Uplift your Night Episode #6: Goal setting and Planning

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #6 on October 14th, 2020 with Don Hatch, coach and mentor and Head of Operations for a Startup Incubator.

Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight, I am very happy to be here. I will tell you a bit more about Uplifters and specifically, this Facebook Live series. I am the CEO and founder of Uplifters, which is a nonprofit organisation, empowering underprivileged communities with an online education and case reports. Essentially, we offer a free online course in money management and also a personal growth program for domestic workers. The first course is titled ‘Dare to dream’. Joining is very easy; you simply click ‘send message’ on our Facebook page! 

First and foremost, Uplifters is a community where we can learn and support one another. Tonight’s topic is ‘goal setting and planning’. As well as a lesson, this is also a discussion, so please feel free to ask any questions. Most of us have dreams and hopes for the future, but often we just forget to make a plan and set realistic goals. Then, as a result, nothing happens. So to help us navigate this important topic, we introduce our guest speaker Don. Don is the Head of Operations for a startup incubator in Europe. The company helps entrepreneurs develop their initial idea, then move to launch successful companies. Six years ago, Don started his own business, with more than 30 years of business and leadership experience, he’s also passionate about coaching and mentoring people to help achieve their fullest potential. So, please welcome Don!

Don: Thank you very much Marie, thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Goal setting is very important and requires a plan. You need to figure out how to get from where you are, to where you want to be. In other words, you need to create a plan for achieving and evaluating the goal. When things don’t go according to plan, what’s important is that you take the time to evaluate the issue. I have a couple of quotes to demonstrate: former American president, Dwight Eisenhower, said “plans are worthless, but planning is everything” and an 18th-century German general said, “no plan ever survives the first shot of a battle”. To put these into context, is to say that life happens, and when things don’t go according to plan, we need to be able to adapt to a new situation. If you’ve already thought through your goal, and evaluated how to achieve this goal, then you have also already considered the variables; the things that could potentially change. Therefore, your response will be apt, and you will be able to adapt the plan to still achieving the final goal. Essentially, it’s about having a backup plan. My aim today is to help you fully understand how to set goals and how to create plans to achieve those goals. 

To do this, firstly, I’m going to talk about what goals are and are not. And then to give you some tips on how to plan out your goals and how to achieve them.

When I was first asked to give this presentation, I realised your life circumstances are very different from mine. I’m a middle-aged, white, American College-educated with a Masters degree in Business. I’m a business owner. We come from very different backgrounds, and you may be thinking I couldn’t possibly understand you and your life. So let me address this by sharing a little of my life journey. I want to help you understand some of the challenges I have experienced in my life, and how they have shaped the person that I am today. 

When I was eight years old, my parents, unfortunately, went from being very successful to losing everything they owned. We never really recovered, and it had a profound effect on my father’s self-confidence. I remember one shopping trip he asked the butcher for bones for the dog, but we didn’t actually have a dog! He wanted the bones to make soup stock to feed his family. He was too proud to admit we didn’t have enough money to pay for the groceries. At a later date, I found out my father was selling his blood to pay for groceries. And so I completely understand what it’s like to be in a situation, struggling to put food on the table. It is a challenge. 

I am also dyslexic, so school was very difficult. I just managed to graduate from high school, started working full time at 14 years old and was living on my own at 17. I worked for several companies, but when the recession hit in 2008, I found myself in a worrying financial situation. Between 2008 and 2011, I watched 20 years of wealth that I had accumulated completely disappear. I filed for bankruptcy in 2012. 

So, although I do not know your individual stories or circumstances, I do have my own major life events which I have fought to overcome. I hope from my story we can have empathy for each other, and my advice can be meaningful and helpful. 

Now let me tell you a little about my successes. I bought my first house when I was 19 years old, I started my first business when I was 27, which I ran for 18 years. At this stage in my life, I took my first vacation ever, I went to a different country and experienced a new culture, language and people. This was my first taste of travel, and since then, I have travelled to 45 different countries. 

