The Places You'll Go

What do you want from your business? Are you where you want to be?

Throughout my career, I have struggled with what I want to achieve with my business. And then been frustrated with what I’ve seen as a lack of progress. I have lost a lot of sleep over that simple yet deadly thought: I’m not where I should be.

It’s not due to a lack of passion or perseverance. What I do means so much to me that I want to talk about it and work on it for hours! As for overcoming obstacles, I am strong and will push through anything. So why have I felt that I am not making the grade? I know I’m not alone. Our Mindset Project research indicates that more than 68% of you have had that same feeling – in the dead of night, during a team meeting, or even while your spouse or partner is talking (and you are distracted).

Goals have been held up as the pathway to success. Having goals means you have direction and actually do more than most Harvard Business School grads (only 3% have written goals). People have admired my focus on goals, which I’ve embraced throughout my working life. Yes, I get a lot done but it has not necessarily led me to where I want to go.

Don’t get me wrong – goals help me focus on the things that bring me energy and choose opportunities that are the best fit. Having written goals helps me communicate clearly what I am working toward and hold myself accountable. They also push me to learn and grow. So, what’s not to like about goals? With all of this going for me, why am I still not where I want to be?

Goals may help me take action but I question whether they have consistently led me forward.

Warren Buffet, investor extraordinaire, said we see the real value of goals when they are tied to a central purpose or philosophy. The people who achieve the greatest rewards from their business are those whose goals are aligned with a common focal point - one so meaningful and important that it serves as a guide for life and work. Unfortunately, without a purpose, we often get distracted by lower priority goals.

My purpose is very clear to me now – I want to understand and resolve problems for entrepreneurs – focusing on the person – so they can live healthier lives and build healthier businesses. This matters immensely to me. In the past, I didn’t put myself first, and paid a heavy price with my mental health. You don’t have to and I want to help ensure as many of you as possible find better ways to have both a good business and life. That’s it.

So, I know where I am going and what matters. But still I am distracted by many other goals that I can rationalize as important but, in all honesty, don’t lead me to the real purpose. I go off track and achieve things but then wonder why I haven’t moved the really big rock further. Now it is really apparent to me why I am where I am. As someone famous (but whose name I forget) once said, “you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

Buffet’s approach to purpose and goals is well worth following (he seems to have done okay for himself). He feels there are various levels of goals and too many people are focused on the wrong level or create levels that don’t lead along the same path. Lower level goals are more task-oriented and achieved within a one-year period while mid-level goals are more strategic in nature and take two to three years to achieve. And then there is the big one – the high level goal that takes your lifetime to work on and move toward (and is never completely achieved).

There are five steps to Buffet’s approach to purpose-linked goals:

  1. Be clear about your overall purpose – the one true outcome that you want to achieve in your life. If you were to be known for doing just one thing what would it be? Write this down as it is your gold.
  2. Make a list of all of your goals (most people have 25-30!).
  3. Review the list and take out the ones that are nice to do but not a priority – you can live without following through on them. You are probably now down to about 10 to 12.
  4. Now assess this shorter list to see which ones link to the big goal – your life’s purpose. There are probably 3 or 4 of these (as they are achieved they will be replaced with others that take you further toward your purpose) and all the rest are likely just actions that fit under your main goals.
  5. Place your purpose goal at the center and then list the supporting strategic goals (and actions) that will lead you there. Now you are in sync and your goals will align and move you towards what you want from your business – and life.

Having a purpose to anchor your vision for the future is critical to getting what you want from your business and work. It is not the intensity of effort that matters but the consistency of direction and action. Talent alone is not enough to succeed, you need to be conscientious and want to go somewhere meaningful.

When aligned with a clear purpose, goals increase your confidence, develop your competence, and boost your motivation. And here’s the cool part. You get to be the one who invents what your future will be and how quickly and deliberately you will get there.

So, where will you go?