What are your biggest goals this year? Are you ready to finally write that book/start that blog/lose 20 pounds/run a marathon/get a promotion/learn to knit? If you're anything like me, your list of goals often includes several noble pursuits.
“Absolutely,” I tell myself, “I can be a great mom, military spouse, volunteer at church, eat healthier every day, do more craft projects, be my son's physical therapist, read more books, run a marathon, start a new Etsy shop, write a book, save enough money for our second adoption, and grow a blog to 100,000 visitors/month in one year. Of course I can do all that and more!”
By the end of January, I'm left with a half-finished scarf, rotten veggies in the fridge, a budget that's anything but balanced, a new shop with only 2 listings, a cranky husband and son because mommy is overwhelmed and has no time for them, and of course, I've gained weight from all the added stress! Does this sound like you?
There’s a story about Warren Buffet providing counsel to one of his pilots that goes something like this: He asks the pilot to thoughtfully list the 25 goals which are most important to him. What things does he wish to accomplish most? For our purposes here today, we’ll ask, what things do you wish to accomplish most in the next year?
The pilot dutifully writes down his top 25 goals. They’re all worthy goals and quite important to him.
Warren then asks him to pick only his top 5 most important goals. This task seems nearly impossible. After all, every item on the list is important. All of them are praiseworthy goals to pursue.
After some thought, the pilot narrows his list.
He’s quite excited at this point and eager to get started on reaching his top goals.
Warren asks him what he’ll do with the other 20 things that had once been on his list.
This is where the pilot goes wrong: He tells Warren that they’re still important goals…. that he’ll work on them intermittently between the bigger goals. He’ll tackle them when he can.
Here comes the secret. The truth that the most successful people know, and the rest of us kid ourselves into thinking is a lie: Those other 20 things are no longer good things…. They’re your worst enemy.
Those 20 things are your “do not do at any cost” list, as Warren says.
So, what’s the big deal? Weren’t these 20 things very recently a close second to your top 5? Couldn’t you have easily picked #6 on your list instead of #4?
Why would you now avoid that item as though your life depended on it? What gives?
What gives is the cold hard truth that good is the enemy of best.
Too many choices and distractions will paralyze you into doing nothing… or into doing everything halfway.
There’s not really a good way to turn a profit on a halfway-finished product or a halfway-written book.
All the way beats 10 incredible halfways every time.
Before you start tackling projects and setting goals for the New Year, it’s critical that you determine what your top 5 essentials will be. It’s impossible to have razor sharp focus and accomplish your goals if you’re still unsure of what those goals are.
Take a few minutes (or even a few hours!) and brainstorm the top 25 most important goals you'd like to accomplish in the next year.
These can be personal goals, relationship goals, parenting goals, business or blogging goals, you name it! Then begin to compare them to one another. Which ones matter the most? Which are really more like “want-to-haves” and which ones feel like non-negotiables? Which ones get you excited about life and accomplishing your own unique purpose?
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter what those five essentials are. What matters is that you choose the things that are most important to you.
I’ve included my own Top 5 for this year:
- Grow our Business to be profitable, with Sarah and I each taking home at least $2,000/month.
- Speak words of affirmation to my husband Chris every day.
- Work with my son Holden on physical therapy every day.
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes every day.
- Read something from the Bible each day.
You might notice that a few of my goals seem pretty simple. Daily exercise, daily time in the Word, daily encouragement for my husband. These might seem small and insignificant to list out as a Top 5 for the year, but to me, they're vitally important. I haven't yet gotten into a daily habit of exercise or devotional time. I'm always very sporadic about both. This year, I'm committed to building those habits. Once I've successfully built those as daily habits, I can happily move on to new goals while retaining the old ones. However, if I set additional goals right off the bat of eating 10 fruits and veggies a day, cooking only with whole foods, spending an hour a day in quiet time, completing a triathlon, a weekly date night with Chris, writing a love note to Chris every day, and more… chances are, NONE of those goals would have turned into habits and a changed lifestyle. I would have done them all halfway. Or… if I'm being totally honest, I would have done them all 1/100th of the way!