At the age of 40, I decided to change the path of my journey and return to college. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and also achieved an MBA from a top school. I decided to move to Europe, my goal being to start seeing the world as a citizen rather than just a tourist. I created a seven-year plan of how I was going to get into a  top 10 Business School, pay for it, and succeed at it. I won a scholarship and was able to graduate with zero debt. 

What are goals? Goals are tangible and achievable. They are not wishes, hopes or dreams such as “I wish that I had more hair”,  “I hope that I live to be 100 years old”,  “I dream to travel to another planet”. Their occurrence or outcome is completely out of my control. Alternatively, if I want to become a fluent Spanish speaker by January 2022, then this target is measurable, realistic, and has a specific timeframe. 

We introduce the SMART goal. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. 

Applying the SMART goal framework:

SPECIFIC: If you were to communicate your goal to somebody, would they be able to repeat it back to you? Were you specific enough? 

MEASURABLE: How can I measure the success of my actions towards my goal? In the case of learning fluent Spanish, I could take regular exams, or in the case of losing weight, I can measure how much weight I’ve lost per week.

ATTAINABLE: Is the goal realistically within your capacity? 

RELEVANT: This is another way of questioning whether something is meaningful.  Is it purposeful to you? 

TIME-BASED: In what time frame are you looking to achieve this goal?

Additionally, the goal needs to be clear and visible in your mind. It needs to be written down, posted on your wall, on your phone, and told to other people. That makes it visible, tangible and real. It needs to be reviewed and adjusted as things change over time. 

The goal you set must be important to you. If you simply set a goal for the sake of having a goal, e.g. you want to be an Olympic athlete, but you don’t really mean it, then it’s something that’s never really going to happen. The goal must be something that you’re willing to commit to, devote time and energy and give it life.

If your goals are truly important to you, if you’re committed to your goals, if you do the planning, keep your goals visible, and include others, help them, let them advise you to how to keep moving forward, you can achieve them. 

Let’s look at an example of losing weight. Most people say that they want to be in better shape, but they don’t necessarily have a plan of how to get there. They start making drastic changes to their routine. They change their diet or eat much less than usual. Perhaps they start exercising but don’t consider what type of exercise, how long, how often. They may even note some small results or changes. But the lack of structure or milestones usually fails. The goal needs to be more specific: To lose five kilos or to fit a particular dress size. Each requires a different strategy and planning. 

Let’s take another example, ‘sending your children to university’. How do we reverse engineer this goal? Firstly, is ’sending my children to university’ a SMART goal? Can we apply the SMART framework? Is it specific, which university? When? Is it measurable? How many of your children do you intend to send to university? Is it achievable? Do you have sufficient time to achieve this goal? 

Now amend the goal to ‘my goal is for my eldest daughter to graduate from a nursing program from an accredited university in 2029’. This goal is specific, clear and measurable. Um, so as far as the question, is this achievable? Is it something that you could make happen? That depends. If your oldest daughter is 17, currently in school and achieves good grades, then yes, it’s likely attainable. If the goal is to graduate from Harvard University, which has a tuition cost exceeding $120,000 a year, for five years, then this is probably not an achievable goal. Move the goalposts to a local university, with a tuition cost approximately $8,000 per year; then this is realistic. There are also other variables to consider, such as the willingness of your daughter to put in the work. 

The biggest roadblock for most people considering university is finances. How can you possibly commit to the cost for the five years? Typically, the advice is, to have two years of tuition fees saved before the start. Whilst loans may seem tempting, loans accrue interest, and this is an expensive method of raising money. I would strongly discourage loans. 

There are other questions to consider; Is scholarship an option, either from the school directly or a nonprofit organisation. Is the local university a good option? That would negate the need for housing. Could your daughter work part-time whilst at school?

