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Striking Goals

5 sure-fire steps to reaching your goals.

It's that time of year when everyone looks back at what they've accomplished . . . and ahead to the future. Do you want to reach your goals for 1999? Jim Ball can help. Founder of The Goals Institute in Reston, Virginia, Ball teaches individuals and corporations, including Bell Atlantic, Domino's Pizza and USA Today, to reach their potential. Here, Ball shares strategies from his newest book, DNA Leadership Through Goal-Driven Management (The Goals Institute, $29.95, 800-964-6257.)

Business Start-Ups: Why do people fall short of their goals?

Jim Ball: Most people stop before they ever get to the starting line--they never commit. Getting a goal--committing to it--is the first of five steps in my book; you can remember them by the acronym G-O-A-L-S.

Getting a goal requires something called kinetic exploratory discourse. That means you can't learn to ride a bicycle by [reading a book]. You've got to fall off once or twice and get a feel for it to really understand how to ride a bicycle. You've got to understand your goal at that laser-clear level--so it's imprinted in your brain.

BSU: Is this more than visualization?

Ball: Much more. While writing DNA Leadership, I noticed most books talk about visualizing the end result: "Visualize your book at the bookstore." Well, you've also got to feel yourself sitting in the chair for 1,000 hours writing it, editing--all the steps leading to the end result.

Step two is to outline a plan. Suppose you've invented a product. Start with the end in mind: a manufactured product. Ask questions: Do you see thousands of them? Are they made of plastic? How are they packaged?

Before you start making calls to find the manufacturer, think it through, piece by piece. What obstacles might happen? How can you overcome them? Don't try to conceive of your plan by yourself. Get a trusted advisor to bounce things off of.

The key to maintaining momentum is always knowing what to do next. Those steps will line up like dominoes and as you achieve them, each leads to the next. Take one step toward your goal every day--even if it's just making one phone call.

Step three: Act on your plan. Every evening, write down "thunderbolts"--four or five major things you're going to accomplish the next day. Look at that [list], find the item that relates to your big goal and highlight it. If you can't highlight something every day, you're not making progress--you're just fooling yourself.

BSU: How do you keep from getting sidetracked?

Ball: Use chunks of time. Say you're trying to finish a proposal. Set aside time from 9 to 11 to work on it. Don't let the day take you; take control of the day.

Step four is learning from your progress. Make sure you're following your plan; then regularly measure what you're doing. Did you reach your goal? Keep checking and adjust your plan as needed.

The final step is creating systems so your actions can go on autopilot. The difference between success and [failure] is habit. In business, habits are called systems. For example, with sales, your habit might be calling five new prospects every day.

Out of 10,000 people, maybe 20 percent have laser-clear goals. Of those, maybe 20 percent have a plan in writing. Of those, maybe 20 percent implement the plan. Of those, maybe 20 percent learn from their progress. That's 16 people. Only a few people systematize everything to drive themselves toward their goals. That's why most people don't achieve their goals--they don't have a system.

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