Setting Goals

There is a Major Problem With Your Goals

There is a Major Problem With Your Goals
Image credit: Shutterstock
Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360.
Flash Sale—save up to $200 on registration. Ends Thursday. Secure Your Seat »

I’ve got some bad news for you: There is a major problem with your goals.

Related: The 4 People Who Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

No, it’s not that you don’t have any -- I’m sure you do. The problem is, they are not big enough. You’ve relegated your ambitions to the kids' table, and your future-self is begging you to reconsider. 

Remember when you first jumped into entrepreneurship? Your goal wasn’t to see a 10 percent increase in sales during the next fiscal year. Your goal wasn’t to talk to ten more sales clients per week. Your goal wasn’t to bump up your net worth by 5 percent this quarter.

Your goal was to become a rock star and change the world. Your goal was to make millions, improve your networth by 10,000 percent, to make a real dent in the universe. But somewhere along the way, you decided to get “SMART."

SMART goals have a problem.

I’m sure you’ve heard about setting “SMART” goals. This acronym, used in numerous industries to help people create better goals, stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

While we all generally agree that all five parts of a “SMART” goal are wise, it’s your interpretation of the “attainable” goal that is killing your potential. "Attainable" has become synonymous with “safe.” It's been defined as "easy to obtain" rather than "what's possible when stretched." 

Related: How Big Goals Supercharge Entrepreneurial Motivation

You started your journey reaching for the stars, but soon discovered that the stars are an awfully long way away, so you decided that a more “reasonable” goal would be better. After all, you don’t want to miss your goal and let down your team, your family and yourself.

You set “reasonable" goals only because you lacked the courage to tackle the big ones. 

Small goals = small thinking.

The problem with small goals is that they encourage small thinking. (Tweet this quote!

For example, in my real estate investing business, I spent years trying to buy two properties a year. I believed that the goal of two properties per year was reasonable and I would be able to accomplish this goal. And guess what? I usually did.

Sometimes, I bought one property, sometimes I bought two . . . but never much more. Besides, I couldn’t handle more than that anyway, could I? I couldn’t physically rehab more than a few houses per year because each took hundreds of hours of work. It was crazy for me to think that I could buy more than one or two homes, right?

But then I started talking with others and realized I was selling myself short and paying the price because of it. Many of the 150-plus guests we’ve interviewed on The BiggerPockets podcast have inspired me to raise my goal, to shoot for "greater," to be more.

So, this year, I decided to increase my goal from two to 12.

That kind of goal, of course, required a whole different set of plans. I couldn’t physically fix up a dozen different properties, so I had to use my head and get creative to solve the problem.That's how I came to hire a full-time contractor. I couldn’t physically analyze and make offers on the number of properties I would need to buy a dozen homes, so I created an analysis tool and hired a lead manager to find and negotiate deals.

Today, I’m halfway through the year, and I’ve purchased six homes -- and I've put in far less work than almost any previous year. I know people buying over 100 homes a year -- and they work the same number of hours as I do, if not fewer. 

When you increase the size of your goal, your entire mindset is forced to shift and think of the problem differently -- to think bigger, smarter, and with more efficiency. 

Do an exercise in big thinking.

Let’s do a quick exercise to further drive home the point.

If I told you that I needed to increase the traffic to your website by 20 percent over the next 12 months, what could you do with that? Go ahead, close your eyes and brainstorm a few ideas that you could activate to achieve that goal. You might:

  • Write one SEO-optimized blog post per week.
  • Post more content to your Facebook feed daily.
  • Attend a few more industry conferences in order to network. 
  • Create a company Snapchat and start making funny faces on it daily.

Will these actions get you to a 20 percent lift over the next 12 months? Maybe, or maybe not. If you hit it, you’ll feel real good about yourself, that you achieved your “attainable” goal. Or, maybe you’ll come close and miss it by a few percentage points and tell yourself, “I did my best.” And these are the kinds of goals most companies are setting! 

But, now, let’s try something different. What if I told you that you needed to increase the traffic to your website by 500 percent over the next 12 months, and that if you didn’t, I would chain you up in a basement for the next 30 years, forcing you to watch 18 hours a day of Mork and Mindy?

Although it might take you some time, you would likely come up with some other, very different ideas, like: 

  • Doing everything in your power to present your business on ABC’s SharkTank
  • Utilizing Facebook or Google Ads and split-testing until you could spend $1 million a month and break even .  .  . but drive a ton of traffic.
  • Spending three months and $50,000 creating an amazing viral video (like this one) that everyone would share.
  • Filing for legal eviction of the president of the United States as a publicity stunt to get every news source talking about you.

Will these plans work? I don’t know -- but it took me just a few seconds to brainstorm these for this article. Imagine what you, and your team, could do with more time.

Instead, you may be too busy making funny faces on Snapchat in hopes of that 20 percent lift in traffic.

The one thing that could transform your business

In my favorite business book The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan tell the story of how early on in their career, the leadership team of Keller Williams Realty locked themselves (Keller and his partnr Joe Williams) in a room to brainstorm ideas for the “one thing” that would make their real estate brand a national player. After numerous ideas, they narrowed down the list to just one: Keller would write a book about being a successful real estate agent.

This plan worked magically for them: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent propelled Keller-Williams to become the most successful real estate franchise in world history. And they didn’t get there by hoping to increase profits 5 percent during the next quarter.

They set big goals and took major action.

What are you going to do?

So, you are faced with a choice. You can go back to your comfortable, easy-to-attain goals, and you’ll likely achieve them. Or, you can reach for greatness, take massive action and revolutionize your industry forever.

Related: Chart Goals to Create a Road Map to Your Success

As Marianne Williamson, an author and spiritual activist, has said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world."