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Goals Setting Obstacles

Posted by Matt Nagler, Managing Partner  

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As we approach the end of the year, it’s likely that you are thinking of goal setting for 2017. To you and I it seems like an obvious thing to do. Your boss may have asked her employees to do it, you may be setting goals for other people in your team, your stakeholders may want to know what to look for next year, maybe it’s your own intrinsic motivation. But goal setting theory, the idea that action is purposeful and that having specific goals affects performance by increasing motivation, is only about 50 years old. That theory can take days to explain. Or it can take seconds: goals should be clear and measureable, challenging but realistic, there needs to be commitment to the goals by everyone involved in the process and there should be a method for regular feedback. But what is less clear is *how* we decide on those goals and what the main obstacles are that get in the way of really challenging ourselves to greatness.


The first challenge tends to be all the reasons that pop up in your head telling why you shouldn’t try that hard. A significant goal increase isn’t worth it is what this internal voice tells you - the market is already saturated, you’ll have to work too hard, you’d need more sales reps. This voice may be telling you that the goal isn’t worth the time, it may be saying that it’s not achievable. Before you decide to lowball yourself, take a minute and listen to these considerations. Hearing what’s unconsciously holding you back allows you to brainstorm solutions and move forward. Yes, maybe you’ll have to hire more sales reps. But your goal is growth and you’ve been looking for a good time to beef up the training program. Sure, you have good competitors, but what are some ways you can challenge yourself to stand out from the crowd. Answering these questions will not only let you set good goals, but will also put you on the path to achieving them


Once you’ve moved on from outside considerations, fear may kick in. That number is way too high...What if I fail? What if my co-workers resent me? What if… Sometimes, fear just is. And when you’re looking at a big, end-of-year numbers, it can be overwhelming. So first, acknowledge the fear. It’s absolutely normal and everyone has had the same thoughts. Talk to your mentor or someone whose trajectory you respect and ask if they’ve ever felt the same thing. I can promise you they have. The difference between them and someone who is setting low goals is that they don’t let that fear hold them back. Second, look at it as a set of 365 smaller steps instead of one big one. The achieving is in the doing, so take it one action at a time. Third, flip the question. What if I succeed? What if I inspire my co-workers? What if these goals need to be more challenging not less?


What we’ve talked about to this point are internal stop signs. What about external ones? That you’re pretty sure your top salesperson is going to leave next year. That your department is going to merge with another and you don’t know what the end result will be. You never know what obstacles will end up in your path; they may be things you expected or they may be things you never saw coming. So yes, easier goals will set you up to succeed even with the obstacles that life presents. But challenging yourself will give you more motivation to move around those obstacles, to be more creative and passionate and ultimately, more successful.