“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
If your dream isn’t big enough, it’s not worth it. However, once you set the goal, how do you go about making it happen? I have a process I use when executing any project or goal in my business. By doing so, I am able to ensure results.
Before I share the process, let’s start with a very simple math question.
Five birds are sitting on a tree branch.
Four of them decided to fly off the tree. How many birds are left?
Did you answer one? Or five? Well, the right answer is five. This is because there is a difference between deciding and actually taking action.
Have you ever experienced indecision in your life before? We tend to have many desires as we decide to eat healthier, learn a skill, or to start a new business. However, all of these ideas don’t really mean anything until we make a decision to take any practical action toward our goals.
As small business owners, we have at least two things in common — not only do we have many big ideas, but we have the ability to see the big picture and envision what our success will look like in the future.
However, in my experience, we are not as keen on coming up with a plan and, more importantly, sticking with the plan. We tend to get excited about an idea, and it is mostly short-lived.
Taking action is a practice that always begins with making a decision. By getting into the habit of putting ideas and decisions into action, we are in a better position to achieve the results we desire.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.” – Gandhi
As simple as it seems, surprisingly, many people fail to decide. They usually spend more time analyzing and organizing plans to get everything perfect before they actually get started. Then, it becomes analysis paralysis. Nothing is done. A goal or result is never achieved.
What entrepreneurs get stuck on is the how. You can’t move a parked car. You can push the gas pedal all you want, but if the car is still in Park, you’re simply revving the engine and wasting fuel. You have to take the first step before the how, the supposed plan, will come to you. You have to place your foot on the brake pedal and shift into Drive to start going somewhere.
When you take action in your life to achieve something big, when you shift into drive and push the gas pedal, not only do additional resources come your way, but you will get feedback to help you adjust and formulate and refine the master plan.
The truth is, while most of us know a lot about earning money, making things happen and bringing about change in the world, only a surprising few get to have all the abundance, glory and satisfaction this world has to offer – simply because they are the select few who consistently take action.
Taking action is the one thing separating the winners from the non-winners, the haves from the have-nots, and the high achievers from everyday people.
You have seen many people creating big wins in their life: Arianna Huffington, Sara Blakely, Oprah Winfrey, the coworker who is always getting accolades and attention from management. Why can’t you have the same? Sometimes, the only difference is one person is willing to take on the work and the other is waiting around for permission to get started.
Whose permission are you waiting for?!
While you contemplate the answer, let’s jump into the five action steps you need to take in order to reach your goals.
5 Action Steps to Follow Through with Your Big Goals
- Decide on a concrete and measurable goal
- Create an action plan
- Set up a tracking system
- Set up an accountability system
- Manage pitfalls and iterate accordingly
You have to get clear on what you want. Define your desired outcome. Determine what success looks like. What’s the address you’re entering into your Maps app on your phone? You don’t want to put the car in gear until you have determined where you are headed. Envision it.
Set a crystal-clear goal. Make it concrete and measurable. Clear goal-setting gives an opportunity to push the lines of your comfort zone and keep you focused on the results. The more you are willing to stretch and challenge yourself, the more you have to gain long term.
An example is: I want to get healthier and fit this year versus I want to lose twenty pounds and eliminate processed food out of my diet. Do you see how you can measure twenty pounds versus the abstract “get healthier”?
Or another more business-related example is: I want to make more money in my business versus I want to double my revenue in the next twelve months. See the difference?
Another element with setting clear goals is having a start date and end date. This is important as you move on the second step in the process, which is planning.
When in doubt, ask yourself: Do you have a S.M.A.R.T goal?
Is it Specific? Is it Measurable? Is it Attainable? Is it Relevant? Is it Time bound?
See yourself achieving your goal, no matter what. Part of you believes you are destined for something greater. Embrace that part of you and dream a little. See yourself as a success, as an achiever, as an overcomer.
The second strategy is creating a plan, an actionable plan to be specific.
In the health example, take twenty pounds and divide by how many ever months you want to take to lose the weight. So, if you gave yourself six months to reach this goal, you’d want to lose 3.33 pounds per month. Doesn’t that seem much more surmountable than twenty pounds?
Switching into business gear, figure out what total amount would be doubling your current annual revenue. Is it $80K, $120K or $200K? You do the math.
Then, move forward with breaking the measurable down to the amount of how much you need to make per quarter, per month, per week. That way, you can get down to the specifics of how many of your products/services you need to sell to achieve your goals. How many of those sales do you need per month, per week, per day?
This reverse-engineering process will provide you with a plan with specific actions to take towards your goals – down to daily tasks if you do it correctly. It is that simple! Doing this leads you to the next step.
Set up your tracking system.
You have to check your numbers on a weekly and monthly basis. You can use any tracking tool; the recommendation is to use whatever is easiest for you, from Excel to Google Sheets to a software application. For example, for my health-related goals, I rely on my FitBit. For my business finance, I use QuickBooks.
It is important to track your numbers and progress so you can get a clear picture of where you currently are. Are you on track, or do you need to make up some ground? To help with ensuring you will achieve your goals, this next step is essential.
Set up an accountability system.
This is the most important step in the five-step process. This ensures the achievement of your goals. I can tell you, I learned this the hard way. I was struggling to create consistent results in my life and business. I found myself to be super-busy with doing everything. I was constantly working on multiple projects at a time, and not one was completed by their deadlines. I was a great starter who got really excited about setting a goal, but was just terrible as a finisher. I struggled with following through. I was constantly looking for ways to fix my problems, but I didn’t know what I needed. It wasn’t more information; it was implementation.
Human beings will do anything to not look bad in front of others. Think survival of the fittest, so we would do anything to uphold our promises with others. Knowing this, it’s important you have a few accountability partners. The person can be your partner, your friend, your colleague, or a coach. In fact, I dare you to tell the whole world, so we can keep you in line with your goals.
Remember eighty percent of business is mindset. This is why it is so important to have someone support you through your challenges, and someone to celebrate with.
Manage pitfalls and iterate your plan accordingly.
When it comes to your business, I recommend at least ninety days to test out a strategy. You have to give it enough time to see the effectiveness of a plan or strategy. This is hard to do for visionaries. The minute they fail to see progress, they want to toss the idea at once and move on to the next. This is one very common pitfall.
Be wary of resistance to doing the daily actions, which often seem monotonous. Realize they are all part of the big plan. What works well is to remind yourself you don’t have to like a particular task to get it done.
What about when you make changes or iterate?
Well, small tweaks can happen after the first thirty days, then sixty days – and absolutely at ninety days, you should know what’s working and what’s not working.
Continuous learning is important towards achieving your goals, as well. You may need to pause to master a particular skill or get a deeper understanding of a particular subject. For example, as you work towards generating more revenue by having many sales conversations, you may realize you should tweak your approach or your message in speaking with your ideal clients. For example, as I’m learning more about online marketing, I realize there is just as much to learn and understand with email marketing.
Now, we’ve covered what you want to achieve, what’s working and what’s not working, and how you’re going to make change happen. With renewed enthusiasm and passion, you’re already one step closer to business success. But how do you review your business objectively and sustain your enthusiasm throughout the year?
My last recommendation is to keep on moving forward. Do not stop. A step forward toward the wrong direction still gets you closer to the results.
Without action, there will be no results.
As a famous Proverb says:
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”
That said, things will never be perfect. There is no perfect time. All you have to do is make a decision to take on a goal