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The funny part is: most people set goals that end up making them feel unhappy

Someone I care deeply for recently told me, “I don’t believe in new years resolutions”. I empathized. The concept has become so diluted and worthless that I avoid those three words together at any cost.

“Setting goals” is a little bit different than “New Years Resolutions” though.

New Year’s Resolutions tend to be impulsive, grandiose goals that often recur year after year but rarely make measurable progress.

After consuming over 200 podcasts by Tim Ferriss, 300 from Lewis Howes, as well as countless hardback books from success stories we all know too well, in my experience as an entrepreneur, I found the key components of ineffective goals are:

  1. lack of clarity
  2. not being truly achievable
  3. moving targets

To end this backbreaking cycle of unachieved goals and recurring frustration, I’m offering up a simple framework. I used this strategy last January.

“The day I stopped trying be a business man is the day I became successful in business” – David Burns at Business Monk

This year, I’ve hit about 80% of my goals. A few of my 2018 rolled up goals that were hit include:

  • Double monthly sales at our agency, K&J Growth
  • Learn enough Spanish to hold a 10-minute conversation
  • Meet someone I’d call my lover
  • Move somewhere that I love, with beach and mountains
  • Exit the company I’d started 4 years ago that was sucking me dry
  • Pay down business expenses my first company had accrued ($16K)

I do goals on a 90-day basis, so there were others that went unachieved in 2018, like learning to Salsa Dance.

Now, these probably seem a bit unrealistic and lofty to some. To others, amateur. 

I was working toward these by the time I wrote them. So many already had some momentum. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s likely your big goals are already being worked on and simply need a “double down”.

Prior, I’d been waffling back and forth on several of them each year, and in turn spent about three years in a loop without making measurable progress on any of the above.

“Life begins where your comfort zone ends”

Most notably, in August 2017, I exited Vea Fitness – my first real company I started, that supported 25,000 runners across the world. 

Step 1Set Very Achievable Goals

If you were anything like me last year, you’re frustrated with your goal-setting, and history of not achieving them.

It’s really important that you get your bearings before going big. Setting and achieving goals is a practice. It takes many cycles to synchronize your targets with your actions to achieve them.

You don’t just knock out 6-year goals in 6 months (sorry, Tim Ferriss; it’s just not as simple as you make it seem).

This is extremely vital. Most people don’t give this due credit.

Crawl, walk, run.

Everyone has a different stage they’re at in success, but everyone can make progress in some way or another, even if the goal line is hugely different between you and them. 

When setting your 2019 goals:

  • Break them into quarters (90 days)
  • Make Q1 “easy” goals (ones you know you can achieve) and gently ramp up Q2, Q3 and Q4
  • Restrict yourself to 3 personal goals and 3 business (or career) goals. The fewer the better, at first.
  • Create a mood board. Then print 2 on cardstock and hang them on your two mirrors. Here’s mine for 2018:

Use a simple, realistic template and set your own restrictions.

I pulled this template from a program I created around fitness, mindset, and meditation, called Absolute Athlete.

Lastly, by the time I wrote my 2019 goals, I had completely fumbled on my 2018 goals, so bad that I was having an all-out breakdown to my dad in the kitchen on NYE, and life was basically at a standstill.

This breakdown forced me to set more realistic goals for Q1’18. Boy, was I thankful I did. The emotional payoff was huge.

From there, based on the success of this framework, I went as far as creating a whole membership program around the processes and systems – as mentioned above.

Step 2Remove the Grey Area

When you’re setting goals, one of the most powerful components contributing to the success of a goal is that you’re making a sacrifice, giving up one option for another – “tradeoffs” as they’re called in business, thanks to the famed marketing strategist Michael Porter.

For me, it was giving up my “baby” business that was taking all my time, energy, and money and not paying me enough. In exchange, I would build a business that had real cash flow and profit.

I’d been double timing my fitness app and first creative agency for 2 years. 

I was spending my agency earnings on the app startup, but neither were reaching the goals I had in mind or needed to hit to be successful.

Looking back, it seems pretty obvious that I’d leave that startup sucking my spirit and bank account dry.

