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5 Steps to Becoming a Better Entrepreneur, Business Leader, or Family Member

One of my favorite quotes is from Steven Covey:

  • All things are created twice. First mentally.  Second physically.

I could not agree more with Covey’s assertion that the reality we want to achieve begins in our mind.  That leads me to embrace a “believe to achieve” mentality.  While it is great to have such a mindset, the fact is that we MUST figure out how to transition from what is in our mind to what we need to do if we wish to reach the new reality.

In this article I’m going to introduce a five step process that – if followed – will get you to that new reality.  The steps are:

  • Picture the new state that you wish to achieve.
  • Review your behaviors from the past year to identify what you did that helped you move towards the new state AND what you did that kept you from moving to this new state.
  • Establish SMART goals aligned with your new state.
  • Identify your motivation for achieving this new state.
  • Establish an ongoing review process to make sure that you are on track to achieve this new state.

Step One.  Take the time to write down what would make you happier as an individual.

First, we need to build a mental picture of the reality we want to create.  Some possibilities include:

  • I’m spending more time with my family
  • I’m healthy and happy
  • I’m working in a career that I enjoy
  • I’m on path to achieve financial independence

There are two keys to this first step:

  • First, you need be honest with yourself about where you want to be as an individual. Hiding or denying what you are looking to achieve is simply going to delay the inevitable.  Further, the very act of acknowledging the desired state will begin the process of you achieving the desired state.
  • Second, you need to “feel it” when you think about your desired state. While it would be nice to simply “think” about the new state, achieving a transformation is about having a deep commitment.  This “feeling” is critical to achieving the desired state

To help you with this process, you might consider answering the following question:

  • What are the two or three things I would most like to do that would make me happier as an individual?

Step Two.  Take the time to write down the consistent actions, inconsistent actions and desired actions necessary to achieve your desired state.

In step two, you need to take the time to reflect on your actions over the past year in regards to the desired state you identified in step one.  In particular, you need to answer the following three questions:

  • What did I do this past year that was CONSISTENT with my stated desire?
  • What did I do this past year that was INCONSISTENT with my stated desire?
  • What should I do differently to move towards my stated desire?

At this point in time, you will likely have good “feel” of what is necessary to make a change in your state.  It may be a relatively easy journey; or, it may be one that is going to take a lot of time.  You need to be realistic about how long you think this change will take (hint losing 50 pounds in a week is NOT realistic!).  Facing this reality and accepting that it will take some time to achieve your desired state is what makes the next step  perhaps the most challenging.

Step Three.  Take the time to WRITE DOWN your five to seven SMART goals (five to seven is normally a good, achievable number).  Make sure you critically review your SMART goals against the SMART criteria.

Step three involves translating your desired state in to a series of specific SMART goals.  SMART stands for:

  • Specific – You need to be very precise with exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable – You need to quantify how you will know when you have achieved the desired outcome.
  • Actionable – You need to make sure the goal is phrased in terms of actions you will take.
  • Realistic – You need to make sure that the magnitude of the change is realistic. Better to start with a small goal that you will achieve than a large goal that will be ignored in two weeks.
  • Time Constrained – You need to define the time by which you will achieve the goal.

A few examples of SMART goals:

  • I will combine exercise and diet to achieve a weight of 175 pounds by June 30, 2015.
  • Each Sunday, I will schedule time slots during the week to focus on the goals that I have established.
  • I will implement an editorial calendar for my business. That calendar will be structured to ensure that I produce one piece of content each week.

There are two things to notice regarding the above examples.  First, they follow the SMART framework:  they are precise, quantifiable, involve action, are attainable, and define when they will be achieved.  Second, they are NOT simply about achieving work related or business goals.  Two of the examples focus on goals that will help to improve who you are as an individual.  While business goals are certainly important AND must be included in your SMART goals, break through change in life is built around SMART goals focused on your personal development.  Too many people ignore the importance of establishing SMART goals for their personal development!

Step Four.  Take the time to write down the motivation for each of your SMART goals.

The next step is one that is not as widely recommended and often overlooked.  It is one of the most powerful things you can do to ensure that you achieve your goals – and it is very simple!  Intrigued?  Great…

For each of your SMART goals, you need to write down the WHY behind the goal.  In particular, what is your motivation for achieving the goal?  For example,

  • By focusing on my health I’ll have more energy available, be happier, feel better, and enjoy life more.
  • By scheduling time to focus on my growth as an individual I’ll make sure that the changes that are important to me do not get overlooked and pushed to the back burner. This will allow me to become the person that I want to be.
  • By producing and publishing content I’ll share what I have learned and help other people improve as individuals. I’ll also establish my credibility as a person that focuses on helping others to grow as individuals.

