Posts Tagged goal setting

Reap Rewards Shamelessly

My wife and daughter recently returned from a two-week European vacation, which my daughter earned by achieving a goal we had set together. If you followed her or me on social media, you saw some amazing photos. It was an extravagant, but well-deserved reward that initially made me a little uncomfortable.

It’s not in my nature to concern myself too much about what other people think, but that’s what I did. If I saw the extravagance and indulgence, so did other people. Were we being insensitive to those facing financial and other struggles? Should we have used those resources in other ways? Those worries were fleeting though, as I considered the importance of rewards and what she did to earn the trip.

When my son was being recruited for football, to add extra motivation, my wife and I promised him an African safari, if he landed a full-ride Division One football scholarship. Our theory was that we could fund the trip with the money we planned to spend on his education. Once the first scholarship was offered, talk of Africa began.

My daughter isn’t an athlete, but she is a remarkably driven and focused teenager. Two years behind her brother, she watched how the work he put in earned him a scholarship and a trip, and she vowed to match his success and earn a trip for herself. Lynda and I never doubted her determination, but we knew how difficult it was to earn a full scholarship (one that includes room, board and expenses, in addition to tuition), especially a non-athletic scholarship, so we were skeptical.

We were even more skeptical when her first ACT score came in much lower than it needed to be to qualify for a prestigious scholarship. She, however, was undeterred, and resolved to get a score that better fit her expectations of herself. She studied for the next test religiously, while maintaining a straight-A average in advanced classes. On her second attempt, she cut the gap between her last score and her desired scored in half. In her third attempt, she achieved the same score as the second test. Finally, on the fourth test, after incredible dedication and work, she achieved a qualifying score.

The score qualified her for admission into the Scott Scholars Program – an extremely prestigious program and scholarship – the one she targeted when she set her goal two years earlier. Still, even with a qualifying test score, admission in the Scott Scholars Program is far from guaranteed. Admission also requires an exemplary high school record, including extracurricular activities, and a successful, in-person interview. Just like the test score, Kelly achieved her goals in those areas too, and was admitted into the program just before Christmas.

Rewards can be tremendous motivators, and it’s important that we allow ourselves to enjoy them, especially if we made tremendous sacrifices and exerted uncommon effort to earn them. My wife and I believe that sacrifice and effort are crucial for success. We taught both kids that, in order to live an exceptional life, they needed to perform at an exceptional level and exert exceptional effort. I suspect that both kids would have achieved their goals without the promise of a trip, but the trips reinforced the lesson of exceptional living.

It’s important to reward the effort and achievement for those under our influence and as well as for ourselves. Seeing the smile on my daughter’s face as she experienced an incredible part of the world for the first time drove that point home, and it eased any concerns I might have had about how the trip might be perceived.

Set lofty goals for yourself and attach lofty rewards for their achievement. Doing that will help you live the exceptional life that’s within your grasp.

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Balance Achievements and Enjoyments To Have a Great Year

Over dinner on New Year’s Eve, my family discussed our individual evaluations of 2018. The unfiltered (occasionally brutal) honesty that seems to be part of our shared DNA made for a lively, insightful conversation, and showed a diversity of perspectives around the table.

Rather than simply asking, how was your year, I suggested that we rate our years on a scale from one to ten, with ten being the highest. I didn’t suggest criteria for a ranking, and each of us used something different. The rankings ranged from seven to nine. (I had the highest, but I also had a second glass of wine in front of me.)

The exercise of ranking a year is revealing because it forces you to decide what’s important and to judge how you approached the things that are important to you.

I assessed my year by these criteria (in no particular order): health, time with family and friends, time enjoying hobbies and travel, and my professional performance. Basically, were my achievements in line with my expectations, and did I take the time to enjoy my blessings?

Were my achievements in line with my expectations? This is where I factored in health and professional performance. This is the first year in several where I finished the year in a much better physical state than I did the year before. My progress is mostly related to adopting a keto lifestyle. I had always been faithful in my exercise routine, but 2018 was the year that I decided to do something about my diet. By cutting carbs and incorporating more healthy food, I have lost 25 pounds and vastly reduced the inflammation that was causing me joint pain. The results have encouraged me to make the diet a lifestyle.

