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4 Ways to Fail and One Way to Win

Success requires two things: goals and process. The tricky part is how you put those two things together.

Success requires two things: knowing where you're going (goals) and doing things that get you there (process).  There five ways to think about the relationship between goals and process.  Only one, however, actually creates lifelong success.

First, let's review the ways that don't work:

1. Ignore both goals and process. Obviously, this combination is a non-starter. You end up as a couch potato living in your parents' basement.

2. Focus on process and ignore goals. This is the situation with most people who just "have a job."  They know what they need to do each day to get a paycheck.

3. Focus on goals and ignore process. People with goals but no process are energized and ready to be successful, but they take action more or less at random.  As a result, they seldom, if ever, achieve their goals.

4. Focus on both goals and process. You might think this would be a winning combination but it's not, because nobody can focus on two things at once.

For example, suppose your goal is to achieve your first million-dollar sales year.  If you keep thinking about this goal while you're attempting to sell, your customers will sense that you're just trying to make a sale.

Similarly, if you try to set goals while simultaneously thinking about your current process, you'll inevitably come up with weak and uninspiring goals.

In fact, the "million-dollar sales year" mentioned above is that kind of goal; it defines itself within the context of a day-to-day sales job. But does anybody really want a collection of engravings of dead presidents?  I think not.

The One Way to Win

Here's how to make goals and process work together so that it creates lifelong success:

Be inspired by goals then attentive to process.

Let's talk about goals first.  Get somewhere far away from the hurly-burly of work, get yourself in a resourceful state of mind, and then create goals that speak to your heart.

While you're setting those goals, don't think about how you'll do it (process), but how you'll feel when you achieve that goal.  It's this emotion that provides you with the drive to take action.

For example, rather than "to have my first million dollar sales year" you might set a goal like:

"To be so committed, every day, to helping my customers achieve their goals that they will reward me with both lifelong loyalty and more sales than I ever thought possible."

BTW, I've heard a variation of that goal from at least a dozen top salespeople--the ones who regularly break sales records.

Once you've set goals that truly inspire you, review them every morning.  The moment you get up, repeat them aloud with energy and enthusiasm.  Imagine as vividly as you can how wonderful you'll feel when you achieve those goals.

Then let them go, because they've done their job.

When it comes time to take action during the day, keep your attention 100 percent on the process--what you're actually doing.  Use the goals as a touchstone, if you're unsure whether an action fits within the goal, but that's all.

Paying attention to process is exactly how athletes become Olympic competitors.  They have ambitious goals that inspire them to compete, but when they're actually competing, their attention is 100 percent on what they're doing with their mind and body.

I don't know if you've noticed, but when an Olympic athlete actually wins the gold, a look of surprise passes over his or her face. It's like they're awakening from a trance, because their attention has been 100 percent on the process, not the goal.

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Last updated: Jan 3, 2014


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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