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Take the 60-Day S-E-T Goals Challenge


Most of us are horrible at setting goals. We often have many things we want to accomplish…

  • At work, it might be improve sales, improve quality, drive down costs, improve the bench-strength and capabilities of the organization, earn more money, get promoted.

  • At home, it might be lose weight, prepare for retirement, save for a new house or condo or that really great vacation to Tuscany or Tahiti.

Yet…incredibly few people set goals that enable them to accomplish those things.

A 1979 Harvard study of their MBA students suggested that only 16% of us set goals. Only 3% created plans to achieve those goals.

Other studies have suggested a larger percentage of people may set goals, but a much smaller percentage work on them for even two weeks before dropping them. That clearly explains why new gym memberships explode the first week of January, but most people stop working out by early February!

Even when people say they have goals, they are more likely to be:

  • Too broad or ambiguous to be effective – e.g., “Lose weight,” “Save money,” or “Sell more.” We call those “goal categories” not goals.

  • Defined as activities to be completed – “Work-out” not goals to be accomplished, e.g., “improve my maximum bench-press from 150 to 200 pounds.” So, they go through the motions and feel like they are working hard, but generating limited results.

In just the last two weeks:

The senior leader in a 250-person company said he felt like a pinball. Just bouncing from one activity to the next and accomplishing nothing. I asked him the question at the top of this post: What are your goals? What are the top 2 or 3 things you want to accomplish? His response: “Oh, yeah. That would definitely stop the pin-balling.”

A bright, young manager commented on a Coaching Top Talent program I facilitated in his organization a few months ago. He said that one of the most valuable aspects was the process of setting goals with each of his teammates. “The game was an excellent way to kick-off an ongoing conversation around goals with each of my teammates. There is now complete clarity and alignment between us in regards to goals.”

Without clear, result-oriented goals you’re busy all the time, wearing yourself out, yet you feel like you’re getting nowhere.


And, it’s so easy to have more effective goals. We advocate that you S-E-T Result-oriented Goals:

S is for Start…what is your starting point (your current weight, or the weight you can bench-press, or the costs in your business, or the sales in your territory)?

E is for the Ending Point…where do you want to get to (weight, strength, costs, sales, etc.)?

T is for Time frame – when do you want to get to the Ending Point?

S-E-T creates energy and focus. Many of the activities you undertake will be the same – yes, to lose weight you still need to manage calorie intake and exercise – but, now they will have intent. And, if you’re making appropriate progress toward your goals, you’ll know you’ve picked the right activities (what we call performance drivers). If you’re not making progress, you need to either re-focus the discipline in executing your performance drivers, or find better ones that actually lead to the results you want.


Since most of us are pretty bad at setting goals, over the last two months of 2018, let’s practice. In early December, we’ll walk through the process of setting goals for 2019.

Practice with a goal, any goal, that you can accomplish in two months.

S-E-T the Goal:

Start – what is your current weight? How much is in your savings account for that house, vacation or retirement fund? What were the sales last month in your region?

End – where do you want to be by December 31…it’s only 2 months away, so be realistic…for weight, maybe you want to be 5 or 10 pounds less than you are today. For savings, maybe it’s realistic to save only $25 or 50 or $100 per month through the holiday season. For sales, maybe that goal would only be to sell 5 or 10% more units, or generate 5 or 10% more revenue in November and December than you did in October.

Timeframe – I gave you this one…the time frame is “By December 31.”

Once you have those items in your head, write the goal down in this form:

I’m going to {Drop Weight, Grow Savings, Increase Sales in my territory} from {Start} to {End} by December 31.

Put your note someplace prominent where you will see it earlier every day: next to your toothbrush, on your refrigerator, as the background on your phone, or, heck, post it below in the comment section. Every time you look at it, think: what do I need to do right now (or today) to hit my goal.

The next step: hitting your goals requires that you DO some specific things to hit the goal. Remember the Harvard study suggesting that only 3% of the people made a plan to hit their goals? They ultimately out-earned the other 97% of the people in the study. We call these plans “Performance Drivers,” the critical actions, behaviors or decisions that will enable you to hit your goal.

We’ll discuss Performance Drivers in our next post.

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