Updated: Jul 1, 2021
WTF your Goals. S. Childs
I have been helping people set and achieve goals for over 25 years and one thing I have learned is that people are terrible at setting realistic goals and even worse at committing to what it takes to achieve them. Let’s take New Year’s Resolutions for an example. Researchers say only about 60 percent of us make New Year's resolutions and to make things worse, only about 8 percent are successful in achieving them. Those are horrific statistics. We have all fallen into the 92% of un-achievers at some point and most of us do every single year, if you believe the research. So what can you do to change these statistics?
I launched a Goal Achieving Model in an October Forbes Article titled “What The ...? Three New Steps to Achieving Your Most Audacious Goals”. I call it the WTF of Goal Achieving. The comments I have received over the model have been overwhelmingly positive due to how sticky and simple it is. The NeuroLeadership Institute’s research on creating brain-friendly leadership models has found this stickiness to be essential to learning and using any model. According to their data, organizations whose models burden a person’s brain with complexity almost ensure the models will go unused. Meanwhile, models that “stuck” in people’s minds were more likely to be used on a regular basis. I get people e-mailing and texting me “WTF” all the time. Sometimes it is just a shout out across the parking lot of “WTF Baby”. It could be that people just like saying WTF to the HR guy; either way it is very sticky.
My HR friendly version of the WTF acronym more fully translates into: “Want it with a passion, Think about it often, and Focus on the actions needed to make it happen.” By changing your behaviors and habits, you can dramatically increase the odds of achieving the most important things you want out of life. The model seems simple enough but the key to making the model work is having a process for each of the three areas above and then making sure that you use them.
Setting your goals
“The people who get things done, who lead, who grow, and who make an impact… those people have goals.” Seth Godin.
First, you need to decide on your goals. Before you do, you should set some new guidelines. If you want to change your life, you’re going to have to come up with some audacious goals you are passionate about and make sure you have tools to achieve them. What do you want? What’s going to be different for you? What do you want to change in your life? When setting your goals, you need to make sure you don’t set yourself up to fail. We have few hours in a day and a limited number of things we can put a high level of effort and passion towards, so you need to narrow your focus to only a small number of important goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Everyone knows you need to set realistic goals, but the fact is most people don’t. For example, you can’t set a goal of running a marathon if your schedule will not allow for the many of hours needed to train. Most marathon training plans range from 12 to 20 weeks. Beginning marathoners should aim to build their weekly mileage up to 50 miles over the four months leading up to race day. If you have running or exercise goals, try setting incremental goals like a 5k by April, a 15K by August and so on. Set your goals high enough to inspire you but not so high that it discourages you. In the business planning process, you would use something like the SMART goalsetting process to help you set goals for yourself or your team. Why not use this method for your personal goals as well? Be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Want it with a passion.
Having a passion for something is half of the battle. I see a lot of conflicting research on this but doing something you love always get more attention than doing something you hate. I love this quote I read from Tony Robbins on setting goals. He says “Come up with a vision of something that you’re driven by, and then come up with strong enough reasons to figure out the how. But if you start with the how, it’ll be overwhelming.” That is why the first part of the WTF Model is “Want it with a passion”. If you want to stay out of the 8% above, make sure that you set goals that you really have a passion for or there is a good enough reason that you need to achieve the goal that you will find the how. Sometimes you will have to set a goal that doesn’t set your heart on fire (required by work or needed due to a circumstance) and the rest of the WTF model will help you achieve it.
Think about it often.
I don’t care how passionate you are, I don’t care how enthusiastic you are, it’s very hard to achieve an audacious goal if you don’t put that goal in front of you every day. They say your energy goes where attention flows. It is critical that you think about your goals every day. A quote by Mark Victor Hansen goes, “You control your future, your destiny. What you think about comes about. By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be.” For me, this is where a vision board and bucket list come into play. One great way to ensure that you are thinking about your goal often is to put it on a vision board. If that goal is at the forefront of your mind, the odds of you spending enough time on it dramatically increase. For example, if one of your audacious goals is run that marathon, create a mockup of yourself running through the finish line and put it on your vision board. It will be in your face every day making sure you don’t lose track of what you want.
In a small study, Dominican University psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews found that participants were significantly more likely to achieve goals and dreams when they wrote them down regularly. Once your vision board is set, I suggest that you create a bucket list of specific plans to inch your way toward the goal. I use a “Plus one” change approach that helps you make one small adjustment at a time. What is the most impactful thing you can do today to help you move closer to your goal? Again, the idea is to make changes in small, attainable increments that build on one another.
If we revisit the marathon example, items on your bucket list could be “develop a workout plan that starts from walking and ends in a Marathon”, “start walking every day for 30 minutes” and “run a 5k by April”. You have to be very specific in your action plans to ensure you are doing everything it takes to put you in a position to achieve that goal. Once you get good at this, you can become more aggressive with the goals.
Focus on the actions needed to make it happen.
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” —Benjamin Franklin
One of the best tools I have ever seen or used for helping achieve your goals is to get one or more accountability partners. The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65 percent more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Their chances of success increase to 95 percent when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress. These are amazing statistics. If you don’t do anything but set the goal and get an accountability partner, you will be so much better off than just setting the goal.
WTF your goals. In the six years that I have been using the “WTF Model” I have been able to accomplish many of my professional and personal audacious goals. Many of my professional achievements can be seen on my LinkedIn profile. A few of my personal goals that I have achieved using this model have been: Receiving a Global Fellow designation in Talent Management from the Wharton School, surfing in multiple countries, buying my dream car, buying my dream house, sitting on 5 non-profit boards to serve and give back to my community, completing several 5k and 15K races, completing two Sprint Spartan Races, 2 Super Spartan Race, 3 Savage Races, and a 125 mile race over the last three years. (Most done over the age of 50). Now I am training for my biggest competitive year yet.
You can do what you put your mind to.