5|30 The goal setting exercise that changed my life.

“According to the best research, less than 3% of Americans have written goals, and less than 1% review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis.”

I believe life is built upon goals; they lay the foundation for who we see ourselves to be and who we want to be. They represent a moment in time where we attempt to declare our future selves.

Yet, all too often, goals become action-less, slipping into the realm where wishes, dreams, and words lie—things that are more often than not useless.

So, why don’t goals work for so many people? Why do so many New Year’s resolutions fall flat? Well, for many reasons…none we will discuss in this post today. Instead, what we will be discussing is the one goal setting exercise that changed my life.

The A to B Exercise. This is an action-based approach of setting out daily tasks, by chunking your larger vision into 90-day attainable tasks, and then again into daily no-brainers. Here’s how to do it and an example of one I did with someone on my team:

The A to B Exercise.

This is an exercise that I do for my quarterly targets and can either be done by yourself or with individuals on your team, or as a team altogether.

Time Needed: 2 hours

Equipment: Whiteboard/ Piece of Paper

Aim: To establish where you are at, at this point in time. And to then determine where you would like to be, by creating a road map of how you will get there.

Steps:

  1. Draw an ‘A’ in the top left corner with a straight face, not a sad face, and today’s date.
  2. Draw a ‘B’ in the top right corner with a smiley face and the date three months from now.

Either person can write, as I have had success with both, but I’ve found it lands better if they write.

A – This is our starting point, where we establish and break down different elements of our lives and what we are not satisfied with. It is key to remember this isn’t a pity party and that you can list anything.

  1. What are you unhappy, frustrated, or unsatisfied with? Debt? Clothes? Apartment? Relationships? Job? Body? Bank Account? Drinking habit?

Above all of the obvious negative things in your life, the more important thing to dig into and list are the ‘eh’ problems. These are the areas where you say, “Oh, that’s fine.” These are the things that you have learned to live with but aren’t relatively happy about. What are you apathetic toward? What are you accepting as ‘that’s just how it has always been?’

The reason for this is to bring awareness to these problems, so twist the knife a little bit—especially the first time around. We accept too many things as “just is” and, as we grow older, this list tends to grow, so nip it in the bud early. The 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time around, you won’t have to do this so much.

Please note, when listing the current situations, be sure to dig in accurately and specifically. For example, write “I drink four nights a week,” instead of just “I’m unhealthy.” Why are you unhealthy? What habits do you currently have that make you feel unhealthy? And what is the outcome of those habits? Is it a lack of energy or are you ten pounds overweight? Or both?

Then Go to B.

B – This is where you want to be in three months. This isn’t where we dream about the Lambo or the penthouse. This is only the first step down the road to your dream life or end-goal. For example, finishing the first draft of your best-selling novel—as you won’t be the best-selling author in just three months if you have never put pen to paper.

For some people, this is a hard place to determine or figure out. If you struggle to figure out where you want to be in three months, as I did, then start with the end in mind. What are the big lofty goals or vision you have for yourself and your life?

If ‘Z’ were to sell your business for $10 million, your first ‘B’ may be: have a list of 30 tested business models. While it is less sexy, it is exactly where results start to come from.

  1. What is the first step? How do you get to the starting line? What skills can you learn that will ensure you continue on the path to reaching your goal? What is the lead domino to accomplishing your bigger vision?
  1. Please note, remember to write column B as a measurable outcome and not just an activity. For example, write “lose five pounds” and not “go to the gym four days a week.”

Only once both columns on either side of the whiteboard are full, do you move on to step three. When you are ready, in the middle of the whiteboard, write:

HTGT | How to Get There.

Finally, draw an arrow from A to B, writing “HTGT – (90-Days)” in the middle. The last and most important step is the roadmap, breaking down the EXACT day-to-day activities that you will need to accomplish in order to achieve your ‘B.’ These are meant to be easy, bite-size chunks that will compound over three months; by merely committing to the seemingly small daily tasks, ‘B’ will take care of itself.

These will make up your “Daily Dozen,” the 6 – 12 things that you do every, single day, without fail. Laying a path for the coming weeks, removing all decisions, and allowing you to focus solely on executing what is already predetermined success.

One particular ‘A to B’ I did with a member of my team, which was so similar to almost all others, showed the true nature of all of us humans. In his mid-twenties, he was ambitious and frustrated. Having done somewhat well over the last few years, but never truly breaking through, he was not hugely overweight—just out of shape. He wasn’t broke—just living paycheck to paycheck. He was stuck, with no idea on how to break through to the next level.

We went through this process and, although certain details are removed, the takeaways are still there…

Sitting in my office, I started with the same spiel I did every time.

“This was first done to me by a mentor of Cain’s (one of the sales managers of our company), but we didn’t do it on a whiteboard, we did it on big rolls of paper. We rolled out the paper about this far,” as I put out my arms about two feet apart.

“He used rolls of paper to show that this session, this “A to B,” is part of an ongoing and repetitive process that should be repeated every three months. Rolling the paper off the end of the table, demonstrating that the rest of the paper is C-Z. Does that make sense?”

“Yep.”

“Great. So, how it works is, we start at ‘A.’ Now, you see this face (insert straight line face) it’s not a sad face. This isn’t a pity-party, but this is designed for progress, not sympathy. It is where we describe, and then list, where you are as of this moment in time, right now—the bad, the sad, the things that make you unhappy, but also the things that you accept, but aren’t satisfied with. These things cement our average habits, which hold us back from progress.”

He listed out his areas of dissatisfaction.

A –

  • $X of credit card debt
  • Feeling lost
  • $X of student debt
  • Driving an old car
  • Feeling stuck at work
  • No girlfriend
  • Out of shape

“Ok, I have a few questions. How out of shape are you?”

