Failing to Define Success is the Best Way to Never Achieve Your Goals

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” — Orison Swett Marden

In 2018 I listened to a total of 39 audiobooks (3 fiction, 36 non-fiction). While I am very proud of my accomplishment, I would be lying if I said it was intentional. 39 just happened to be the number of books I had finished when the year ended. And it wasn’t until I stopped to actually count the titles, that I realized I had never even thought about setting a formal goal around reading (or listening to) books.

To be clear, I am not talking about a Zuckerberg style, “my goal this year is,” declaration from the mountain top. For me, it was a struggle to even recall the last time I jotted some goals down in my journal.

I realized that while I had some big goals in mind, like writing a book and giving a TED Talk, I wasn’t taking the steps necessary to map out how I would actually accomplish them. It was this realization that spurred me to stop the self-sabotage and to make goal setting my top priority this year.

“Why refuse to specify? Because while you are failing to define success (and thereby rendering it impossible) you are also refusing to define failure, to yourself, so that if and when you fail you won’t notice and it won’t hurt. But that won’t work!” — Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos

The ALWAYS4WRD Personal Goal Tracker is my attempt at creating a simple tool that will help people define their goals, set clear deadlines, and outline the incremental steps that will be necessary to accomplish them.

The template includes 10 unique focus areas that should cover just about every aspect of your life from career goals to travel and volunteering. While it might be enticing to try and set 1 or 2 goals in each section, I would recommend starting out with 1 focus area to try it out and get some quick wins.

In the first row of the template you’ll write out the goal that you want to accomplish along with the time frame you want to complete it in. Try to set a realistic deadline with an actual due date.

In this section you will describe why this goal/habit/task has meaning to you and/or is critical to your success.

Use this section to map out the steps you will take to achieve your goal.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson

Even the best plans fail, and this is not the time to be overconfident in your abilities. So take a moment to be honest with yourself and really think through your approach. Is this something that you will actually follow-through on?

Now that you have outlined your main goal use the remaining rows to map out the steps you will take to complete it. Define the day and/or frequency that you will be completing the incremental goal/habit/task and then use the remaining columns to define your plan as described above.

In basic training we were required to have a “Battle Buddy” with us wherever we went on base. Your “Battle Buddy” or “Battle” was the person who was there to look out for you and keep you safe.

With that in mind, let’s take a look a the last row of the ALWAYS4WRD Personal Goal Tracker. This is where you’ll map out your accountability plan by describing how you will review your goal progress. Which includes the frequency along with the people and/or tools you will use. Think of the Review Partner and Review Tool section as the “Battle Buddy” for your goal. Who or what will you use to keep yourself on track?

You can check out an interesting approach to setting a up “virtual accountability partner” here.

Full disclosure, goal setting can be daunting. I can’t tell you how many times I have second guessed myself, doubted my abilities, and questioned my true desires. But, at the end of the day you are in control. So you can either take the steps necessary to specify your goals and define success, or you can continue to just hangout and let life happen to you. Either way it goes, the time is going to pass whether you want it to or not.

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Product Manager | Facilitator | Former Nurse | Army Vet | Always Forward!