Professionally, I was very fortunate. I’m not sure that I worked any harder, but a strong economy and some good breaks yielded a year that beat the rather ambitious goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Since I can’t control the economy or the breaks that helped my year, I’ll likely need to work harder next year to match or exceed those results.

Did I take the time to enjoy my blessings? Too often, we focus strictly on performance when evaluating ourselves. Just as important is taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the blessings of our lives. After all, why work hard professionally and personally, if you’re not going to take the time to enjoy the results? I’m usually pretty good at enjoying life, and this year was no different. Of course, it helps that I have a very supportive family. Hunting was the only area that I neglected this year. I will make more time in 2019 to enjoy this passion.

Though they all had some remarkable achievements in 2018, the three others around the table were more critical of their years. In their evaluations, each of them had emphasized achievements over enjoyments, and they weren’t quite happy with what they achieved. Many of the things that kept them from satisfaction were outside their control, and I suggested that outside, uncontrollable factors should not be part of the evaluation.

A lot will happen in 2019. Some of it will work in our favor, and some of it won’t. Most of it will influence our experiences and results. The challenge is to focus on what we can control, and to take the time to enjoy our blessings. Have a great year.

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What Have You Done?

Most people, unless they are actively searching for a new job, don’t have an updated resume. I hear this several times each day when I contact candidates, and each time, I encourage them to take the time to update their resumes, even if they are not looking for a new job. I believe that the exercise is useful for everyone, even if you are not in the professional world or looking for a job

Creating a resume or updating an existing resume forces you to recall your activities and accomplishments to date. The process shines a spotlight on your blessings and gives you a visual representation of your progress toward your goals.

But what if you’re not a professional?

You don’t have to be a professional to have accomplishments and activities. My long-since-retired in-laws keep track of the countries they have visited. You might keep track of the miles you walked or books you read. That might seem insignificant how, but if you keep track and keep updating, you’ll see the significance.

If you are a professional, having an updated resume will help you respond quickly to opportunities with windows that might be open only a short while. Many people will tell me that they don’t plan to change positions any time soon, if ever. I tell them that their employers might not have the same plans. Management changes. Companies are acquired. Many things can happen that can jeopardize what you see as a secure position.

How to Do It

Resumes of both professionals and non-professionals should begin with a summary about who you are. Mine is: Began as a teacher. Became an entrepreneur with a passion for sales. Occasionally, a motivational speaker. Usually, an innovative, relentless problem-solver. Always, a dedicated father and husband.

The summary, like the opening chapter of a good novel, should inspire the reader to read further. Follow that with a chronology of your positions, starting with the most recent. List your title, where you worked, the dates you worked there and a few of your main duties and accomplishments. The more specific you can be, the better.

This works for non-professionals too. If you don’t have a title or an employer, create one. As an example: retired engineer employed by wife to run errands, mow the lawn and answer the phone. If you’re not using your resume to advance your career, it doesn’t have to be serious. Other information that can be included here are volunteer activities or nice things that you’ve done for others. When you see it on paper, you might be surprised how much good you have done.

Next, list your education, even if it is School of Hard Knocks. Be sure to add any seminars or specific training you received.

Lastly, list your awards and accomplishments. Not everyone can call themselves a Rhodes Scholar, but don’t short-change smaller achievements like the dean’s list or employee of the month awards.

Non-professionals, you can have a little fun with this. If you won a bowling trophy in your 20s, go ahead and list that. If you never won anything, make something up. In my house, I hold the record for continuous hours spent in the basement watching football. Until my son beat my record, I also achieved the longest nap in a recliner.

Maybe it’s because we’re humble or uncomfortable talking about our successes, but too few of us take the time to quantify who we are and what we have done. Consider using these last few weeks of the year to catch up with your activities and accomplishments. If you don’t like what you see, make plans to correct that in the new year. If you are proud of what you have done, do more of it.

