The Value and Implementation of Short-term Goals

If you’ve been reading my column regularly, you know I enjoy brisk morning walks up toward South Mountain. I find those walks invigorating and thought-provoking.

Recently, I observed my walking and thinking and started applying my observations to running my business. I could see similarities to my commitment to reaching a certain milestone up the hill a ways to accomplishing goals in my business.

What I discerned in that process seemed quite helpful, so I decided to pass on my observations to motivate you to create more short-term goals.

The long term goal

I have no idea how far it is to the apex of the part of the mountain that is near my home and only a mild desire to ever reach it by foot. (Hats off to the people who walk in the 3-Day Walk for the Cure!) The mountain is a useful visual however to put my actual daily goal which is much closer (1 mile up, 1 mile back), into context.

From a business perspective, if I were actually committed to reaching that summit, that would be akin to a long-term business objective or even a company’s mission.

The short term goal

What struck me on my walk is that each day, as soon as I turn the corner out of my development, I set my eyes on the spot almost a mile away I intend to reach that day. It seems far away at the time, but I know based on my past walks, I can make it in 20 minutes. I keep my goal in mind, but I stop looking at it.

The path

I have a few options of where I’ll walk. As I leave my home, I could walk on the sidewalk or the street. I choose the street because there is little traffic and the asphalt feels better beneath my feet than the sidewalk. Once you know where you’re going in your business, the path will become clear and you may have options

The immediate goal

My perspective then becomes quite close, a couple of steps, 2 – 3 feet in front of me. The value of this shorter-term focus is that it keeps me motivated. Focusing on the next 2 steps is easy! I know I can do that. It’s also quite rewarding because I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction by completing each step.

If I were to keep my eyes on the goal a mile away, I might get discouraged and slow down or even give up. But two steps ahead? I can finish those all day every day.

Focus

When I’m walking on a lot of uneven-sized rocks, the focus is even shorter. Those rocks represent potential obstacles, roadblocks or surprises in your business.When your focus is on the immediate future, you can see and avoid potential dangers before they become problems. I have to navigate the uneven path more carefully because one mis-step on one rock that moves unexpectedly could result in a sprained or twisted ankle (which actually happened about a month ago).

It slowed me down, stopped the walks for a couple of days and required an athletic band for a couple of weeks as it healed.

Distractions

The ‘rocks’ might even be interesting distractions that grab your attention and take your focus off your main goal. Outlook and Facebook can be distractions if you aren’t strategic, purposeful and organized about interacting with them. Taking classes that sound interesting but aren’t critical to your success is a distraction as is taking a class and never implementing what you learn.

Goal recheck

Periodically, I look toward my visual end point. Since I haven’t looked for a while, it looks closer and this makes me happy! I feel progress is happening and it incites me to make more. Focus Then it’s back to looking only 2 – 3 feet ahead. My attention is on form, breathing, making sure I’m keeping my desired pace up.

I’m determined to reach the daily goal in my mind, but my focus is on my immediate behaviors, attitudes and actions that will get me there.

Alert

While I’m focused on my one-step-at-a-time movements, I’m also aware of my surroundings. I enjoy encounters with nature, occasional bunny/jack rabbits, roadrunners, quail, flowering cacti, bird calls, the sun on my body, the wind by my ears. These distractions make the trip enjoyable. They put a smile on my face and spur creativity.

The lesson here is, as you’re pursuing your goals, make sure you smell the roses. If you love what you do, you’ll get pleasure from that. But occasionally, you might need to schedule in some fun to make sure it happens. You know what they say about all work and no play.

Danger

Occasionally, I’ll encounter a car approaching me. If my sights are off in the distance, I’ll see it. Then I play the game of estimating how quickly and at what point we’ll ‘meet’ so I can determine where I’ll step off the asphalt and onto the rocky roadside. In your business, you need to stay alert to incoming objects and anticipate how you’ll deal with them. You may need to adjust your actions and come up with contingency plans. Being alert allows you to anticipate issues before they become problems and avert them before they do damage.

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