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Goal-Setting Tips for Leaders By Lee Ellis

Three Springtime Goal-Setting Tips for Leaders

If you’re feeling some anxiety or struggle about achieving goals that you set earlier in the year, here’s my advice for relieving that pressure: fail fast and avoid the drama. Just avoid making goals altogether. Seriously, you say?

The concept of stretch goals for personal and professional growth can be inspiring and hopeful, but the reality is that they’re very difficult because it requires us to do something different, to break old habits, and adopt new behaviors. Reprogramming our brain is counter to human nature, which likes to follow the old paths.

Sacrificial Decisions

Think of a time in your life when you made a worthy sacrifice. The arrival of a new baby in a family is a great example. Babies inconvenience everyone around them, and yet couples quickly make drastic changes in their mindset and behaviors. This type of sacrifice is obviously a willing investment with a valuable payoff!

Just thinking of the word sacrifice can be painful, but if the goal is strong enough, then it’s worth it. Ironically for worthy goals, giving up an old mindset or behavior can actually lighten the load mentally, emotionally, and physically! And it’s an authentic and inspiring example in leading others, too.

The Elevator Isn’t Working

My mother was a legendary schoolteacher and leadership example, and one of her students made her a sign that hung on a wall in her class and ultimately in our home. It said* –

“The elevator to success is not working. You’ll have to take the stairs.”

That sign made a great point, and seeing it often sealed in my mind the principle that success is usually a series of steps that require diligent, hard work for any profession. The sacrifice is ultimately worth the cost because passionate leaders believe in their goals.

Helpful Goal-Setting Tips

Here are three Springtime goal-setting tips –

1. Remember how you have sacrificed in the past and the reward that came from your suffering.

When you have eaten nothing in a Vietnam POW camp but a bowl of thin soup and a piece of bread or cup of rice twice a day for weeks, months, years, you know you can eat almost anything and survive well on a lot less than the typical American diet. What seemed like sacrifice became the accepted way of life because it was the only way to achieve our goals. You also have examples where you’ve paid the price—reflect on them.

2. Use determination and discipline to overcome your fears.

When you sacrifice (and even suffer) to achieve an important goal, it’s fear that you have to combat. As a writer, I have to fight off the “fear of failure” voices in my head telling me “this is no good” and “who would read this?” We must fight back, knowing that once we kick fear out of the way, we’ll find that sacrifice helps us reach beyond ourselves and find success. Lean into the pain of your doubts and fears and do what’s needed to achieve your worthy goal.

3. Make your goal public and enlist a support team to encourage you along the way.

The wisdom of the ages is that you should never fight alone. In the POW camps, we would risk our lives to reach out to isolated teammates. Victory is usually a team effort and especially when you’re fighting discouragement. Who will encourage and support you when things get tough, and help you stay the course?

So what’s your decision? Hopefully, it’s making the willing sacrifices to grow, change, achieve, and reach a higher level in your work and ministry.

*The source of this quote is usually attributed to salesman, Joe Girard.


Lee Ellis is the president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company. He consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on CNN, CBS This Morning, C-SPAN, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. A retired Air Force Colonel and CSP, his latest book is entitled Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability.

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