Eight years ago I sat inside the walls of a cubicle in downtown Boston, making sales calls I didn’t want to make, working for a financial institution I didn’t want to work for anymore.
I found myself in said situation after serving a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq as an Officer in the US Army. When I was discharged and back in the States I thought the right thing for me to do was dive into Corporate America.
A lot of my buddies who graduated college the same year as me had spent those same 13 months finding corporate jobs; they were making good money and seemed to be happy.
From my time in the reserves, all the way up to the time I found myself in that cubicle, it felt like the pressures of society and what was “supposed to happen next” were steering my direction.
I did a few things that weren’t the norm, like quit law school after just one semester, and then I spent 4 months traveling in India with just my backpack. But no matter what I did, I continued to feel like I was running on a hamster wheel, going nowhere and inspiring no one – especially not myself.
It took me years to discover there was just one thing standing between me and the life I wanted to live: setting and accomplishing goals.
Since making this discovery I’ve started my own business, I don’t ever make sales calls, and I don’t sit inside of a cubicle anymore.
Instead, I’m living the exact life I want to live: a life filled with freedom to do what I want, when I want.
It all started with just one single step – a step that made me uncomfortable, to say the least, and pivoted my direction in life from being on a partnership track at a Commercial Real Estate Firm to learning how to podcast.
Since that first step, I’ve taken thousands more on my journey to inspiring millions through my podcast, EOFire, where I interview today’s most successful entrepreneurs daily.
But how great can a discovery like this be if it’s not shared with others?
I know I’m not the only one who wants to live life on my own terms.
So in 2015 I set out to create guide that would help others set and accomplish their goals. This guide is a compilation of the lessons I’ve learned on my journey, plus advice I’ve gleaned from over 1,200 interviews with other successful entrepreneurs.
It comes down to this: there are 5 simple steps to setting and accomplishing goals. These 5 steps are ones anyone can follow, and I’m excited to be sharing them with you.
Step 1: Set a SMART goal
If your goal isn’t SMART, then you have no way of putting a plan in place to execute it.
A SMART goal is:
The first of the 5 steps is sitting down with a goal you’ve set for yourself, and testing it against each of the SMART criteria.
Your goal has to be:
- Specific, meaning you know the who, what, when, where and why of it.
- Measurable, meaning you have a number you can hit to confirm you’ve achieved it.
- Attainable, meaning it’s within the realm of possibility (stretch yourself, but be realistic).
- Relevant, meaning it matters and has significance in relation to your other goals.
- Time-bound, meaning you have a deadline for when you’ll accomplish it.
While driving in my car one day to and from appointments at my job in Commercial Real Estate, I ran out of podcasts to listen to. That’s when the idea to create a daily podcast interviewing today’s most successful entrepreneurs came to me; I was scratching my own itch.
In order for me to make “launching a daily podcast” a goal I could actually accomplish, I had to make it SMART, otherwise, overwhelm and a sense of ignorance would have stopped me before I had gotten anywhere.
Instead of just saying I wanted to launch a daily podcast, I wrote down:
I want to launch a podcast that interviews today’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs, and what will be unique about it is a consistent format – the same questions every time – and I’m going to publish it daily. I will launch this podcast on August 30, 2012 with 3 episodes live on day 1, plus 1 month’s worth of content (30 interviews) lined up and ready.
Once you’ve made sure your goal is SMART, it’s time to break it down into smaller pieces. You might think of these pieces as your micro-goals.
Step 2: Set micro-goals
If you’ve set a legitimate SMART goal for yourself, then it probably feels like it’s going to take forever to actually accomplish it.
This feeling is normal.
So instead of overwhelming yourself by focusing on how far away the accomplishment of your might goal be, focus on a single step – each and every day – that will bring you one step closer to your goal.
Before you know it, all of those smaller steps will bring you to the finish line.
Start setting your micro-goals by listing out the individual steps you need to take in order to accomplish your goal, and then write them down in the order they need to be completed.