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Regret and Resolve – A Different Kind of New Year’s Hangover

Many people wake up a day or two after New Year’s Day with a familiar but different type of hangover. They often experience the same hangover each year at the same time, but do nothing to prevent it. While headaches and upset stomachs are symptoms of alcohol-induced hangovers, the hangover I’m talking about is marked by regret and resolve, and it’s caused by misusing the previous year.

People suffering from this type of hangover call my office seeking a professional change, and they clog up my gym as they seek a physical change. Both happen much more frequently at the beginning of the year and all but disappear by summer. Why is that?

New Year – New Day

Despite the weather in most locales, January is a time of hope and optimism. Many have just spent at least a few moments in introspection through the holidays, and few are completely happy with the results of the past year. The new year represents an opportunity to erase past failures and to make positive changes. That’s what drives people to pick up the phone and call me.

My role as a recruiter, AKA headhunter, is to find my clients the talent they need in order to be successful. This puts me in touch with highly talented and successful people every day of the work week. Most tell me that they’re not interested in a professional change, but I believe that many of them are being dishonest. They might desire a change, but they aren’t ready to commit to one. Often, when are ready to commit to a change, weeks, months or years later, the opportunity I brought to them isn’t available.

Making a change is difficult. Try sitting in a different spot at church or in a classroom or meeting room. Most of us, myself included, don’t want to do it. We sit where we sit, and that is it. Moving from our traditional spot exposes us to uncertainty, and uncertainty is almost always uncomfortable. When we struggle with a discomfort as benign as switching seats, how are we going to do when facing a much more daunting discomfort, like switching jobs? Most of us are going to say that we’re not interested and continue on our not-so-merry way.

When we resist making changes that we think might benefit us, we might successfully avoid discomfort, but we can’t dodge regret. We might condition ourselves to live with regret, but it doesn’t go away without change. Most of us will wait until the discomfort of regret exceeds the discomfort of change before we will commit to change.

The people who call me in January seeking a professional change didn’t just wake up and realize that they needed to do something different in order to achieve their goals; they have likely been contemplating the call for months or maybe even years before they actually pick up the phone. The new year on the calendar simply amplified the discomfort of regret. We shouldn’t have to wait for a new year to create a better situation for ourselves.

Each day represents an opportunity to make positive changes, and there are many more new days than new years. Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution, consider setting a New Day’s Resolution. If you woke up this morning still suffering from the regret hangover, do something today to make tomorrow’s morning better. You won’t regret it.

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Going Back to the Woodlot to Find Success

I cut a lot of firewood when I was a kid. Well, I didn’t actually do the cutting. Because I was too young and clumsy to handle the chainsaw, my job was to carry logs to the truck. These logs ranged in weight from those I could carry with one hand and toss into the truck from a few feet away to those that I rolled to the truck and tried to coax in without smashing my toes. None of them were labeled with their weight, so I didn’t always know if I was strong enough to move the log in front of me, but I always had to try. A scowling father with a revved-up chainsaw cast a pretty large shadow over any self-pity I could muster.

I don’t move logs any more. I move weights around the gym, and they are all marked, so I can stay in my comfort zone. While clearly marked weights are obviously a necessity in the gym, I’ve recently noticed that the convenience of knowing the weight also makes complacency very convenient too. I know what I can lift, so I lift that. When I was lifting logs, I didn’t know what I could lift without trying. In the woodlots, I pushed myself out of necessity. In the gym, I don’t have to push myself, unless I really want to.

I discovered this on a machine designed to work upper back muscles. Someone left the machine without unloading their weights, which is a huge pet peeve of mine, unless, of course, they leave the machine with the exact weight I want. Usually, that doesn’t happen though, and it didn’t happen the other day on that machine. Whoever was there before me left ten more pounds than I wanted on each side. After swearing at the unidentified offender under my breath, I started to take off the extra weight, but then caught myself. Maybe it was time for me to challenge myself with a little extra weight. Maybe God had put on his strength coach hat and wanted me to push myself.

