Four proven steps to finally follow through on your important goals

We all know this. We have decided that we want to do something that is really important to us. And we are convinced that this time, we will finally get to do it. Fast forward six months. What happened? Not much.

Not making or seeing progress on a goal that is personally important to us leads to disappointment and even cynicism might set in. This is not a good place to be in.

So how do we get it done? We cannot depend on our excitement alone. After the first excitement wanes, we need a system to hold us accountable. The authors of “The four disciplines of execution” describe a simple and profound 4-step system how we can take our most important goals and make progress.

1) Set wildly important goals

The first step is that you set right goals. This might sound obvious, but it is not. I have made the experience that a lot of the goals I have set for myself are shaped by outside influences. Many times I followed the goals of other people, not my own.

So we need to double check:

  • Is this important to me?
  • How important is it to me?

When it is wildly important to us and our vision of the future is clear and compelling to us, it pulls us. So what would YOU like to achieve? Goals are a lag measure. That means, we will only see that we have achieved them, after we achieved them. It can be useful to set two to three goals per quarter. If you set more, you will loose focus.

2) Identify lead measures

To see if we are actually making progress towards our goals, we need to set measurable, trackable and influenceable lead measures. This is like asking: What is the seed I need to sow, in order to reap the harvest I want later? When we measure the seeds, we can see progress and give growth the time it needs.

Once we get clear on what leads towards our goals, we know what to focus on and what to cut out. This cuts away a lot of the clutter and noise that often distracts us from doing our most important work.

The question to ask is: What can I do that leads to my wildly important goal? It has to be something I can control and measure. So identify what you can influence and take action on and move on to the next step.

3) Set up a compelling Scoreboard

Once we completed steps 1 and 2, we have already done a lot of the groundwork for making goal setting work. Now that we got clear, what actions we can measure towards our goals, we need a place to put it. This is the scoreboard.

The scoreboard is the place where we can see the progress we make. Seeing progress gives us a sense of accomplishment which is important for continued motivation. If you make huge progress, but don’t recognize and celebrate it, you will not be able to enjoy it. But if you can recognize and celebrate even the small progress you are making each day, that will keep you motivated towards reaching your goal.
Our scoreboard also let us see where we are falling short and might need to make adjustments. We want to continually evaluate how we are doing and if we are moving closer to our goal.

4) Put a Cadence of accountability in place

To really make progress and adjustments where necessary, we need regular and consistent accountability. One of the best ways is to have a weekly review with other people invested in our progress.

Outside input from supportive people is especially helpful, as their perspective helps us see the things that we can’t see. And it is sometimes just too easy to fool ourselves and talk us out of our own commitments. Other people can help to have an honest look on where we are.

The four disciplines of execution are a simple framework that can help to achieve massive goals. Caution: Simple does not mean easy. As the authors say, it “says simple, does hard”.

Making progress on what matters most requires intentional action. And that requires us to grow and climb mountains. Sometimes we just want to quit. That is where the scoreboard combined with accountability can be especially helpful. The data on lead measures will help us to close the gap between what we know we should do and what we are actually doing.

How about you? What is your experience with a scoreboard? Do you have accountability in place for your wildly important goals? Let me know in the comments below.

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