic timetable and wrong implementation, and often we even took on endeavors that had nothing to do with our true dreams.
Well, at the end it was a blessing in disguise that we’ve been mistaken much and often!
But we are so thankful because now we understand what works and what it takes to lay the foundations of our system. Every “Buddy Law” was born out of, first, failure and then what knowledge we could attain from it. Here are some of the most interesting cases.
We set only one-year goals
When we start turning the pages of out notebooks from years ago a clear trend emerges.
We were making this common mistake for too long – we should have known better than setting only one year deadlines. And the vast majority of them never materialized in anything more than some wishful thinking laid out on paper.
That is literally speaking here…
In Niki’s notebook on the page for the year 2014 most entries were marked with “To be moved for 2015″ and then these got kicked down the road again – “To be moved for 2016″. Sounds familiar?
We asked ourselves why one-year goals are so prone to become a no-go. And the answer was…
“There is no rush”
The problem is precisely that you allocate too much time for something which is reasonably achievable otherwise.
The longer the period the less of this sense of urgency and its positively motivating stress that makes you roll up your sleeves with no delay whatsoever.
That’s why you end up letting things that pop up every week to become a priority at the expense of what’s really important to you.
You are not the only one…
Unfortunately, one-year SMART goals as well as New Year’s Resolutions are widely perceived as “the right way” to do it. This approach is intuitive and thus quite convincing. It all sounded like a good idea at the time…
But it almost inevitably results in one thing only when one day you wake up…
The phenomenon “one December morning…”
There is this discomforting feeling to get up one December morning and realize you got nowhere with your targets for the year. And to add insult to injury you also know that you had the full potential and resources to get everything done. Missed opportunities are the hardest to swallow.
We have been in this vicious cycle for a while before we could break out with the help of this uncomplicated idea:
You don’t have to limit yourself with only one type of goals
We realized the need to break down our bigger objectives into smaller ones that are doable in, for example, less than 12 months.
That was it! We got the first and very important breakthrough, aka the two types of goals – long-term and short-term. We called the first one “vision” and the second one we defined as the 3-month goal.
How will this get it rolling for you?
The 25-year vision gives a clear idea of the direction while the 90-day periods are strategies for getting closer to it. It’s the optimal timeframe that makes the difference here. When you know you have only 3 months you start working without any delay, you are focused and determined to make progress as fast as possible. And that makes perfect sense, right?
Now let’s move onto the second most common blunder.
We were choosing targets well beyond our reach and out of our control
One can be so ridiculous in this! Some examples, such as “My sister getting a new job” and “Neighbors moving out”, are as common as funny. None are realistic but what will transpire instead, and for sure, is the sense of frustration and disappointment.
In fact, behind this lies the understandable drive of active people, not to exclude ourselves here.
For too long we set up goals which were hardly in our reach and this simply because we were itching for something to happen.
Eventually we got it, we saw the obvious – it makes sense to take on those things that we have some control over. In other words, we should always focus on what we can do and stop expecting that doors will open for us just because.
What do we mean?
Ivan: from delegating tasks to personal responsibility
“My brother needs to redesign aula.bg”. It would have been a great goal only if it were something that his brother chose and set up for himself. But it was Ivan’s after all.
We’ll spare you the details of how this project transpired.
After the initial mishaps and the corresponding lessons learned Ivan rephrased with emphasis on his exercising his own managerial responsibility: “To organize and facilitate weekly meetings with the agenda of coming up with a new design for aula.bg.” And then the project was under his control, it was measurable and therefore feasible and most of all it became a success story in the end.
Niki: “The boss told us, ‘Come on, guys!’”
Another example is Niki’s “Implementing a new project management tool in his company”. And that would be great if he were the only employee there. He wouldn’t have to co-ordinate with the other directors, to budget it, to organize deployment and to allocate the time needed for the managers to get used to it. However, that wasn’t the case and he had to go through all of the steps listed. That’s why it took 2 years from start to finish.
After identifying the problem, he outlined (and subsequently executed) a series of short-term intermediate goals such as “Introducing the new Tool to the team”, “Drawing up a proposal for approval of the budget”, etc.
It slowly dawned on him that a goal must depend solely on him alone and that will produce the desired effect. The moral of this story became the basic rule of our system – one should always commit to their own personal actions and not to rely on someone else’s or to fixate exclusively on the end result.
And this is only one of the few examples of sloppy definitions which we want to talk about.
Our goals were ambiguous
A debacle is guaranteed when there is no clear idea at all of what you want. A couple of weeks ago we overheard at the gym the following statement: “I want to look good and beef up a bit.” You can only guess what the meaning of it would be. How would one know when “good” is good enough or “a bit” of muscle isn’t too much… But that’s peanuts compared with this other important question – what’s your plan to get it done?
There is nothing riskier than a fuzzy idea swirling in your head with no means nor the time required for it. It’s quite likely that you’ll give up on an approach that is proven solid, i.e. working with your personal fitness instructor twice a week without the perfect understanding why you are doing it in the first place.
While it is obvious to anyone that an objective must be specific we were no exceptions and had our fair share of misguided intentions. We fell in this trap on more than one occasion.
Niki: “To buy or not to buy…”
Let’s take for example Niki’s “To buy a new apartment”. It was as clear as it gets and yet it turned out to be a tricky one. At first it looks perfectly Okay – it was easy to schedule and included concrete steps but it was, in fact, too general and oriented only towards owning the property. In fact, many people have done it in the very same manner.