I left the extra weight on the machine and predictably struggled through my sets. Whereas I could regularly hit my rep goals of 10-10-8-8 with my old weight, I struggled to reach half of those reps with each of the four sets. I had invited defeat into my workout, and it was uncomfortable – uncomfortable but not unproductive. Sooner or later, if I keep pushing myself, I expect to handle the extra weight.

As often happens as I daydream between sets, I started thinking about how we face similar challenges in everyday life. Maybe a client or boss expects more effort than we anticipated, yet we proceed stubbornly in our comfort zone, predictably falling short of our potential. Maybe we have the opportunity to volunteer for something new, but decline because we’re not sure if we’re capable of the effort. Maybe a friend or family member needs our time, and we fall short because we don’t want to add any more responsibility to our schedule. When we limit ourselves to our comfort zone, we limit our potential.

I tried to stay in my comfort zone at the beginning of my first sales job, and had predictably poor results. I only wanted to call on prospects who I was fairly certain would buy from me, and I insisted on exhaustive research before I called them. I also wanted to be an expert on my product, so I could dazzle my prospects with my product acumen. Research and product knowledge are important in sales, but not as important as persistence and risk-taking to a new sales rep in a new industry. When you are trying to build your clientele, you want to make as many contacts as you possibly can, establish a rapport and solve their problems with your products.

By researching prospects who never bought from me and spending selling time studying my product, I didn’t make as many contacts as I needed, and I earned many meetings in the sales manager’s office where he would tell me exactly that. Meanwhile I watched colleagues with a tenuous at best knowledge of their prospects and our products hit their goals and cash fat commission checks. Finally, the light went off, and I switched from weight-room mode to woodlot mode, and started lifting logs that could smash my feet. Before long, I was closing deals that I never would have found if I stayed in my comfort zone.

Back in the weight room, I had grown complacent, using my age and physical condition to excuse my sub-par effort. Now, when I encounter an extra, but not unreasonable amount of weight on a machine, I accept the challenge. This means I fail a lot more, but I know that I’ll benefit from the challenge, if I don’t give up.

Try that the next time your comfort zone is challenged. Lift that log, even if it might smash your toes. It’s the only way you’ll grow.

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Where’s my name?

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All-state, all-conference, all-district, all-American . . . as sports seasons draw to a close, recognition lists start to appear. The recognition is great for those who receive it, but what about those whose names don’t appear on the lists?

That happened to my son last year. He had a great football season – better than his sophomore season when he received honorable mention, but his name rose no higher during his junior season. Naturally, we looked at the list of honorees, and just as naturally, we felt he belonged. It was frustrating and heart-breaking, but just like all of the other frustrating and heart-breaking experiences of the past couple of years, it taught us a lot.

Most of all, it taught us how to deal positively with disappointment, which is important, because disappointment is part of life. This is especially true if you challenge yourself with risks. The higher you reach, the more you expose yourself to a gut punch like disappointment.

For athletes:

First, you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. Voters often have limited data when they make their selections, and they rely on what others have said about your performance. That can be your coach, an opposing coach or the media, and they all have biases, even though most try really hard to suppress those biases. Furthermore, inclusion on many of the lists is dependent on your team’s success. The better a team does, the more players are included in post-season honors, but even that has a limit. Voters are reluctant to include too many from a single team or even a single region, so if you are in the shadows of super-stars, it’s hard to shine. This is even more challenging for underclassmen, as seniority seems to figure in the calculations. Sometimes, those factors work in your favor, and sometimes, they work against you.

Second, it probably doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. My son feared that a lack of all-state recognition during his junior season would hurt his college recruiting in the following year. It didn’t. We can’t recall a single instance where it was even mentioned. Recruiters don’t rely on others to do their evaluations, and things turned out just fine for my son when the recruiters had a chance to do their own evaluation of him. Plus, not everyone pays attention to sports news. Everyone who appreciated your performance still appreciates your performance.

You are not alone. Hundreds of athletes felt slighted when they saw the lists, and many were justified in that feeling. Not every deserving athlete will be included. In fact, there are probably better athletes than you who were left off the list.

