Let me start by clarifying. Goals are important. I'm not saying you shouldn't set them. You absolutely should. Not only should you set them but you should evaluate them regularly. As a matter of fact, I set not only long- and medium-term goals for my company and for my art, but every Monday I set small weekly goals. All that goal setting could be overwhelming. It can also be counter-productive.
Besides, there are only so many reminders and so many life creeds and so many affirmations that I can do. And that is what goals actually are: visions of your future. When you say, "I want to increase company sales by 25%" you are creating a vision of the future of your company. The better you can visualize the more likely you are to make it happen. Being a goal setter puts you ahead of many of your peers.
Is that enough? Not even close!You should do more than just set goals. Especially for your long- and medium-term goals. Let's use the increase in sales as an example. You have set a goal to increase your sales by 25%. Now what? Every day you come in, re-affirm your goals, and do whatever you can to make them come true. Sometimes this works. Again, daily reminders of your goals put them firmly in your vision, and this is a good thing. But there are also downsides. You never really see success because you are always comparing yourself to a better future. You constantly reinvent the wheel using some new idea or technique you read about online. Maybe you just flounder around because the goal is so wonderful but the day-to-day is so blah!
Best thing to do is to figure out HOW you reach your goal. This is not earth-shattering news. In fact, there are people who can tell you how to set goals a lot better than I can. Check out Forbes article from December 2014. Excellent advice!
So, now that you have the goal, you need to develop that plan, or the process that will make it happen. And that process becomes your focus. Instead of coming in every day and reminding yourself that you want to increase 25% in sales and that you've only gone up 7%, you might say, "today I am going to create 1 blog post for my business website, call at least 5 past clients, post 5 value-added entries to your social media accounts, and respond to 3 forum feeds today."
And the next day, this will be your same goal. And the next. And the next. You'll do so because you have determined that this is the way you will increase your sales. And you'll continue following the process until you've made it. There is no frustration that in week 2 you've only increased by 18%. There is no loss of momentum when you learn of a new technique that you can try on day six. You are living through the process.
And every day you complete the process is a successful day. If you forget the goal you'll still have success. In fact, I believe you'll have more success forgetting your goal than if you forgot the process.
Who do you think will be a better musician: the musician that only dreams of playing in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra but practices rarely, the musician that only practices for 8 hours each and every day but rarely thinks about what she wants to do with it, or the musician that does both?