Today I want to talk about a new way that I’ve begun to approach my creative work and setting goals in my business.
Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of the term “goal setting.” The biggest lesson I’ve taken from the past two years has been no longer defining my own progress by achieving goals but rather defining progress by better aligning my business decisions and my actions to my inner core values. This alignment-over-achievement shift has been a game-changer for my overall happiness and well-being.
HOWEVER… I’m also aware that goals can add value to my life, if framed properly. Rather than chasing them down as a way to seek validation, I’ve begun to see them as an effective tool for bringing purpose to my daily routines.
Waking up every morning with a purpose and a primary focus feels good because it provides me with a clearly defined metric for progress at the end of the day. “I set out to accomplish X and I got one step closer today. That brings me a sense of satisfaction.”
But even when we frame goals with this lens of purpose, there is a trap that we so frequently fall into when we set goals: We fixate on one anchor point as an artificial “finish line” and we fail to plan for sustainability beyond that point.
Let me illustrate this with an example.
The Better Lettering Course is relaunching next Tuesday with a fresh coat of paint and an all new blog and resource center for hand-lettering newbies. I’ve been working on this on and off for months, and more intently for the past few weeks since Color Your Soul ended.
In the past, I would have fallen into my same old trap, creating this “Launch Day” finish line in my head and allocating all my time and focus on working toward a polished product to reveal on that one day. I’d probably spend way too long obsessing over the details of the website, making it pixel perfect and as impeccable as possible for the big reveal. I’d put together a plan for announcing the launch on social media, and when that day rolled around, I’d pat myself on the back for making it to the finish line. Then... I'd set another finish line goal, and shift my attention there.
The only problem with this? The re-launch of the course shouldn't be the finish line; it should be the BEGINNING.
The real underlying purpose here is not to have a pretty website, it’s everything that goes beyond that point: having a plan to deliver value to site visitors interested in lettering; converting those interested into course buyers; nurturing a community of letterers; encouraging them to share the course with their friends; and, ultimately, creating a sustainable revenue stream for Made Vibrant. THAT is the real purpose… not just a pretty website and seamless launch day.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s time we start “playing for the post-game.”
To take whatever we instinctively set as the “finish line” and to mentally move it backwards to encapsulate the real goal: sustainability beyond the finish line. (Okay, I’m aware that I’m mixing metaphors here with the post-game and the finish line thing, but whatever… SPORTS.)
My mental milestone is no longer next Tuesday when the site goes live. Instead, I’ve set my calendar to one month after that when I can see if all the changes I’ve implemented have moved the needle for the course and its sales numbers. I plan to treat THAT Post-Launch Day with equal focus and attention that I would a website launch day.
How many times have we over-worked ourselves to launch a product, but neglected to plan for the promotion to actually make it successful? (*cough… Color Your Soul…cough*)
How many times have we put all our eggs in the basket of a presentation or delivering to a client only to neglect following up afterward to close the sale or maintain the relationship?
How many times do we focus on getting a new customer instead of keeping that customer happy?
Why do we do this? Well, I think it’s for a few reasons. First, as designers and creatives, we tend to over-emphasize the part of the process that we like because it feels easier for us. We experience less resistance. It’s obviously way more fun for me to make cool graphics and pick out fonts and tweak copy on my website than it is for me to plan out strategic email campaigns or follow-up sequences.
Second, we focus our attention on protecting ourselves where we feel most vulnerable. When we launch a website or a product, it feels like we’re opening ourselves up for public criticism. It may sound silly but a glaring typo or a broken link feels like a flashing reminder of our flaws, so we do everything we can to avoid feeling exposed or embarrassed. Far less people are going to see the follow-up emails and the marketing campaigns beyond the product launch, right? We feel less exposed, less at risk, so we spend less time protecting ourselves in that way.
By becoming aware of our tendency to ignore these “post-game” goals, we can actually start identifying a purpose that speaks to our long-term intentions.
We truly do ourselves a disservice when we pour all our time and energy into one of these “finish line goals” without a strategy to sustain or leverage that hard work well beyond the finish line.
So here’s my challenge to you this week:
Plan BEYOND whatever milestones you’ve set for yourself so your hard work can be sustained.
How to tactically put this into motion:
- Think of one goal that you are working toward right now. (Could be work-related or it could be life-related.)
- Identify what you’ve instinctively set as the “finish line” in your head. (The website launch, the book release, the weigh-in day, the big presentation.)
- Now mentally push that finish line back to include a follow-up, post-game period and ask yourself: What is the long-term benefit I’m trying to aim for?
- What can you do during that post-game period to contribute to that real, bigger purpose you’re working toward?
Let’s be honest…the after-party is where it’s always at, right?! Let’s add a little more of that to our “goal setting”, shall we?
Have an awesome week!