Just about every business success book I have ever read claims that you need to set high goals. “Make your goals ambitious,” one book advises. “Always be reaching for the stars!” says another.
For example, as a self-employed professionals, one of your goals might be to increase your income by 50%, or land a new F-500 client, or double your productivity.
What if you just kept doing what you’re doing now? Wouldn’t the momentum you’ve already created in your business naturally take you where you want to go — without the added oomph (and stress) that comes from pursuing an ambitious goal?
Here is an exercise that was recommended to me a few years ago by Harold Taylor, a time management expert.
Make two lists.
On List #1, write down where you will be in five years if you just kept doing what you’re doing now and didn’t set any particularly challenging goals.
If you’re a copywriter, for example, you would expect your income to increase 15-20% over that time period simply because you’ll be gaining more experience, becoming more business savvy, writing better, quoting better, and attracting better paying clients. No goals required. Just keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get there.
Now on List #2, write down where you WANT to be in five years. How much money do you want to be making? How many hours per week do you want to be working? What sort of clients do you want to be working with?
Now take a cold, hard look at both lists.
Ask yourself: Am I on the right track? Or is there a serious gap between where I want to be versus where I’m going?
Let’s say list #1 indicates that in five years your income will be 15% higher, and list #2 says the same thing — that you want that increase in income. If that’s the case, then you really don’t need to set any big goals. Just keep on truckin’!
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. You still need to plan. You still need to be always improving ever aspect of your business. But what you won’t need is a series of Herculean objectives. The road you’re already on, and the pace you’re traveling on it, will naturally take you where you want to go.
But what if List #2 indicates that you want to double your income? Or work 30% fewer hours per week but make the same income? Or break into a new niche market or specialty? If any of those are the case, then you’re going to need to make some significant course corrections, changes and improvements.
In other words, you’re going to need to set some ambitious GOALS.
Goals aren’t easy. They take a lot of work. You can expect to put in many extra hours, learn new things, deal with setbacks, face discouragement and lack of motivation, and much more.
But I can tell you that, based on my own experience, working toward your goals –even if you fall short of achieving them — is worth the effort.
I’d much rather work hard to get where I want to be, and not make it, then coast to a place I don’t want to be, and get there.
So try that technique. Make those two lists. Compare them. And if you see there’s a gap, then you know you need to set an ambitious goal to get to where you want to be in your business.