Some of the steps I knew I needed to take in order to help me accomplish my goal (in no particular order here) were:
- Buy equipment;
- Learn how to record and edit a podcast;
- Research podcast hosting services;
- Join an online community of podcasters;
- Hire a podcasting mentor / coach;
- and of course a whole lot more!
Each of the steps you write down will become a micro-goal: something you focus on for a set period of time, (maybe 5-10 days depending on how involved it is), before you move on to the next step that is going to help you get closer to your goal.
Step 3: Set review periods
Review periods are something most people shove to the side – don’t shove your review periods to the side.
Let’s say you’ve set a deadline for accomplishing your goal that is 100 days away. Your review periods should be set up for at least once per quarter (every 25 days).
Your review periods are in place to help you reflect on the actions you’ve been taking towards accomplishing your goal and also to help you stay on pace.
During your review period, you might ask yourself questions like:
- What’s been going really well?
- What hasn’t been going very well?
- How is my timeline looking based on when I want to accomplish my goal?
Answering these questions will allow you to double down on what’s working, pivot from what’s not working, and also give you a timeline check based on your deadline.
Step 4: Find accountability
Accountability is everything when it comes to setting and accomplishing your goals, because when the going gets tough, chances are, you’re going to want to quit – push your deadline – make an excuse for yourself.
If you have someone holding you accountable to doing what you said you were going to do, quitting suddenly isn’t an option, and pushing deadlines and making excuses isn’t going to cut it.
If you don’t have a friend, family member, or a colleague who can help hold you accountable, then try looking for an accountability partner:
- At a local meet up,
- Online in a Facebook Group, or
- In a LinkedIn Group that’s focused on what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
For me, accountability literally saved my business.
My SMART goal included me launching my podcast on August 30, 2012. Come August 30, I was freaking out – fear and the imposter syndrome were knocking at my door, and I answered.
There were so many things going through my mind, like:
- What if no one listens to my show?
- What if I sound stupid on the mic?
- What if my podcast fails and I have to quit?
I delayed my launch as a result, and in doing so, missed my deadline.
Lucky for me, my accountability partner, who also happened to be my coach at the time, wasn’t going to let me off that easy. In fact, she told me she was going to fire me as her client if I didn’t launch my podcast.
Without that push, I may have never launched, and therefore, wouldn’t have the business I have today.
Step 5: Never quit
There are going to be times during your journey to accomplishing your goal where you’re going to feel like giving up.
It’s going to get hard, and you’re likely going to fall down more than once.
Fear will also try and get the best of you – just like it did with me.
It’s not easy to set yourself apart – to be one of the few who keeps on going despite the feeling that everything and everyone is against you.
Never quit, because what’s at stake is much greater than whatever it is you may be settling for now.
Some tips for when the going gets tough:
- Surround yourself with people who are on the same path as you;
- Continue to take just one step closer to your goal every day to help gain confidence and momentum;
- Focus on your goal and how great it’ll feel once you accomplish it.
On September 22, 2012 I launched the first interview-based podcast that shares the journeys of today’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs daily: EOFire.
I had multiple people tell me my idea wouldn’t work – that no one would want to listen to a daily show, and that I wouldn’t be able to find enough interviewees to fill so many spots.
Today, EOFire is downloaded over 1.2 million times every single month in over 145 countries.
As a business, we net over $200k every month.
As an individual, I’m living for the first time in my life a life of freedom, and it all started with setting and accomplishing a goal.
Was it tough, and did I struggle to hit my micro-goals and sometimes feel like I wanted to give up?
But I was willing to do whatever it took to create a business and a life that would afford me freedom.
Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.”
Don’t wait another day to start accomplishing your goals.
John Lee Dumas is the founder and host of EOFire, an award winning Podcast where he interviews today’s most successful Entrepreneurs 7-days a week. He recently launched The Freedom Journal to help individuals set and accomplish their #1 goal in 100 days.