It’s that time of year again when businesses are setting goals for 2017 and individuals start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Never mind that most of the business goals for 2016 have not been realized and far more New Year’s resolutions didn’t even make it to February. We never the less start the same process all over again – somehow expecting different results.

Why is it that the collective “we” accomplish so few of our goals?

Here is what I’ve found:

  • Too much focus on outcome goals over which we have no control and not enough focus on activity goals over which we have total control. Take the goal of getting a promotion, for example. The promotion is an outcome goal and you cannot directly control achieving the goal. Learning specific skills needed to get the promotion are activity goals as is telling your boss that you are interested in a promotion – and totally in your control.
  • Failure to chunk the goal down into what my colleague and friend, Charlene Aldridge, president of My COO Resources calls Doable, Chewable Chunks®. Too often we fail to define the specific actions and behaviors we must implement to achieve the goal.
  • More goals or priorities than we have the resources to feasibly implement. Think about steam focused in one direction that has the power to run a generator versus steam that comes out of your teapot in all directions and has the power to accomplish nothing.
  • The belief that a whole, perfect plan is needed before you can take action. This is a surefire way to never take action at all.

Here are five steps to setting goals that will lead to the results you desire:

  1. Identify your vision or long-term goal and why it is important.
  2. Determine a Priority One that will allow you to achieve the “why” of your long-term goal.
  3. Drill down to the one to three actions you can take or behaviors that you can change right now to move you closer to your goal
  4. Plan for overcoming obstacles and challenges
  5. Define your outcome and activity goals and create a dashboard for tracking.

Below is the framework that I use in my business and with my clients to help them achieve their goals.

Long-term goal or vision: What is your long-term goal or vision (3-5 years or less) and why is it important?

Be sure to define your “why”. This is what keeps you going when you hit those inevitable bumps in the road. It will probably not be precisely quantifiable. A well-known example would be Microsoft’s vision of putting a computer on every desk.

Priority 1: What is the single most important priority that you must focus on right now to achieve your long-term goal or realize your vision?

Typically this is going to be a numerically quantifiable goal, although not always. This is also typically going to be one of your outcome goals. Using the Microsoft example it might be to go from selling x computers to selling y computers this year.

Key Initiative: What is the single most important thing you need to do to achieve your Priority One?

It may not be the only thing you need to do but it should be the single thing that you believe will give you the most leverage. Again this is likely to be quantitative and represent one of your outcome goals. Continuing with the Microsoft example it might be to focus on growing a certain segment of their market that they believe has the most growth potential from x to y.

Critical Issues: What are the 1 to 3 things you have to do/put in place to implement the Key Initiative?

For our hypothetical Microsoft example critical issues might be:

  • Develop a new ad campaign targeted toward the segment where the growth opportunity exists
  • Shore up the sales function for that market segment

Action Steps: What are the 1 to 3 Next Steps for achieving each of the above?

The next steps should be specific actions you and your team can take immediately. When those are completed, identify the next 1 to 3 steps.

Barriers and Obstacles: What barriers and obstacles are you likely to encounter and how can you overcome these if they occur?

By identifying the potential barriers and obstacles and writing down what you will do if they occur they are less likely to derail you.

Dashboard: Develop a dashboard that allows you to track both your outcome goals and activity goals.

Remember by paying attention to the activity goals that you have direct control over you will be driving your outcome goals which you have no direct control over. If you aren’t achieving your outcome goals then you will need to adjust your activity goals.

As you go through this process don’t get hung up on whether something is a vision or a key imitative or a critical issue, etc. The important thing is that you drill down from your big-picture goal to specific actions you and your team can take right now; and that your focus is on completing those actions.

By identifying and measuring a limited number of actions that are directly in your control; your focus is on what you can do today. Those specific actions are driven by your vision or long-term goal. Even though you don’t have a whole, perfect plan in place; you are consistently taking steps towards your long-term goal or vision.

Achieving big goals is like driving on a winding, mountain road in dense fog. You know where you are trying to go; and while you can’t see every twist and turn in the road, you can see far enough ahead to navigate the next curve.