One of the most helpful things for me during this exercise was figuring out what I wanted most for our business. What was most important to accomplish this year? Did I care about more traffic or podcast listeners? Did I want to write a certain number of posts or interview some key guests? Did I want to grow social media to certain levels? Did I want to connect and encourage more moms? (that one is a definite yes!) When I looked at all the possibilities, I realized that income growth was at the top of the list.
This might sound shallow. The standard advice is to give, give, give; help as many people as you can, and the money will follow. I absolutely agree with that advice. However, I think it's more applicable to the greedier folks out there who have a tendency to forget about people and focus only on dollar signs. For Sarah and I, our tendency is always towards helping others and providing value, and what's more difficult for us is having a financial plan and goals for the business. I think for many women this is the case. We give and help all the time. Yet, sometimes, we forget that in order to keep doing the amazing work we're doing, we usually need to make some money doing it.
This business goal gave me a razor sharp focus to break down that particular benchmark into the baby steps needed to get there. We'll create our own product and focus on selling every day rather than increasing traffic or podcast listeners for no reason at all. As we build connections, spread the word, and market our book and other products, we'll continue to grow in other ways too. Best of all, our book and other products will help us to reach and encourage more moms. (That's the beauty of razor sharp focus – one success can beget another!)
When I'm tempted to spend all my time learning more about a particular form of social media or how to improve my photography, I'm reminded of my main goal – increasing revenue. I ask myself daily “what is the fastest, most efficient way to get there?” Once we reach that income goal, there will still be plenty of time to head back to the drawing board for our next big challenge.
Some items that didn’t make the list?
- Go on a nice, long family vacation.
- Run a half marathon at an 8:30 pace.
- Work on a collaborative Pinterest project
- Teach Holden how to read.
- Volunteer at church or in the community
(I realize that last goal seems super important, but he just turned 4, so if it doesn’t happen this year, he’ll be just fine!)
Another criticism my list might face is the fact that it didn't really include any service to others – that didn't end up making the list. To be honest, I do feel a bit guilty about not volunteering at church this year or serving in some other way. But then I remember where my primary calling of service lies – with my husband and little boy. If I neglect them in order to serve others, I'm not living out my calling.
Sarah and I both feel a strong calling towards this podcast and all the Brilliant Business Moms we get to support and connect with. Again, it's not a traditional mode of service, but I do feel a strong obligation to our audience to give them the best of what we've got.
Lastly, as moms, there are often so many non-negotiable tasks that are part of our day: cleaning, cooking, errand-running, playing with kids, helping with homework, and being the glue that holds our entire family together. I can't simply say, “Sorry, Holden, playing with you isn't one of my Top 5 this year, it'll have to wait….” Sticking with 5 main goals and forgetting the rest is so important, and we're all at different places.
Perhaps for you, daily quiet time and encouraging your spouse are already an unshakeable routine. Maybe you have breathing room to grow a business and volunteer somewhere else too. If that's the case – awesome! For me, it's not going to happen this year. I'm serving in other ways, and leaving plenty of breathing room so I can help friends and give of my time when it's truly needed.
The other 20 items on my list are all good things – really good things, in fact! To be honest, it can feel a bit depressing to cross those things off – knowing that they simply may not happen this year.
You know what’s more depressing, though? The thought of going one more year without a profitable business… the thought of 5 more years without a nice, long, family vacation because our jobs and budgets won’t allow for the freedom or funds to make it happen…and the thought of a frazzled, burnt out existence with too little laughter and quality time with my family.
I’m choosing BEST over GOOD. I’m systematically ignoring the good until the best are accomplished.
I’m urging you to do the same thing.
As women and mothers, we so often try to do it all. We think we can.
Ok, ok. Maybe we know we can’t do it ALL but we’re fairly convinced that we can do 99% of all the good things in the world. I mean, we grew up with Oprah and “I’m every woman” and girl power.
We’re lying to ourselves, and often we’re lying to the people we love the most.
When you set the BEST things as your goals and you focus on them with absolute resolve, there will be plenty of leisure time left to help others, build relationships, and live a year with few regrets.
So what is your BEST? What are the 5 essentials for your best year ever? As you've probably guessed by now, only you can decide! Just remember, there are 5, and only 5. Everything else gets crossed off the list.
Let's have the best year ever! I'm convinced that we can!
~ Beth Anne