Do you have ambitious goals? You probably do, or else you would be reading some other website. But how, exactly, can you bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be? There is a systematic way to go after the things you want, and while I can't promise that all your dreams will come true, I can promise that following this method will bring you closer to reaching them.
Begin by taking a look at your goals, and breaking them into three distinct parts: aspirations, objectives, and challenges. Understanding the difference between these three things (other people may have different words for them) is the first, most important step toward reaching success.
1. Aspirations are your dream goals.
Win a triathlon. Launch a business and bring it to a successful IPO. Make a million dollars this year. Get promoted to a position in the C-suite. You have big dreams and you shouldn't be afraid to dream them. That's what aspirations are. They should be so big that you're embarrassed to say them out loud. (Unless you're my friend and Inc.com colleague Kevin Daum, who had the words "New York Times Bestseller" tattooed on his chest and told the world about it.)
Having outlandishly high aspirations doesn't mean you'll get to exactly the position you dream of. But it does make it likelier. It is possible to achieve goals that are "beyond your wildest dreams," but if you do dream them, your chances of actually getting there are much greater. So go ahead and dream big. You just might reach that impossible goal.
2. Objectives are milestones along the way.
Objectives are stepping stones to your dream goal. Let's say you want to make a million dollars this year. Math tells you you need to make about $84,000 every month to reach that objective. If you haven't made approximately $170,000 so far this year, you will need to adjust your earnings upward for the rest of the year to get there.
Your objective might be to land a big customer, or get a promotion to the next management level from where you are, or to simply finish a triathlon. Whatever you're trying to achieve, your objectives should be attainable and measurable and very specific--you need to be able to know exactly if and when you reach them.
3. Challenges are where the magic happens.
That's because, of these three different aspects of a goal, only challenges are completely within your control. Can you actually win a triathlon? I have no idea. But I do know that you can follow an optimal training regimen for six months, and if you do all the runs and swims and bike rides that it calls for, your odds of completing and winning a triathlon are much greater. Can you really earn $1 million this year--or $84,000 this month? sales calls this month and give yourself a shot at it.Dunno. But you can make 100 (or more)
Setting challenges for yourself is the most important thing you can do to reach your ultimate goals. A challenge should be something that depends solely on you. You can't control how many sales you make, but you can control how many sales calls you make, or how many pitch letters you send out.
Every challenge should come with a deadline for you to complete it, and you should keep track of your progress along the way. So if your challenge is to make 100 sales calls this month, and it's already a week into the month and you haven't made any sales calls, you'll know you need to adjust something.
Try not to be too wedded to whether or not you achieve the outcome your challenge was meant to produce. Let's say it's the last day of the month and you've made your 100 sales calls--but only sold three customers. First, take a little time to celebrate your achievement. You set yourself a difficult challenge, and you succeeded at it, and that's what matters.
Next, consider the valuable data you've just collected. If you were turned down 97 out of 100 times, it may be that you're pitching the wrong customers, or that your pricing is off. Those 97 rejections are going to teach you how to go to market better. And you wouldn't have that information if you hadn't made them.
Set yourself the right challenges, and they'll help you get to your lofty aspirations. So choose your challenges carefully. Then go out and do them.