The Secret To Hitting Every Goal, Every Time
By: Laura Posey


How are you doing on your goals so far this year? Are you on target to have your best year ever? Or is this year similar to the others - good but not great?

Extremely successful salespeople know that the secret to getting what they want is to set and achieve goals. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Why then do so many of us miss them consistently? The answer lies in our motivation.

Motivation is the engine that drives us towards our goals. It's the thing that makes us pick up the phone and call people, that gets us up in the morning and headed to the office, that makes our dreams our reality. When we learn to set goals most of us have been taught to identify the benefits of achieving our goals and the consequences of not achieving them. We come up with benefits such as making more money, feeling good about ourselves, getting recognition from our peers, etc. Typical consequences include feeling like a failure, increasing debt, not funding retirement, etc. While this sounds like a good idea, the fact is, it simply isn't enough.

Benefits and consequences refer to the uncontrollable side effects of accomplishing or missing your goals. They are the things that happen as a result of your activities but most of the time they simply aren't motivating enough. Let's face it, if you don't get the benefits or you do get the consequences, you'll still live. For most of us the worst consequence is that we would lose our job. Big deal- we'd feel bad for awhile and then go get another one. Whatever bad thing happens, we'll get over it. Likewise, the benefits aren't exciting either. If it's something we don't have, we're living without it just fine. If we never get it, we can rationalize that it wasn't important anyway and get on with our lives the way there are. For that reason, benefits and consequences just don't work.

The secret is to get more personal and more serious about motivation. The secret is to establish rewards and penalties. Rewards and penalties refer to the controllable, pre-determined prizes or punishments that you assign to the accomplishment of your goal. They put some teeth in your goal achievement and give you something really wonderful when you hit the goal and make you suffer something terrible if you miss it.

Establishing rewards and penalties can be tricky, but I encourage you to do it. Think about what you would really like to do when you hit your goal. What do you want to buy or do that you really, really want? Do you want to take a trip? Do you want to buy a new wardrobe? What gets you really excited when you think about it? Some of the rewards our clients have earned include trips to Italian villas, diamond rings and tickets to a Yankees/Red Sox game. These were things they really desired and when they achieved their goals they rewarded themselves accordingly.

Penalties are even harder to do but are at least as important as rewards. Most people in life are much more motivated by avoiding dire consequences than they are by achieving great rewards. Think about it- would you work harder to earn a bigger house or to keep from losing the one you have? Penalties operate on this principle. What could you give up that would hurt so much it would motivate you to change your behavior? Some of the penalties our clients have imposed on themselves include selling their favorite car and driving a clunker, donating money to a charity they hate and giving away their vacation savings account. Ouch! They gave up things that were extremely important to them. They didn't just miss advancing towards something new, they punished themselves by moving backwards. Think about it- isn't that what we do to children to teach them? We take away privileges. We think that as adults the same things don't apply to us, but they do. Most of us are more motivated by the potential loss of something valuable than the potential gain of something valuable.

Take some time to figure out what you really want and what would really hurt if you lost it and add them to your goal achievement process. When you hit your goal, reward yourself, even if you think you should pay off a credit card instead (all of you financial planners take a deep breath - there's plenty more money on the way). If you miss the goal, impose the penalty. Make it hurt. You'll never miss another goal. And because you never miss another goal, you'll have rewards beyond your wildest dreams!

2004 Laura Posey. All rights reserved.

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