How to Set Goals That You Will Actually Achieve and Exceed

How to Set Goals That You Will Actually Achieve and Exceed

As we enter the fourth quarter, business planning and goal setting is in full effect. Which means the goals I’m seeing are ambitious (perhaps even outrageous, even by my standards). You probably never thought you’d hear me say your goal is too big. Well, it might be. But let me explain.

As I talked about a couple of months ago on my blog, goals are cheap. The new goal is execution. Everyone has a goal, some big, some small. But it’s not really about the goal. It’s about being able to close the gap between where you are now and what you want to achieve.

First, we need to stop throwing around short term goals that are completely unrealistic. We see this a lot in the real estate industry. Let’s say a team has a goal of doing 150 transactions a year. That’s a solid business. Yet we’re in October, and the team still has 80 transactions to close in order to hit their goal. That is going from about 7-8 transactions a month to 26-27 deals a month. That’s a short term goal just kind of being thrown out there without any real plan for execution. How do you plan to close the gap from 7 to 27 transactions in the next 30 days? Are you willing to change your activities that much to get you to that goal? It’s a massive gap to bridge, so you would need to take massive action to get there. What are you going to do differently?

Here’s another example. Historically, if your team is doing about 15 transactions a month at it’s highest month and then you throw out the goal of doing 40 deals, that’s great. It just can’t be the following month. The vision is to eventually get to 40 transactions and to hold the line, but for the next 30 days, just focus on getting to 20 transactions. Close the gap with your team, one mini-goal, one mini-victory, at a time.

Most people go about it all wrong. They throw out this massive goal and then wonder why they don’t hit it or their team doesn’t hit it within the [unrealistic] time frame given to complete the task. One of my employees often throws out a goal of losing 50 pounds in the next couple of months. That’s a noble goal and one I certainly support. But let’s start small in order to go big. Let’s work on the first 10 pounds, and then we’ll work on the next 10 pounds. A goal as big [and again, perhaps unrealistic] of losing 50 pounds in three months is so unfathomable that your brain instantly dismisses it and therefore you don’t even do the activities necessary to get there. You’ve failed before you’ve even begun.

Now, here are a couple of examples about how you do go about setting goals:

  • Earlier this year, one of our company’s was rolling out it’s new technology app and they new it would take some time to get the 150,000+ agents and associates to adopt it. And believe me, this company thinks big! But they did not set out with the goal of getting 100% adoption on day one. Yes, that was the end goal. But the first month they weren’t looking for 100% participation. Instead, they broke it down into something they could actually achieve and measure. It looked something like this: First, they challenged the regions to get to 10% adoption in the first 60 days of the launch. Everyone rallied around that achievable goal. From there, the company set a 20% participation goal, then 40%, then 50%, then 70%, slowly, slowly closing the gap. It’s been a year-long process, but we are finally close to a 100% adoption rate that would have been dismissed (and therefore not achieved) if they had originally set that as a short-term goal.
  • If you run a solid 30 minute 5K and your coach told you that the following month you were going to run a 15 minute 5K you would instantly dismiss it. It sounds cool and may have got you excited for a minute, but it’s literally not going to happen. But what if they said, let’s bring your 5K down to 27 minutes. You could instantly begin working on closing that gap and feel the results. Then the following month, you would tackle a 25 minute 5K, and so on (maybe even a year later!), until you reached your ultimately goal of a sub-15 minute 5K.
  • Recently, a recruiter on my team was struggling to set 10 appointments a week. He was having limiting beliefs with how much time he had, market saturation, systems, you name it. The previous week he had only set 3 appointments. I said, “Get me to 5 appointments this week. Forget 10, get me to 5. Can you hit 5? What does your calendar need to look like to get to 5?” Guess what? He hit 6 appointments. The following week, I asked for 7 appointments. He had a successful week, but we didn’t just jump to 10. We set incremental goals and he had incremental gains.

Long term – dream as big as you can! Short term – make it something people can achieve and celebrate. And make sure you are committed to your short term goal and that you are willing to do the activities necessary to close the gap. That’s what separates people. Anyone can throw out a big goal and make it sound sexy, but whether or not you can grind through and execute on your goal is the real test. It’s not going to be easy. It means you will have to rearrange you day, say no to distractions, and drastically change your habits. 

The only way you are going to close the gap on huge, seemingly impossible goals, is to start executing on small ones. You and your team need to feel like they can actually achieve their long term goal. By creating small victories you create massive momentum and before you know it, that big, long-term vision is now a reality. And then it’s time to set another big goal to execute on.


  1. Tim Sheets

    Great article. An analogy I often use is “Eating an Elephant”. Impossible to consume in one sitting, you have to break it down into chunks and attack it one piece at a time. Otherwise, you get overwhelmed and as you say, we are doomed to fail from the start. Breaking down BIG goals into smaller chunks allows us to be more successful and build momentum, which in turn, builds confidence.

    1. Post

      You’ve got that right! Think big. Act small. It’s all about the discipline on the small things, over time that ultimately leads to long-term success.

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