If you are facing a choice like that, first become aware of the obstacles waiting for you. Then it is a cake walk – your short-term goals will be aimed at overcoming those.
The answer you need badly is the one to the question “why”. Or to make it a bit more detailed, “Part of what bigger quest this purchase actually is?” It may be a family vision, or an investment or you care about your living space. This will be the pivot point for what you are really looking for. Next, get as many details as possible and try to come up with employable strategies.
As for Niki, his vaguely formulated objective cost him almost 2 years before he can finally split it into several 90-day action goals: “Research different neighborhoods” “Make a list of potential properties matching the preferred size, price, type, etc.”, “Devise a blueprint for financing” and so on.
Ivan’s weight scale
Another poor judgment of ours was to be so preoccupied with result that nothing else mattered.
One of Ivan’s toughest challenges over the years was “to maintain a weight of less than 200 lbs.” Seemingly it was well thought out – it was entirely up to him, clear and easy to plan, it was straightforward… And yet, it didn’t have a “how”. That was crucial – no outline of what he had to do to make a difference.
The turn-around was the wording – “make it a routine to go to the gym 3 times a week regardless of the circumstances.”
And that’s the key! Now the scale reads something that’s a source of pride and confidence instead of disappointment and low self-esteem.
Do not obsess with the result
When we are dying to get something done it is as if the world turns against us blocking it in any way imaginable.
This concept is described in Vadim Zeland’s book “The Space of Variations”. We liked very much the idea that instead of dying to have something you’d better concentrate your efforts on what you do to get it. Or as it is in the saying, “Do what it takes and the hell with the rest!”
You bet we’ve we had more than enough gaffes!
All of our periods were ending on the same day
There is this confusion between the terms “period” and “deadline”. If you try to complete all your three-month goals on the same date then you may very well get in trouble. This invariably leads to overload, extra stress and ultimately you will miss a deadline or two.
Ivan witnessed it on numerous occasions when everyone in the office had to wrap up their projects in the same week and this resulted in a work environment that became too stressful and ultimately unproductive. Everybody was way too busy to assist and help with any of the other projects and as a result everyone’s work suffered. Today things are quite different.
Let’s see how!
Several intermediate deadlines
Ivan already distributes the workload in such a manner that within a given interval every individual task has its own distinct timeframe for completion. For each week there is a project that everyone concentrates on and helps to complete. And then the focus shifts onto the next one. So, a well-done job is consistently guaranteed and employees are not as taxed as much.
It’s no coincidence it is called “deadline”, the best driving force ever. If we can split the goals into specific successive periods then we get some extra energy.
Hence the rule that objectives in all visions are quarterly but not with overlapping deadlines.
We couldn’t estimate timeframes realistically
Bad planning was yet another costly mistake of ours.
A very good example was Niki’s wish to set up a family emergency fund. The idea was to make additional cash contributions for 90 days. This seemed easy to do – it was time oriented, measurable, plus it was tightly linked only to his personal action.
The little stone which overturned the cart was the simple matter of estimation, or how long it would take to save the targeted amount of money. Well, it was four times the expected. The lesson was that 90-day goals provide an excellent opportunity to adjust your tactics when it isn’t quite working out.
And last but not least, we get to the one thing that we want to warn you against most emphatically.
We aimed at things that weren’t truly close to our hearts
The perfect example here is Niki’s intention to trade in the Foreign Exchange Market. The prospect of quick buck was tempting, not to mention that it would have been an easy buck since he was very good at programming an app for it. So, he wrote down “Design an algorithm in a platform that works automatically and only brings in revenue”.
However, making time on a regular basis for this got left for later again and again before it completely dropped out of his list. The issue wasn’t Niki’s vision per se. It was simply the fact that day-trading wasn’t his thing and it didn’t bring him any personal satisfaction or sense of value.
Since then we were extra careful to have goals only when we have a most definitive answer to the “Why” question.
The vision gives clarity, confidence and focus
Therefore you let it lead you.
When you are fully aware of the true reason behind your drive there is much confidence in the chosen path and will feel an additional boost of motivation. Even if you have to go out of your comfort zone and face challenges the good cause will give you the courage to persist.
It’s your turn now
We’ve confessed to the most meaningful blunders of ours but now the ball is in your court. Tell us in the comment field about, let’s say, one of your errors but also try to give us your understanding of what transpired.
Was it a long time ago and you completely forgot about it? Perhaps it happened because of other people? Did you phrase it incorrectly? Or have you overestimated yourself trying to do too much? Or maybe it wasn’t “your thing”?
But who knows, maybe it was completely something else. We’ll be more than glad and happy to help you if the causes for your failure turn out to be elusive.
And do not make this new mistake of not subscribing to our site! There are lots of interesting topics waiting for you. We hope our next encounter will sooner rather than later!
3 thoughts on “How to succeed the wise way – learn from our mistakes in goals”
Thank you. Could you make these articles shorter so that I can definitely find time to read them? My main mistake is probably that I haven’t been setting 90 day goals or found a system to help me set and manage 90 day goals. I like what you said about making the goals very specific and action orientated. I will keep on reading your articles on my mission to create a goal definition and achievement system. Thanks again for the great articles.
thank you for your feedback. We are striving to bring quality at first place and some articles actually get longer. I am happy you find the GoalBuddy System useful.
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