Small-business columnist Rhonda Abrams shares tips on actively pursuing success -- in business and in your personal life.
All of us have things we want to accomplish. In business, it might be reaching a new level of sales, launching a new product, opening another location. Personally, we might want to buy a new home, lose weight, start or end a relationship. We have the best of intentions and highest of hopes, but all too often, time seems to just slip away, and pretty soon a year -- or two or three -- has passed, and nothing much has changed.
We know where we want to go, but we don't know how to get there from where we are now. So we stay put. Instead, remember Rhonda's Rule: "If you want something, you also have to do something."
You can't just drift to success; you have to actively move toward it. Action, of course, requires change and change is never easy. The key is to get going:
1. Set a goal. This is harder than it looks. Here's why. Generally, we have an idea of what we'd like -- to be more successful, healthier, happier -- but we stop there. We're vague about what that really means. Vague desires aren't goals; they're dreams. Remember Rhonda's Rule: "You can't reach a goal you haven't set."
2. Understand and accept the trade-offs. Every goal has some aspects that are unpleasant. Identify those aspects that are clearly good "I want to make more money" from those that are less good "I have to work harder." Early on in your goal-setting phase, understand the downsides and accept them as necessary to the process.
3. Commit to your goal. Being ambivalent is disastrous. Recognize that you really do want to make a change. Success does not come from -- or to -- wishy-washy people. There's a Chinese saying I like: "In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don't wobble."
4. Set a deadline. Deadlines give goals a framework for action. You can't reach a goal without a meaningful deadline.
5. Commit to the deadline. Sensing a theme here? Commitment is critical for making changes. If, in your own mind, the deadline is merely a fuzzy hope, then it's not really a deadline. You've got to know you have only a limited period of time.
6. Tell people. Make your goal as real and as tangible as possible by sharing it with others. Say it out loud and put it on paper. Often. Engage others who are involved or affected. Make your goals a current part of your life.
7. Outline the intermediate steps. Things don't go from here to there without passing through some middle territory. Other things have to happen. What are those? Concentrate on things that are truly essential to making the specific goal happen -- not grandiose schemes. In other words, if you want to start a catering business, you don't need to build a whole commercial kitchen before you get your first client. It's easier to take many small steps than one big leap.
8. Get help. Since we have to do things that are new to us, we're clearly inexperienced. If you want to open a new market, you need people who know about that market. If you want to communicate differently, you need someone to help you learn new communication skills. Often, it's best to get professional help, but even friends or colleagues can assist. On your journey to your new goal, you don't have to make the trip alone.
9. Take action. Soon! Resolve slips -- and then time goes by. Since you've defined intermediate steps, taking action should seem less daunting than if you think you have to achieve the whole shebang tomorrow. Take the first step now. The sooner you do, the more likely you are to achieve your ultimate goal -- ever.
10. Commit again. And again. And again. For changes to occur, you have to embrace them over and over. Old habits die hard. Old needs -- however unproductive -- can push aside new goals. Every morning while showering or walking, remind yourself of what you want to achieve. Take it step by step -- but keep moving forward -- and a year from now, you'll find you actually have moved from here to there.
Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Organizer, Wear Clean Underwear, and The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. To receive Rhonda's free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com.