I’m a bit of a goal-setting and planning nerd. As you might guess, the New Year is one of my favorite times of year.
So to commemorate this season, I am going to share 3 common goal-setting mistakes that have hurt me and others in the past. Then I’ll also offer some advice to ensure you actually set and achieve your important goals this year.
Whether you are a beginner or an old pro at setting and achieving goals, this is a skill that pays to constantly improve. Few other habits have put as much money in my pocket or as many smiles on my face as learning to set and achieve goals. Once this skill is mastered, any dream, business, or project can be turned into reality.
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3 Common Goal-Setting Mistakes
1. Too Much About Results, Not Enough About Process
Most goals are the end result we hope to achieve. There is nothing wrong with starting with this step, but results-oriented goals are all about the destination and not about the process of getting there. Most of these types of goals look something like this:
- Live in a $1 million house on the beach
- Drive a Lamborghini
- Earn $500,000 per year
- Buy and sell 12 houses this year
In another article I might try to make the argument that some of these bling goals won’t really make you happy anyway, but assuming these are your goals, it’s better to spend 5% of your time thinking about these results and 95% of your time visualizing the steps and processes you will take.
When I began my football career at Clemson University, I wanted very badly to be the starting linebacker. That was an end-result goal. But the actual process to become the starter looked more like this:
- Work out with weights 4 times per week
- Do skill and conditioning work 4 times per week
- Study film and playbooks 4 times per week
These steps were daily and weekly processes. If I consistently executed these processes, I would become better and better as a football player, my coaches would notice my dedication and work ethic, and I would give myself the best chance possible to become the starter.
Notice that I did not say these steps would guarantee that I would achieve my end result. I do not have complete control over that. For example, there might be another player who executes the same steps and has more talent than me. In that case, I could reach 99% of my potential and still not be the best player.
But setting and achieving a good process goal will give me more satisfaction, more progress, and ironically more end-result success than any other method I have found.
John Wooden, arguably the best sports coach ever, won 10 national championships in a 12-year period as a basketball coach at UCLA. The foundation of all his championships (his results) was a core philosophy that said, “The process is more important than the result.” Wins and losses were not his measurement of success. Excellence, consistency, process, and fundamentals were his hallmark, and the results took care of themselves.
So in your real estate business, think about your end-result goals, and see if you can translate them into process goals instead. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Result: Buy 6 houses this year; Process: Send 250 marketing letters per week
- Result: Earn $100,000 wholesaling houses; Process: Make 5 offers per week
- Result: Save $24,000 for investments; Process: Pay yourself first and autodraft $2,000/month from your monthly salary
This can work for virtually any result goal. Just put your thinking cap on and get creative.
2. Your Goals Are “Snapping” or “Slacking”
Imagine holding a rubber band between the thumb of each of your hands. One finger is the end result you hope to achieve. The other finger is your current reality.
If you stretch the rubber band too far (snap goals), eventually it will snap back and your hand will pay the price with a painful bruise. The opposite is also just as bad. If you don’t stretch enough (slack goals), the rubber band will stay limp and unproductive.
We have probably all been excited in the beginning when we set some amazing goal. But likely two weeks, two months, or two years down the road, we find ourselves let down when the weight of that big, unachieved goal crashes down upon us.
The problem was not the merit of the goal. The problem was its distance from our reality.
There is a sweet spot to rubber bands and goals, where you are neither too loose or too tight. This place of dynamic tension (idea from cool little book The Power of TED) pulls you steadily forward towards your end result.
The only way to deal with this steady tension is to take baby steps or apply processes (see idea #1 above) over and over and over. As you slowly and steadily move forward, the excitement and tension will pull you forward until you achieve the goal.
Take this time to think about your own goals this year. Are they snap goals, slack goals, or just right?
If the goal is too much, can you adjust it to something that is still a stretch yet more achievable? And if you have a slack goal, how can you stretch yourself more to get back into the zone of stretching, growth, and dynamic tension?
3. Your Goals Are Ignoring the Obstacles
Even if you pick amazing process goals and even if these goals stretch you just the right amount, you could still fail to achieve your goals by ignoring obstacles along the way.
Optimism is a valuable skill as an entrepreneur and investor. I would argue it is one of the few essential skills that we possess. But optimism does not equate to seeing business through overly rose-colored glasses.
A better ideal for achieving goals is realistic optimism. You acknowledge all problems and obstacles, and then you optimistically create expectations and a plan to overcome each one.
Each year when I take time to set goals, I go through a process called mental contrasting. The process is actually a problem solving strategy devised by a motivational psychologist named Gabriele Oettingen.
Mental contrasting basically works like this:
- Imagine the end result or the goal in detail, including the personal benefits if achieved
- Imagine the path, the current reality, and the likely obstacles between you and your goal
This simple process is a powerful combination because it locks into your mind both the benefits and the challenges. Once the challenges are known, you can use your creativity or your support network to figure out how to overcome the challenge.
For example, many people I have coached in real estate investing set goals to dedicate a certain amount of time each week to their real estate activities. On paper on January 1st, this goal seems realistic. But when work, family, and life start happening, the schedule goes awry.
A better process would be to:
- Imagine yourself spending time each week on real estate marketing, making offers, managing your rehabs, setting up systems, etc. Also imagine the wonderful financial results that will come as a result of achieving this goal.
- Imagine where you will likely get off track. Will it be working too late at a day job? Will it be having to pick up the kids from daycare? Will it be lack of energy after a hard day or week of work?
Just acknowledging the obstacles in step #2 will lead you to possible solutions. Maybe you can get to work earlier. Maybe you can get someone else to pick up the kids. Maybe you can get to sleep earlier so that you have more energy.
Achieving Goals Takes Practice
Setting and achieving goals is an art form that you have to practice. Like any other skill, you have to try and fail again and again before the skill really works well for you.
So if you have not set your goals this year, by all means do it! Once you have the goals, consider tweaking them with the advice in this article so that you will increase your chances of success. Then, most importantly, begin taking regular action that will move you forward.
One of my goals is to share here on BiggerPockets consistently. I look forward to achieving our goals together over the next year!
Please share your own goals, processes, and ideas in the comments section below.
I’d love to hear from you.