Focus on Your Target
I love golf. I don’t play often enough to build strong swing habits but I hit the course when I have free time. Unfortunately, I also have, what I call, ‘Sports ADD’. This is a phenomenon where I become obsessed with one sport (aka, golf) for about four months and then I switch to another sport (aka, tennis) for another four months. I always come back to golf though because it fits my personality and challenges me to grow.
Golf has taught me a lot about consistency … and patience … and humility … and honoring my limitations. It’s almost time to pick up golf again so I watched a few of Shawn Clement’s YouTube videos to refresh my memory about swing paths. Three minutes and 40 seconds into the video, Shawn reminded me that “…if your focus unattaches itself, in any way, shape, or form from that target, you will have a brand new target to hit and that will be the golf ball (sic)”. For those unfamiliar with golf, the goal is not about hitting the ball. Hitting the ball is a part of the overall strategy and an action that takes place on the golf course but it isn’t the goal. The goal is to get the ball in the cup. So, the cup is your target. There are intermediate targets along the way as you avoid bunkers or lay up in front of a water hazard but sinking the ball in the cup is the end game.
Hitting our own professional and personal targets require the same laser focus. Getting to our goal means we need to keep four things in mind: identify the end game, focus on the target, address fears, and align actions with targets.
Identify your target, intermediate targets, and actions
The problem most people face is not knowing the difference between the end game, intermediate targets, and general actions. In an earlier blog, we chatted about identifying our ultimate goal first and then building a plan to bridge the gap between ‘today’ and where we want to be tomorrow. Likewise, identifying your target is the first step to maintaining focus.
Visualize your goal with such clarity that you can almost reach out and touch it. For me, I envision working on a project in my home office as the sun rises. I see the sun peaking through the blinds and I can hear the world starting to wake up. My work schedule is flexible so I start work when my creativity is fresh. I take breaks, sip my tea, and hang out with my four-legged kids as my workload changes. This is my goal. This is my happy place. This vision is what keeps me moving forward. I have intermediate goals as well that play into the overall strategy such as repeat customer statistics, referrals, revenue targets, etc. I need to keep my end game in sight and not confuse my intermediate goals (revenue, market share, etc.) with my target.
Focus on the target
Focusing on the target creates a flexible mindset. When things go wrong (and they will go wrong), you are better able to react and reset to reach your goal. Focusing on processes and activities tend to create less flexible mindsets.
As an example, let’s pretend we have a dream of opening a boutique flower shop in a busy suburban neighborhood. Currently, we sell flower arrangements at the local antique flea market on Saturdays and Sundays. This is the full extent of our business and we make enough each weekend to replenish stock, pay ourselves for the weekend, and reinvest 5% back into the business. We buy all of our flowers and consumables from one vendor and received a 10% discount for being a repeat customer. The vendor just told us they are going out of business and we know our profit margin isn’t big enough to switch to another company. What are our options?
We can start selling flower arrangements in a market that is less price-conscious which would allow us to switch to another vendor. We could offer to buy some, or all, of the company that is going out of business as an intermediate goal. We can seek bank loans and/or partners to infuse the company with cash flow. We can carry out these changes in varying degrees as a way to step us closer to owning a brick-and-mortar business. Or, and I really love this, I can question the brick-and-mortar concept. Maybe I am willing to shift my strategy to online, local delivery.
By focusing on the target, I can overcome problems with my processes and activities. Selling flower arrangements at the flea market is an activity to bring me closer to my goal. It was never my goal. My goal is to offer flower arrangements to a local suburban neighborhood.
There is a gaping chasm between you and your dreams. What resides in the chasm are fears: fears of not being as good as you think you are, fears of your parents saying “I told you so. You should have stayed with the firm”, and fears that you will be unable to support your family if you fail. Fears serve a valuable purpose because they keep us from doing things that could harm us. Most of us would feel a certain level of fear walking down a dark, creepy alley in the middle of a rough part of the city. This is good because we increase our risk of being mugged or beaten if we override it. These are rational fears. However, fears can also be irrational and talking with a friend, colleague, or psychology professional can help differentiate between the two.
When you feel yourself immobilized by your fears, ask “What am I afraid of?” Answer yourself. Reflect. And then ask yourself the same question again. Get down to the specifics of your fears. Now, ask yourself two questions: (1) “What is the worst thing that will happen if I fail?” and (2) “What is the best thing that will happen if I succeed?”
The last step in addressing your fears is to build a strong support system. You don’t have to hug and sing motivational songs around the campfire. You simply need a group of people who will believe in you and your potential success even when you can’t see it. Building resilience helps keep our fears in check.
Align actions with targets
All of your actions should propel you toward your target. There are two possible culprits if your actions are not creating momentum:
- You are not performing the action correctly. There is only one golf course in the world that I hate: Leilehua Golf Course in Wahiawa. It’s not a hard course but there is a bank of trees that attracts golf balls and won’t let them leave … also, I was trying to learn a new golf swing but was doing a horrible job of sticking with it. With one shot, my ball hit a tree and ricocheted back toward my head. The next shot was supposed to get me back on the fairway but I left my club face open and dumped it deeper into the woods. Seconds before I took my third shot, I heard someone say, “Just chip it back on the fairway.” Anger took over and I ended up with a divot that went farther than my ball. I wasn’t executing the swing properly and if you are hacking at your marketing strategy, SEO efforts, content, etc. then you are doing the same thing. Todd Durkin has an awesome saying, “Do what you do best and hire the rest.” There is no reason for you to struggle with something that you can outsource especially if outsourcing means your actions move you to your ultimate goal.
- Your actions are not aligned with your target. Sometimes a hole is really long and, if you can’t see the location of the pin, you have to consult the scorecard. And it is really hard to consult the scorecard if you dropped it a few holes back and you’ve decided to walk the course instead of taking a cart. It is the same with your business actions. Be aware of where you are in your current strategy and how far you are from your ultimate goal. If you lose sight of either spot, you will start swinging wildly and chasing you ball but never really accelerating toward your goal. If you are creating inventory and paying for storage fees when you should be generating sales leads and cultivating customer loyalty and referrals, then you haven’t aligned your actions with your strategy. Inventory, storage, sales leads, and market share are all important but sometimes we focus on the wrong actions or do things in the wrong order. Always ask yourself if your actions are in alignment.
Focusing on your target seems like an easy task but, in practice, it is one of the hardest things to do. What keeps you focused on your target? Share some of your tips and tricks.