All these deciding factors require time and research. There are numerous questions and variables, each one leading to a different outcome. You have to decide which is best suited to your situation and which is most achievable for you. An excellent way to weigh up the options is to draw a visual diagram, so it’s clear and easy to see where each path leads. My plan was written on a  whiteboard on my wall. It was always visible. Every week I would go through and evaluate the items. What do I need to change? What was the next step? 

Whilst at university, I fostered several meaningful relationships, not only with business leaders but also professors. I shared with them my goals and why they were important to me. These mentors became my ‘my personal advisory board’; they were people who advised me. I leant on their collective wisdom. For you, your support system could be trusted friends or family. But be warned, that if the advice being offered is something you are being asked to pay for, or being pushed in a particular direction, then this may not be genuine help.

Reach out to others who have already been through university, what was their way? What was their plan? This is a great learning tool, using peers as advisors. Use nonprofits such as Uplifters. Setting an ambitious goal, such as attending university, is easy when broken down into smaller steps. The big dreams then become attainable.

After thorough analysis, you may determine that you simply don’t have the time or resources for that specific goal. Perhaps consider changing the end goal, instead of attending a three-year nursing school programme, maybe a three-year medical tech, or a two-year assistant course?

I realise that was a lot of material, but hopefully breaking it down into steps has helped make it more digestible. I am now happy to answer any questions.

Thanks, it was very clear. I like the idea of a SMART goal. We have a question, from Kenny asking “what to do when an unexpected event happens and changes your plan?”

Don: This is the very essence of planning; things are going to change. But if you’ve thought about how you’re going to achieve the goal, and you’ve broken it down into its different parts, then you’ve taken the time to think about how to get there. Take the scholarship example, if you are not able to attain a scholarship, which is some of the money that you were relying on to pay for university, then the alternate, to that scenario, should already have been considered in your goal map. A simple example I can describe is a hiking trip I planned which was ten days long. Obviously, I couldn’t carry all the required food with me, so I planned out the trip, I set up various posts along the way and accounted for weather changes. My plan was adaptable.

Thank you, I think, especially in these COVID-19 times, we all have to make our plans flexible. Do you have any specific advice on how to stay motivated?

Don: I think it depends on the scale of the goal. Small goals, such as saving enough to buy a particular Christmas present for your children, are achievable. Other bigger goals, which are of great importance which, for me, was achieving my MBA, take time, sacrifices and energy. But again, they can be broken down into smaller pieces. I call this ‘sushi sizing’ the goal! Achieving little parts of your goal often helps to stay motivated and on track. Your goal must be important to you; otherwise, the motivation will wane, and you’ll never achieve it.

Thanks, that makes sense. You can see your progress, and you can adapt easier.

Don: There’s also nothing wrong with creating an adjustable goal. For example, I am a marathon runner, and since I’m very competitive, I decided I wanted to complete the marathon in a specific time. However, I also set a secondary goal, which, if I hit, I would feel satisfied. I would still have succeeded, and it was within my capacity. It’s about setting a ‘range’ for success. This is something I teach upcoming entrepreneurs. 

Nine out of 10 businesses fail. The success rate is very low. You may spend a great deal of time and money, but at some point, you have to take a step back and assess whether the right thing is to keep pushing forth. Maybe a change of direction is required. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. What I encourage these teams to do is not to say, ‘if we don’t hit this goal in six months, then we’re going to stop’. That is a very black and white, rigid goal. The key is to evaluate how achievable the goal is at regular intervals. Then decide whether to keep going or change the final goal post. Having a range for the goal is key here. 

Let’s look at an example of saving for a house if your goal is to put $150 every month into a savings account. But after six months, you’ve only been able to put $50 per month into that account. It’s quite obvious you’re never going to hit your initial goal. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must stop saving for a house, simply adjust the goal to match the new rate of savings. Consider what is achievable, in what timeframe. 

Thank you, Don. I’m delighted to have these Facebook live seminars and grateful to have you with us tonight. 

Don: Thank you very much. The pleasure was all mine, and I’m glad I could help. Hopefully, it’s helpful for everyone watching.

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