The number one reason business leaders give for not having a strategic plan and clear set of goals is simply this: They are too busy! I have been one of that 80% of businesses that are just too busy to stop and set goals for themselves. I am sure some of you are the same way. There is this lie we tell ourselves that it is more productive to just keep working as fast as we can, instead of stopping to be intentional about the direction we are headed.
The lie about being too busy actually is often deeper and darker. It goes like this:
If I stop to be strategic, or even slow down, then the entire business will come crashing down - like the house of cards I suspect it is.
Ring any bells?
Rationalizing Our Lack of Goals
We tell ourselves we have goals, even though we race through our days willy nilly. We are grabbing meals on the go, rushing in and out of endless meetings and calls, working long hours, falling into bed and then checking our emails before we even have gotten out of bed. Our goals are to do important things like grow revenue, acquire more clients, hire more people and build a nice cushion for retirement or a safety net. Heck! For some of us the goal is just to keep our heads above water!
The sad truth is that those are not goals. They are objectives. Goals create a vision that is motivating and fulfilling. Objectives focus on the individual, achievable outcomes. Objectives are the concrete deliverables that make the goal come to life. Progress towards them helps measure advancement to reaching the larger end goal.
For example, a goal behind the objective of more revenue is to establish a financial foundation from which you can take more growth-centered and calculated risk. Goals see the longer play, and as a result they become bigger, bolder and more motivating. Not only that, goals are values-based. They are the why behind every action.
What Not Having Goals Costs Us
There is a high price we pay for not slowing down to be strategic, visionary and set goals regularly. We are constantly pumping adrenalin into our bodies, and running on empty – physically, mentally and emotionally. The biggest results are:
1. Lower Productivity: When we are moving too fast to be strategic, we are also compounding errors, making slower decisions, overlooking opportunities, and tend to take on more than we can actually handle effectively.
2. Lack of Focus: If we are unable to stop and assess where we have been it is even more difficult to see where we are going. Everything becomes a blur, with one activity running into the next. This hampers our vision of where we are headed, as well what obstacle might lie ahead.
3. Overwhelm: Being too busy is a vicious cycle that can feel impossible to break. Even when we do stop, we are so depleted we tend to reach for numbing distractions, or feel guilty for having slowed down at all. It feels wrong, somehow, as we are used to doing more.
4. Burnout: When we stay in overwhelm and busyness too long, we quickly run out of our finite energetic resources. Where we were once passionate about what we are doing, now we fantasize about escaping the burden of all the demands. This is not something a vacation can fix, since we return to growing piles of demands our absence created. Why bother to take a vacation!? we ask ourselves. (And you would be half right. Instead, shift your whole approach.)
5. Lost Fulfillment: This is the saddest result of not having goals. We might survive, and even create growth in our business, without stopping to strategize and set inspiring goals. What we will fail to do is thrive. When we don’t thrive, we question why we are doing this, see relationships and missed opportunities wither, and become irritable and quick to frustration.
Creating the Strategic Interruption
We may realize that all this busyness is a very real problem, with equally real consequences, and yet, we cannot seem to be able to find a way to stop the madness. The solution is hiding in plain sight. It exists in what we call “the pattern interrupt.”
1. First, we become aware that the way we are currently operating is a choice, pure and simple. It is based on a belief we have, that to slow down is to fail.
2. Recognizing that stopping entirely is not something we are likely to feel comfortable with initially, we look for a micro-action we are willing to take. This could be spending a few minutes a day, or an hour a week, etc. to shut off all our devices, not answer calls, not scroll through emails, but to think, plan and look at the big picture.
3. We might outsource some of the heavy lifting to a consultant or a coach, to help us build out the details of our vision.
4. Then we begin to measure our actions against our goals and plan – how are they moving us forward (or are they actually taking us in another direction altogether?)
5. Lastly, and most importantly, we embrace the understanding that when we set a goal, a strategy or a plan into motion, it is a living idea. Some things we try will not work the way we had imagined, and we will need to reassess and redirect. That’s how plans work best; by us working them.
All of this may bring up more questions than it answers, which is great. If you want to understand more about how to build a truly inspiring set of goals, a strategy and a plan for your business (or your career) then create the first step in the pattern interrupt, and plan to be present for yourself in the upcoming 5-day Goals & Strategy Challenge. It runs January 3-7, from 11-noon EST each day. I hope to see you there.