Every year I create a plan for my business. I usually start with the numbers, then build my strategies, then finish with narrative reflection (past year accomplishments, lessons learned) and goals.
This year I felt the itch to change my approach, and with the help of my coach turned my process upside down. First I re-visited my foundation: Purpose, Mission, and personal Core Values. Next, I documented my accomplishments from last year, and from that positive space I found it much easier to envision what success will look like this year. Crunching the numbers was almost an afterthought. It’s the best business plan I’ve created in 16 years.
The deep dive into my Core Values and aspirations revealed something powerful to me, and I realized it has been the secret to my success for a long time:
I don’t “do” Goals. I do Declarations.
I’ve been teaching this idea for years, but for the first time I realized how truly, remarkably powerful the approach has been for me over nearly three decades.
The secret is in the language. In my personal document (Purpose, Mission, Values), none of the following words appear: want, need, should, not, stop, try, or will. Instead, the document is filled with phrases like I am, I have, I feel, I make, and many other action verbs.
Listen to the Language of Your Goal
- When you say, “I want…” or “I need…” you are stating a Wish or Desire, not a goal. “I want to be a better communicator” feels noble, but so what? There’s nothing in that statement to move you forward. It’s no more powerful than saying, “I want to fly to Mars.”
- When you say, “I should…” you name a standard to which you aspire, but that’s not a goal. “I should be a better listener.” How true. Shouldn’t we all?
- When your goal statement includes Not or Stop, notice that what you really do is point your attention to the thing you seek to move away from, versus pointing to your goal. For example, “I will not eat cake!” What are you thinking about now? See my point?
- When you say, “I will…” notice how you give yourself permission to put it off, e.g. “I will… sometime…. tomorrow… when I’m not busy or stressed or distracted.” Yeh, like that’s gonna happen!
- The worst sort of self-deceiving goal starts with “I will try…” Yoda had the best comeback to that phrasing when he said, “No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no Try.” When you promise to ‘Try’ you assume failure and you sap your goal of its life force. If your goal is “I will try to save more money” and you get to year-end with zero in savings, you can always say, “Well, I tried!” ‘Try’ promises effort but not outcomes.
Give your Goals POWER!
Instead, Declare your goal; make it a statement as though it is already true. Follow the Three P’s in writing your goal:
- Personal – write it in the first person, as an “I” statement, so when you say it out loud, you own it in your head, your heart, your body
- Positive – focus on what you DO want (versus what you’re wanting to stop or lose)
- Present – use language that contains present-tense action verbs, as though the goal has already been attained
Then engage the fourth P: Practice. Imagine and enjoy the feeling of reaching your goal. Consciously engage in the action of the goal every day. Take one minute each week to look at the goal, say it out loud, and notice how powerfully you feel the DISCONNECT when what you Say and what you Do are out of alignment.
Let that sense of disconnection drive you to behave according to your goal, versus behaving out of habit. NOTE: this is a slower process than a Makeover or a crash diet, but will in the end yield more permanent shifts in your patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, and leading.
- I listen fully to the other person when I am in a conversation.
- I practice being relaxed for two minutes every day.
- I have at least three feedback conversations every day with someone on the team. I balance appreciative and growth.
- I slow down and become conscious of life’s simple pleasures.
- I let go of the stuff I do not use.
- Every day, I do something that makes me a little bit uncomfortable and stretches my limits.
- I spend at least four hours each week on focused marketing activity for my business.
Do This For Yourself:
- A) If you have no written goals, start with just one. Choose an area of your life or work where it will make a big impact if you show up differently.B) If you already have many goals (which are not working for you), revise them through the filter of the 3Ps.
- Tweak the language until your goals read as Personal, Present, and Positive declarations.
- Speak out loud your new goal declaration. Do it in front of a mirror or a witness. If it does not resonate within you, keep tweaking the language until it does.
- Practice regularly – speak the declaration, take the action, and make the shift, tiny bits at a time.