For the rest of us:

Throughout life, you are going to be evaluated and compared to others. Sometimes, you’re going to get that promotion, and other times, it’s going to go to the guy down the hall. Often, you can’t control that. The one thing you can control is your reaction.

Don’t let rejection get you down. Your peers and key decision-makers are watching your reaction. Be gracious, and then be silent in your resolve to prove that you belong. Now, when the iron is hot, is the time to make your mark.

Do an honest self-evaluation, once the pity and frustration subside. You might not be able to be objective immediately after disappointing news. When you can be objective, look for areas for personal growth. No matter where you are in life, there is always room for growth. Become a master at evaluating yourself. It’s never a good idea to leave evaluation to those who don’t know your potential.

Set goals for yourself. Write them down. Hold yourself accountable and celebrate your successes in reaching them. Goals affirm your progress, and unlike outside evaluations, you have complete control of them.

The mood in our house was markedly better this year when the football post-season awards were announced, but we know that last year’s disappointment won’t be the last. Next time, though, we’ll be better prepared to turn it into a positive. That we can control.

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Visuals Are the Guideposts of Dreams

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After my sophomore year of college, I set a goal to graduate magna cum laude. I had done the math, and figured out that I could make it if I did everything right. To remind myself of that goal, I created a big sign saying “MAGNA CUM LAUDE” and hung it over my desk. When I was tempted to take a shortcut or not work as hard as I should, the sign reminded me of my goal.

I wish I could say that I achieved that goal, but an over-ambitious 21-credit-hour semester knocked me off track. I earned six A’s and one C+ that semester. Damned poetry class! I still remember the disheartening experience of calculating my maximum GPA after that semester and learning that magna cum laude was mathematically impossible, even if I earned A’s in my remaining classes. However, instead of giving up, I took the sign down and used a pair of scissors to create a sign that said “CUM LAUDE.”

* Magna cum laude was a GPA of 3.7-3.8. Cum laude was 3.6-3.7.

My daughter’s bulletin board, pictured above, reminded me of that sign and how visuals motivate the efforts necessary to achieve goals. Seeing our goals on paper flips a switch in our brains that paints a picture of the goal and a path to it. Through this mental exercise, we actually project ourselves to the place we want to be, and because we were there once in our minds, we know where we’re going. That’s why it’s easier to drive to familiar locations than it is to go some place new to us.

In an oft-cited study, Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor of psychology at Dominican University in California, found that goal-seekers are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals when they write them down. You don’t have to create a sign, like my daughter and I did; you just need to put pen to paper.

Writing your goals makes them much more tangible than just thinking about them. While it’s still important to mentally visualize your goals; physically seeing them reinforces that visual. Goals kept in solitary mental confinement can get lost in everyday clutter, like worry and doubt. When goals are isolated in our thoughts, issues, both pressing and otherwise, can shove their way past the goal, until it is simply forgotten or conscientiously abandoned. That’s usually how many New Year’s resolutions die. We want to drop those extra 15 pounds, but paying the bills takes precedence over diet and exercise.

When a goal is in your head AND in front of your eyes, it’s much more difficult to neglect or ignore than when it’s kept secretly in your mind, but writing it down is just the first step. Place the written goal in a spot that can’t be ignored, like the corner of your computer monitor or on the mirror you stare into at the beginning and end of each day. The more times you see that goal, the stronger the image your mind creates around it.

You can also take it a step further by sharing your goals with other people, creating an accountability contingent that will ask you about your progress. Before long, you’ll become known as the guy who wants to run a marathon or the girl who wants to own a restaurant. It takes some guts to put yourself out there like that, but courage is an important part of successful goal pursuit, and it’s helpful to have others supporting you.

I did graduate cum laude, though it came down to the very end, and I barely made it. I was so close that I am convinced that, without that sign, as altered as it might have been, I wouldn’t have achieved my goal.

Try writing down a goal that is important to you. If it’s that important, it’s worth writing down. Even if you have to get out the scissors and modify it later, you’ll be closer than you would have been otherwise.

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