A small business owner I know once took a week-long vacation. That week, he set four goals for himself: to quit smoking, get in shape, go back to college, and get a girlfriend. 

His plan was to focus on one each day so by the end of the week, he’d have made great progress. On Monday, the nicotine gum made him sick so he took a nap. When he woke up, he smoked two cigarettes. On Tuesday, he walked a mile and got a blister. On Wednesday he found out he’d need to pay for official transcripts in order to apply for new college acceptance and postponed that task for a few months later. On Thursday, he signed up for a free online dating service, browsed photos for an hour, and decided he was better off single.

In short, with only minimal effort, he successfully failed at every goal. Of course, goals aren’t just personal – they might be for your business, too. The process for failure is the same, either way:

  1. Be vague. “Lose weight” and “make money” are vague phrases. They could mean anything. You could lose a pound and congratulate yourself, right? Or if you gross $5000 even if your net by the end of the year is $50, you still made money, right? It you want to fail, you should never be specific about how much or when or how.
  2. Don’t measure your progress. Who wants to be bogged down with that? With a goal like making money, you’ll know whether you’re broke or not, and that’s good enough.
  3. Don’t take regular action. It’s a goal, not a life-or-death thing. You can take days (weeks, months) off and still make progress. The money will roll in and the weight will disappear eventually. You just have to want it!
  4. Aim for something completely unrealistic. Like they say, “aim for the moon and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.” Of course, the stars are nowhere near the proximity of our moon, so technically, if you miss, you’ll just be floating in orbit like all the other space junk. But hey, keep telling yourself that, cupcake.
  5. Never ever set a deadline. Nobody works better under pressure. Isn’t it more freeing to have the rest of your life (or until you forget) to achieve that goal? No rush!

On the other hand, if you’re interested in successfully achieving your goals, you’ll want to do the opposite of these things! Be specific, measure, take regular action, be realistic, and work with a time limit.

Sounds like the SMART goal formula, doesn’t it? That handy little device has been around a long time, but it’s human nature to try to outsmart, look for a loophole, or maybe just cut corners and skip a step. It comes down to priorities.

I know sleep and doughnuts and convenience are tempting! But are those things what you’ll be proud of accomplishing more than anything else? Or are they just things you want right now? Because if they are, you’re throwing away another chance to get something better.

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