Shrugging, he replied, “I dunno.”

“Give me a number. Are you 5, 10, 15 pounds overweight? Or are you talking more health and energy wise?”

“I guess both. Say ten pounds overweight and I feel tired every afternoon.”

“Ok, great. So, let’s change this one to these two.”

  1. So, “out of shape” became: ten pounds overweight and lack of energy every afternoon.

“We need to make these specific, knowing you are a little out of shape doesn’t paint a full or accurate picture of your current situation. It is extremely uncomfortable and confronting to be truly honest with ourselves and to realize we are the only ones in our way; to help do that, we have to be specific about the problems, which can be uncomfortable.”

On it went, redefining and specifying exactly what the problem areas were. We also dug into why he felt these were problem areas. Why do you need a new car? Are you into cars? Or are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? Why do you feel stuck at work? Is it the job itself? Or is it your boss? Or your mentality to the situation?

Most material problems disappear when we solve the “I feel lost” or “I feel stuck” problem. Then, we moved onto ‘B.’

“So, this is where you want to be in three months; this isn’t driving a lambo or the million-dollar payday. This is just the next step, or the first step, so think about how to get to the starting line, not how you will finish the race. How do you get in the room you need to be in, in the first place? That’s what ‘B’ should be; it’s not ‘I want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger,’ because you won’t. Instead, it’s ‘feeling good taking off my shirt.’ It’s just the next step.”

“Ok.”

“Great, so in three months, where do you want to be? Paint me a picture.”

“I want to be promoted, having paid off all of my credit card debt, and driving a new car.”

“Okay, so you make $X a week; that’s $X a quarter. Do you feel you can buy a new car and pay off your credit card at that time?”

“Well, no.”

“So we have two options: we work through how you can make enough money to do both, either starting a side business or hitting $X in commissions to put a down payment on your car; or we can just pay off your credit card.”

“That makes sense. I don’t want to start my own business, so let’s just pay off my credit card.”

“Great. The idea isn’t to just put aloof goals on the board for my benefit, these are actionable items that will help start you down the path toward your dream life.”

There is often a big problem—people overestimate what they can do. This isn’t about aiming lower; it is never about that. Remember the big lofty goal of “Making it to the Olympics” is still there—but this is about progress. This is the only time you are allowed to be realistic with your goals. Action and progress are the aims.

B –

  • $X credit card paid off
  • Top earner on the entire sales floor
  • New wardrobe (two pairs of jeans, four tops, and a new pair of shoes) | $X
  • Finish the first draft of my feature film screenplay
  • Weigh X lbs.

“Okay, the next thing is the most important part…how the fuck do we get there? Or HTGT? What skills do you need to learn or what actionable items do you need to do every day to ensure you hit these goals?”

“I need to make $10,000 in commission.”

‘”Let’s break that down even further; $10,000 in commissions means you have made 20 sales, so what’s your conversion rate?”

“10%.”

“And how many calls does it take for you to get a meeting?”

“15.”

‘”So, with 10% conversion rate and each sale is worth $500 to you, you need to do 200 meetings and 3,000 calls, correct?”

“Yep.”

‘”Let’s say there are 60 work days in the next three months. That means every single day you come into work, you need to make a minimum of 50 calls, which should lead to three or so meetings, and you convert 10% of these meetings to a sale. Make sense?”

“Yep.”

“Now let’s pull up your call reports, so we can see what you’re currently doing. So, you are doing 37-51 calls a day, but your weekly average is 210—which means you need to increase your production slightly. Although you can hit 50 calls a day, you aren’t consistent. Why does that number vary so much? How can we get that number up?”

“I slack off on Friday afternoons; I’ll eat morning tea at my desk.”

“Great, what else?”

“I need to learn more, well… improve, so I can increase my conversion rate. I want to start reading an hour a day.”

“Do you read at the moment?”

“Nope.”

“Do you feel you can actually achieve an hour a day?”

“Every other day, yeah!”

“Every other day quickly turns into once a week, which soon stops altogether. Crawl before you can walk. The idea of ‘HTGT’ isn’t to set these massive feats for yourself every day. It is to create bite-size chunks that you can finish every single day without fail. You want to stack the deck in your favor. Consistency wins every time. How about 20 minutes a day?”

“Perfect.”

And on we went, working through each element until a specific set of daily actions were decided on.

HTGT – Daily Tasks

  • 60 calls and four meetings every day (Outcome: $10,000 in commissions)
  • 21 minutes of reading every day (Outcome: Five books finished)
  • Write for 20 minutes every day (Outcome: Half of the feature screenplay finished)
  • 20-minute run every other day (Outcome: Lose four pounds)
  • No fast food (Outcome: Lose four pounds)

“That’s it; we just change roughly one hour of your WHOLE day with these small achievable tasks and, overtime, compound to make a great result. Just lay the brick without fail, every single day.”

Time and time again, after doing this exercise, people see that by tweaking their day ever so slightly and if they remained consistent, their goals would take care of themselves.

Read for 20 minutes before bed instead of Netflix; listen to audiobooks on the way to and from work; do an extra 30 to 60 minutes in the office. Soon enough, you will be the top rep on the floor, have a side business rolling, have more energy, or whatever you want.

Allow time to work for you and not against you; people aren’t consistent, so be consistent. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th time you do this, your daily tasks increase and suddenly you are reading an hour a day, going to the gym daily, dialing 100 times, and making six-plus figures a year. Set a base standard and build from there, quarter over quarter.

It’s boring and seemingly insignificant, until you look around 18 months down the line and find yourself on the other side of the world, surrounded by completely different people with twice as many commas in your bank account as before.

Consistency beats potency.