The reality is during the year you will NOT want to stay on track with your SMART goals.  When you start to drift or “slack off”, reading your motivation – your why – will help you to get back on track.  This step of creating an emotional connection to your SMART goals will help you to get through the rough patches (or through what Seth Godin refers to as The Dip)

 

Step Five – Take the time to memorialize the actions of steps one through four in a single electronic document.  Set up your daily and quarterly personal SMART goal review meetings.

Finally, we come to step five of the process – monitoring our progress towards the desired state.  With as busy as life is these days, failure to make the time to reflect on progress towards goals is an almost guaranteed way to ensure you will NOT reach these goals.   As a result, you absolutely, positively, must set up a regular review process to ensure that you achieve your goals; and, in turn, achieve your desired new state.

There are a number of ways to go about monitoring your progress.  I’m going to suggest a process that has worked for me in the past to overcome this challenge:

  • If you have been following the instructions throughout the article, you have written down your responses associated with each of the first four steps. Take the time to type up all of this information.  It should easily fit on both sides of a standard 8.5” x 11” piece of paper.
  • Go to your calendar and set up a recurring, daily 15 minute meeting at the BEGINNING of every day. During these 15 minutes, you will read and review what you wrote.  This is going to allow you to remember what you were looking to achieve, why it was important to you, and what your goals are.  The mind is an amazing thing and the simple act of reviewing this daily will help you to stay on track.  Basically what happens is that we do not like to fail and the subconscious mind takes what we are reading and “tells us” what to do during each day.  Think of this step as strengthening that “little voice” inside your head that you should listen to more regularly.
  • Find a friend or colleague that you trust. Reach out to them and let them know that you are looking to make some big changes over the coming year.  Ask them if they are willing to help you.  When they say yes – and they will! – share with them a copy of your 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper.  Let them know that you’re going to set up a lunch meeting on your respective calendars at the end of February, May, August and November to review your progress with them and ask for their help if you drift.  In this step you’re doing two key things.  First, you’re publicly committing to your goals with someone you respect.  Your mind is NOT going to want to fail; and, again, is going to help you “course correct” when you start to drift.  Second, you’re enlisting the help of someone in this private, personal endeavor.  We are wired as individuals to help others.  The person you reach out to is going to be thinking about how to help you AND will provide their brainpower to the task at hand.

So there you have it.  Five simple steps that will help you transition to a new state.  If you follow these steps you will make the change that you desire.  Further, after you experience the results, you will be able to repeat the process with even more dramatic results in each subsequent cycle.

Now there are two big decisions that you need to make…

First, do you REALLY want to change?  Think for a minute about how you would feel if you actually had a plan and process in place that ensured that you were going to achieve those goals that are most important to you.  Envision what it would be like to be sitting here twelve months later knowing that you had accomplished everything that you set out to do.  How would you feel knowing that you had actually accomplished your goals versus just dreamed about them?  Is that where you want to be?  My guess is that if you have reached this point in the article you REALLY do want to change.  Which brings us to the second question…

Second, will you put the support programs in place to stay the course?  It is a rare individual that can make dramatic change without the help from anyone else.  Most people enlist the help and support of friends, families, and advisors to reach their goals.  That means reaching out to people you trust, people who will put your best interests first.  People that will hold you accountable because they know you are up to the task at hand.  Putting the support systems in place only requires that you ask for help.

The next step is up to you.  This is a solid, proven strategy to help you become that better person.  You need only to follow the steps to make the desired change.

Finally, I derive tremendous satisfaction in helping individuals reach new heights.  That is why the tagline for my business is “Making Plans to Reach Your Goals”.  As a financial planner I do all of the “money things”.  However, where I make my biggest impact is via impacting behaviors.  By making sure that individuals and families and businesses know where they are going, have a plan to reach that place, and are executing this plan, I ensure that they have the freedom to pursue and achieve the goals that are important to them.   Don’t be shy about reaching out to me at any time if you would like to discuss how I can help you have the financial security necessary to reach your goals.

Curt Stowers

Curt Stowers

Curtis Stowers helps individuals and families across the United States grow their financial assets, particularly in the Naperville, IL region. He is a Certified Financial Planner, holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, and is the founder of F5 Financial.