If you’re a success in your business, whatever it is, you are no stranger to setting and achieving goals, sometimes seemingly impossible ones. Almost every significant thing I have ever accomplished was done through methodical planning, setting of milestones, and slow, steady persistence. As much as I am an impatient, ‘get er done and done NOW’ type of person, this has not been the key to success as much as the often boring, far less glamorous trudging. If it weren’t for a combination of having a Mountain AND the markers I’d set along the way (i.e. mini-goals), I might have lost sight of the prize and wandered off into more exciting terrain (not that I haven’t done THAT a time or two either).
In my opinion, there needs to be two kinds of goals to really inspire, motivate, and achieve long-lasting improvement, and it starts with a Mountain. Notice I did not say Mountains, plural. Your Mountain is the overarching goal (the ‘why’ to borrow language from Simon Sinek) behind all your other endeavors. Your Mountain is your big dream, and, if you share it with your team the ‘bigger than yourself’ experience that draws people together to accomplish a mission that can feel life-changing. It is probably not going to be a revenue and profitability goal, although those are likely going to feed into the dream. Your Mountain is bigger than that.
My Mountain, for example, is to eventually start a foundation whose purpose is to seed and grow self-sustaining, entrepreneurial businesses to help people grow incomes outside of typical job structures. This grew slowly out of my firsthand realization of the limited career opportunities available to me after having children. I didn’t want to spend all day, every day, away from my children, nor did I want to completely take myself out of the workforce. This turned into a passion to help others in my position find fulfilling, lucrative, and most of all flexible opportunities – something that is just not available currently.
Of course, there are a lot of things that need to come into place before I can get anywhere near achieving this dream, not the least of which are proving out the model, generating capital, and building out a program that makes sense. Each of these is a daunting endeavor in and of itself. I can easily get bogged down in the day to day of the entrepreneurial life of marketing, networking, and of course actually performing the services my clients are paying me for, and start thinking that any of those ARE the Mountain.
Losing sight of the Mountain is what leads to stress, burnout, and taking on distractions that may seem enticing but don’t really lead anywhere. The Mountain is the gel that holds teams together and the thing that keeps you excited about slogging through. But the Mountain is not enough. Just like great leadership is ineffective if no one is managing the processes, a Mountain in and of itself is just a pretty view without a trail, a backpack, a map, and supplies. These are your goals.
My Mountain won’t be achieved in a year, but you can bet I have a solid 5-year plan that gets me closer and closer and none of that will happen if I don’t set and track the steps I need to take me there. The reason both together are so important is a funny little thing about goals and human nature. We always (without exception) tend to cease our effort when we hit a goal. It’s why so many of us fail to make long-term improvement. Don’t believe me? Look at the average person’s weight, bank account, and even career. Most people make progress towards a goal, hit the goal, and then stop effort until they congeal around a ‘set point’, determined by a belief about what’s possible.
Keeping a Mountain in mind is imperative to not only changing your belief, but in generating forward momentum PAST your goals – ‘Onward and Upward’ (to quote C.S. Lewis).
So before setting your resolutions and goals for 2017, take a moment to consider your Mountain. Dream big. Forget SMART for a moment and forget realistic too. Your Mountain should be bigger than you and require more than you know at the moment to attain it. And that’s where the fun really starts!
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org