Of course, that was until I saw a friend and fellow startup entrepreneur who got the plug pulled on his app startup by one of their investors, forcing him to fire his 18 employees in a single day and go into a deep, dark place as his other investors beckoned – “where’d the initial $10M go?”. It’s just not as easy as it sounds. Another story for another day, though.

Whatever your unproductive or negative forces are, whether that’s a startup, a toxic relationship, an unhealthy eating habit, or an addiction, it’s important that you have clarity around it. Be willing to cut out what doesn’t serve you.

And whatever you substitute in as a replacement for those factors holding you back, make into goals in your sheet from above.

Be short, articulate, and clear, and have dates, metrics, and specificity. 

Step 3) “Gentle Persistence” Does the Trick

Now that you have clear goals, with timelines and metrics, it’s time to go dominate, right?

Well, kind of.

Try not to be too “knee-jerky” or “blunt force” with them. Instead, start with intention and proactivity. Balance your energy exertion so that you can be a marathoner instead of a sprinter.

“Balance” is the keyword.

  • sprints and rests
  • exertion and rewards
  • work and vacations
  • impatience and patience
  • hustle and happy

We coined a concept internally at our company, “gentle persistence,” which employs a few values: hard work, diligence, clarity, continuity, and consistency.

I implore you to go back every day and apply yourself, even if just a little. Instead of having “flash in the pan” hustle.

We tend to get distracted after binging and growing bored of a project after consuming nothing but that for weeks, months, or years.

In contrast, for my Spanish goal, I started with 5 minutes per day on Duolingo. Next quarter, I hired an Argentinian college student to tutor me for $10/week via Upwork. By the time I visited Colombia 12 months later, I was speaking Spanish comfortably with almost everyone I encountered.

It’s all about being forgiving to yourself when you miss, making small adjustments to your goals as dynamics change, and staying applied.

“Persistence creates momentum.”

My 2018 Goals Review

I checked back in about every quarter on my goals, adjusting a little each time as goals were hit or as I lost interest in others.

I found it fun to look back and see the ones that I’d achieved, especially since some of them came as a surprise to me.

I hadn’t even thought about my Spanish speaking goal in a while, until just recently, when I caught myself having a deep conversation in Spanish with an Uber driver from the Dominican Republic.

For each of my personal and business goals that I hit, I’d initially set very low targets, ones that I knew I could achieve.

Before I knew it, the low goals were reached, and I felt it was fair to increase my targets.

A Quick Story

I set a goal to grow agency revenue 50% (1.5X) by March 2018 for my division but reached that in February. I enjoyed that buzz through March, then set my goal to 100% (2X) growth in sales for the end of June 2018. Once that came through, I hit a flatline because our business had some growing pains (staffing, operations).

While I hashed those growing pains out, I shifted and set some personal savings and investments goals for the end of December. Those savings and investment goals were reached by November of 2018.

Then, once the growing pains in staffing and operations were resolved, we were back on the gravy train toward reaching our sales goal for the end of 2018.

As you can see, I stayed flexible and patient, but also persistent. If something didn’t come through, I didn’t throw my hands in the air and yell “forget it”. Instead, I shifted my goals to match my needs better at that time.

Taking Simple Action

Take a moment and write your 3 business and 3 personal goals for Q1 in a word doc, and feel free to share it back with me by posting an Instagram story of your goals and tag me @tcg_style. I’ll provide some feedback if you’d like.

It really isn’t hard – just list off 3 personal and 3 business goals you want to hit, and make them easy to hit. Then, break them up in four quarters, making each quarter a progress goal toward the end-of-year ones.

From there, you’ll want to print and read them regularly.

For me, I read them every day and night for the first 90 days until they were engrained. Once I got the hang of thinking of them regularly, I cut it down to about once per week.

Happy goal setting!

JMOpinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endrose or review brands mentioned.

Jonathan Maxim is an app designer, digital marketer and thought leader in the fitness and technology realms. After leaving his job at a Fortune 50 company, he merged his management experience with his passion for technology and innovation to create Apps that encourage fitness and wellness. Educated at San Diego State University first in Graphic Design and User Interface, he went on to gain his Masters of Business from SDSU as well. Currently he serves as founder and CEO of Vea Fitness, an app that rewards you for working out with monetary incentives.