Kenneth Ervin Young is a Business and Digital Marketing Coach, a Full-Stack Website Developer, a Georgia Institute of Technology Electrical Engineer, a Husband, and a Father. Kenneth resides in Tampa, Florida, USA.

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While driving on Saturday and listening to a podcast, I started thinking about Goals vs Actions – Only One You Control – Which is More Important? I thought about how many of us probably approach the concept of “Goals” all wrong!

There’s an old but so true saying in life “If you don’t have near 100% control making something you want to happen – you should not be worrying about it! Why? Because when we don’t have ~100% control over making something happen, sadness and disappointment come when we (often) fail. Not a healthy way to live your life.”

Few people don’t want to be financially wealthy. But, only a single percentage or so of the world population are economically well-off. Why? Because for most, becoming financially well off will take a lot of work and sacrifice over many years—10 or more. And few of us are willing to take the tens of thousands of “Actions” required to get there. You need to Study. Get a College Degree or Trade Skill. Live like a homeless person and save money. Delay Marriage. Sacrifice. Understanding the difference between Goals and Actions will help.

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Goals vs Actions – Only One You Control – Which is More Important?

“Wait a minute,” you say. Every book on the subject of achieving success in life says we MUST SET GOALS! Well, they are 100% right. However, many of these same books “fail” to tell you how to achieve these goals you set for yourself. “I want – to get Rich” is a goal. “… get an Engineering Degree” is a goal. To lose 40 pounds is a goal. But how do you achieve these “Goals”? Through a series of carefully thought out, measurable, achievable – “Actions.”

Actions – 100% Control to Achieve Your Goals

“I need to buy a new car” is a goal. To achieve “Goals,” you need to create a list of daily, weekly, monthly measurable “Actions.” An “Action” is a “Well Defined Task that You Have 100% Control to Accomplish. Achieving a Goal will require possibly hundreds of well-defined, measurable “Actions.”

  • Choose a Car Brand – Mercedes CL300 – Check.
  • Find the best price – $41,244.00 – Check.
  • Determine the cost of insurance – $132.00/month – Check.
  • Open a Savings Account to save the monies to buy the auto – Wells Fargo – Check.
  • Decide what to “give up” to afford the car – No More Saturday Nights Eating Out – Check.
  • Get a second job to earn more money – Walmart Greeter – Check.

Goals and Actions are very different.

Why Do We Fail At Achieving Goals?

Failure to write down every action required to achieve your “Goal” is why most people never reach their “Goal.” Some of the required “Actions” will be independent. Some actions will be “dependent” on first accomplishing some other action. Thinking through and writing down Actions you have to complete to achieve a Goal takes time, though, and research. Even after creating your Actions list, you will add more Actions as you work on your initial list. Adding more actions is a good thing. No item on your list is too small. If it takes 15 minutes or more, I add it to my list.

Why Write Down All These Actions?

Now some of you are thinking, “Why should I bother to Write Down All These Actions I Need to Do?”. Good Question. Accomplishing most Goals in life takes time, effort, and sacrifice – and that’s why we often fail at our Goals. When we’re able to “check off” accomplished Actions daily, we “see” ourselves steadily marching towards achieving our Goal. This daily, measurable series of Actions and Accomplishments helps keep our spirit up and our feet and mind moving forward.

Big Goal? Create a Series of Step Goals

“I want my business to have sales of $100M within ten years”. Great goal. How to get there? First, set a series of smaller Step Goals. Make your first goal for $100K in revenue. Then set the second Goal for $250K. Make the next goals for $500K – $1M – $2.5M – $5M – $10M – $25M – $50M. Finally, set the tenth goal to be $100M.

Next, write down only the “Actions” you need to take to get to that first $100K. Ignore the other Goals for now. It would be best if you learned” how to create and accomplish the Actions to achieve your first Goal of 100K in sales. It will be a significant learning experience on how hard it is to make the first goal.

When you have your first $100K in sales, sit down and review all your actions. See what you learned from accomplishing each Action. Look at all the Actions you had to add to your initial list to achieve your $100K Goal. I promise it will be eye-opening.

Add notes to each Action that reviewed where you were inefficient (wasted time/money/effort) to accomplish the action. The goal is to improve on that step for the $250K Goal. The effort/time to achieve the $250K Goal should take 50% less time than the first $100K.

Why will it take 1/2 the time or less? It will take 1/2 the time because you were still “learning” while working on the $100K goal. Doing something the first time – baking a pie or changing a diaper – our trial and error learning takes extra time.

Trial and Error – the “Why” in Failure to Achieve Goals

It’s the “failure” in doing anything we attempt as to why we “give up.” We “Try” and “Fail” some number of times, then we “give up.” Think about it. When we do poorly at something, we feel frustrated and disappointed. How do most of us “deal” with feeling “frustrated and disappointed”? By “giving up.”

I was that way with golf. I sucked at the game even after 4+ years golfing with my Dad as a teenager. Why? Because I didn’t know that I needed to take a series of “Actions” to achieve my “Goal.” I wanted to be good at playing golf, but I skipped starting with Coaching from a Golf Pro.

Instead, I just kept trying different things believing I could do it all by myself – and I failed miserably! Had I used a Coach, I would likely be out there today putting in a round of 18 holes.

The Value of Coaching – Goals vs Actions

In my professional life, I help business professionals – such as most of you – tackle and solve their challenges of activities. I always start by Listening. Next, I ask questions targeted towards identifying the Business Goals and the Skills of the Business Professional.

Then, we’ll create a robust set of Goals, and I’ll guide you towards setting a stage of measurable Actions. Next, I will help you develop a set of Actions that you will complete before our next meeting. These first “Actions” that you create will focus on achieving the Business and Business Professional Goals. See – Goals vs Actions are very different.

In follow-on meetings, we review and refine the Action lists methods of accomplishments. Often the other management team members are brought into group meetings and some into individual coaching sessions. My end “Goal” guides you in creating a better functioning management process and team. One that will enable you to accomplish your goals and move forward faster and better than your competition.

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Conclusion – Goals vs Actions

I hope I have helped you understand the difference between Goals vs Actions – Only One You Control – Which is More Important? If you’re starting you create your first investor presentation, congratulations! You’re going to be starting off on the right foot if you follow my recommendations above. Go back and look at your Team slide and apply what you’ve learned above. If possible, you should wait to read the remainder of the series before you present again. I can almost promise you a better reaction from your audience.

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