Best Ways to Set Goals

Is how you want your life to look different than how it is now? Setting goals can help you create the life you want.

With the start of a new year, you might be reflecting on what you accomplished in the last year and what you want going forward. 

Do you know what changes you want to make in your life? Do you know where you want to end up in a year, or five years, or ten? Even if you have a vision for your future, do you know how to make it happen? 

In his career, Ron Macklin led teams that set nine world records and won dozens of customer satisfaction awards. At Siemens, for example, he led a support division with 350 employees that worked over 5 million hours without a lost-time injury and was voted “the best place to work in Houston” by the Houston Business Journal. Twice Ron has created a growth culture responsible for increasing profits by $20 million, and has led seven different groups from worst- to best-in-class. Today, Ron is the founder of MacklinConnection where his purpose is to change the world through helping others build powerful relationships

Here, Ron discusses what he's discovered about setting goals and practices you can implement in your own life to achieve your goals.

What do you need to set a goal?

Ron Macklin: Goal setting is just choosing where you want to be. Once you define what your goal is, you have to figure out your direction to set a goal.  What is immediately out in front of you? And then choose what it looks like at the end.

For example, for our company, we want to change the world, right? So our goal is to have 50,000 people go through our program. And 50,000 people going through our program will have a significant impact in the world. So that's our goal. That's how we defined it. And then we gave it a direction. The direction is adding more people each year, until we get to the place where we have 50,000 people who've gone through. That is a direction. 

And a direction can be flexible. Like if you're driving north, you can change your mind and choose a different direction. So maybe you start driving west instead because it makes more sense for where you want to go. It's the same with goals. You may think in the future that your goal is not big enough. Or maybe your goal is too big. You can then change what you're doing now. 

Interim Goals

When we say we have a goal of 50,000 people going through our courses, that starts with getting one, and then ten, and then 100 people and so on. So those markers are interim goals that are helping us get to 50,000.

Setting interim goals is the strategy behind achieving your goal. 

There's nothing about a goal that doesn't have an interim goal. And then each one of those steps, or interim goals, on the way to the overall goal, becomes a task. 

What is the best way to set goals?

Ron Macklin: The best goal setting tool that I've found is the magic wand. Pretend like you have a magic wand, and you could use this wand to have anything you want. Where would you be?

Put everything else aside, like all the reasons why you can't get there, and use the wand to create the future. Now you have magic in the goal setting, so where would you want to be?What would you want your life to look like?

And if you're going to set goals that are really beyond what you think you could do, is that bad? What if you set your goals really far and you get to 90% of them. Is that better than setting your goals to 50% and getting to 60%?

Going back to my earlier example, let's say I wanted to get to 50,000 people through our courses in 5 years. But instead of setting the goal at 50,000 people, I set it at 25,000 people.

If I set my goal to 50,000 people, and I get to 45,000, I failed. If I set my goal at 25,000, and I got to 30,000, I succeeded. Did I? Is 30,000 better than 45,000? It's not. So always stretch yourself beyond where you think you could go. You will surprise yourself with what you can create, especially when you start speaking your goals out into the world. 

So goal setting is going beyond where you think you can go.

And the greatest compliment I've ever had in my entire life was when somebody said, "I really like working with you because I always ended up doing things better than I thought I could do on my own."

Stretch your goals. Set your goals out there farther than you think you can get to. And there is nothing more rewarding in life than doing what you didn't think you could do.

And when you set your goal, don't scale it back. Be okay with coming up short and learning. If you don't stretch yourself beyond what you think you can do, you won't learn anything.

Using Short Term Goals to Achieve Long Term Goals

Ron Macklin: If I wanted to drive to Florida from here, the first thing I have to do is declare I want to go to Florida. That's my long term goal. Then I have to choose how I get there. I have to come up with my strategy and my interim goals. And my interim goals are like my short term goals. Do I fly? Do I take the train? That would take forever. There's no trains from here to Florida. I'd have to go to New York City and go down. Do I drive a car? Do I walk?

So you're designing what your interim goals look like. And then you say, what's the first step? For my Florida trip, is my car ready to go? Okay, I'm in the car, now I need to make it out of my neighborhood first. After that, I need to get across Kansas City. I need to make it St. Louis. Those are your short term goals. They are the immediate steps you're taking to see your overall goal come to life. 

And the short term, or interim goals, need to nest within the bigger goal. If I got in my car with a plan to go to Florida, but once I got out of my neighborhood, I started driving towards Denver, that's the wrong way. It doesn't make sense if my goal is to get to Florida. So your interim goals need to make sense for the big goal. 

And if you stop and celebrate achieving the smaller goals, it can be really a lot of fun.

So all that matters when you're looking at a project is choosing those interim goals. Pick a project you're working on right now, what is the long term goal? What does it look like in the end? What are some of the interim steps to get there? What are those short term goals?

Let's say you want a great career. What does that look like for you in twenty years? That's your long term goal. Are there any gaps in what you need to learn to be able to be there? Those gaps will help you define your short term goals. And if there's no big gaps, you're going to be bored on that journey.

For me, for example, when I was 30, I came up with a stand that stemmed from a cartoon. There's an old woman and a young woman walking on the street. The young woman says, "What's the greatest burden in life?" The old woman says, "To have nothing to carry."

My overall goal then became to add value in the world. I loved to coach, and I wanted to be really good at it, so business owners would want me to help them. I'm not running their business, I'm helping them to run their business. And I set that goal. Then I had to go figure out all the things I was missing. So I started building a scale for myself immediately. It only took me 25 years to get here. But I could see huge gaps when I originally set the goal. I know how to build connections. That was one of my gaps.

What goals are you setting for yourself?

Do you have an idea of what you want your life to be this year? What about in ten years? Or 20 years? You get to create whatever life you want for yourself. By defining your goals, you will be able to know what actions to take to get you to where you want to be. Once you choose what your overall goal looks like, you can then examine the gaps from where you are now to where you want to be. And the gaps will help you discover what steps to take until your goal has been reached.   

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