Setting Business Goals – Where to Look Makes a Difference

view of a field with fence posts in the distance - from Setting Business Goals - Where to Look Makes a Difference by Truby Achievements

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Bill Truby

It was an overcast day, as it often was in Ferndale, California. The ever-present cool weather, fog, and overcast conditions were perfect for growing the giant Redwoods, and tall grass where I found myself standing during the lesson I reflect on in this Nudge.

I never would have thought that a childhood activity in an apple orchard would be the inspiration for an important business goal. Tall grass, apple trees, and the advice of my dad taught me where to look to reach my goals. Have you ever stopped to consider WHERE you look when setting a business goal? It makes a surprisingly huge difference.

Let’s learn from my Dad…

Lessons from the Ranch

I grew up on my uncle’s dairy cattle ranch in Northern California. We lived in a 100-year old “hired hand” house that did not have level floors, or paint, or insulation. But it did have an artesian well…and rats. We were poor, but happy.

The horse barn had old rusty tools and the milking barn had hay. The long gravel driveway was lined with trees, some apple trees, and there were fields of tall, tall grass. My brothers and I had to be creative to find “toys” or fun things to do. Such memories. But I’ll refrain from reflecting. Telling about everything we came up with just might put a new wrinkle on “dysfunctional.”

Being the older brother, I guess I was the ring leader when it came to coming up with creative ideas of play, and I loved to build forts. I got my cousins and brothers to help me build all sorts of forts. We used bailing rope to wrap around branches in the trees to make tree forts. We made forts with rooms out of the hay bales in the barn. One time we even made a tunnel to climb through to access our hay fort. But these hay forts never held our attention long. The hay was made out of field grass that had a lot of stickers in it.

The beginning of summer was a fun time since the fields had a lot of new growth at that time. Every year we would create an underworld in the grass in the orchard. Since the grass was tall enough and we were short enough, we could trample down sections for “grass forts.” We’d make trails to crawl through to the next opening, which was nothing more than a large trampled down grass section. At crawling level, you couldn’t see over the grass so this fun game became our own world of trails, and places to sit, and places to meet and talk and have fun. We had a name for each large trampled down section.

One day, I wanted to divide the orchard in two with a central trail that would eventually lead to a bunch of side trails and grass forts. I started on one side of the field and trampled down grass as I walked to the other side. But when I looked back the trail was very crooked; zigzagged really. I went to another starting point and tried again. Same result.

My dad saw me. “What are you doing, Billy?” I told him.

Nodding, he said, “Come here.” He took me to a starting point and said, “See that fence post over there?” “Yes,” I replied. “Don’t look at your feet, Billy,” he said. “Keep your eye on that fence post, “and your trail will be straight.”

At the age of seven, I learned a very valuable lesson. What Dad told me worked – perfectly. I learned that where I look is where I would end up. Whatever I focused on I would likely achieve.

Where You Are Looking

A more adult version of the lesson is this: Your next step depends on your response to what you’re presently looking at. If you are looking at the current moment, the current crisis, the current interruption, the current difficulty – this narrow focal point, and your internal response about it, will drive your next step.

Your next step, then, becomes a reaction to the moment. And this reaction could actually take you off course, way off course. This is not unlike the scenario of making a quarter-inch mistake in the direction of a missile launch when it leaves its pad. That small mistake can make the missile miss its mark by miles.

When you set a goal, it’s important to calibrate by the goal, not the step you are in. If you look at your feet, you’ll be calibrating by your feet and that can give you a zigzag journey that wastes time, energy, and resources. Calibrating by the fence post keeps you on track.

3 Steps to Reach Your Goals (at each waymark)

If you want to reach your goals, at each significant step do these three things:

Step 1 – Determine Your Starting Point

Consider where you are and take the data as input, not judgment. Realize that this waymark along your path is only input.

There is no judgment or criticism about you as a person, your performance, or your choices. Naturally, your previous choices have brought you to this moment, but it’s still only input. If you succumb to feelings of defeat, helplessness, or failure you become stuck at this waymark.

This is true if you’ve been blown off course by external forces or you made an unfortunate choice. This place, this step, this waymark, is still only input.

You will never hear a GPS unit tell you where you are and then add the words – “you idiot” or even “well done.” The data about where you are is just input!

Step 2 – Re-Calibrate Your Direction By Your Goal

After you consider the input of the waymark, no matter where you are, be it closer to your goal or farther away from it due to some unfortunate circumstances, re-calibrate by the goal.

The more you can focus on the fence post, the more you can make a straight line of progress toward it. Never react to the moment. Always respond with an eye on the goal.

The rule here is to consider the waymark but calibrate by the goal.

Briefly, look at your feet, but focus on the fence post. Then, and only then, do you take your next step.

Step 3. – Maintain a positive attitude.

There is no such thing as failure.

You can zig and you can zag all over the place due to poor choices, external forces, or elements that are outside your control.

But you cannot fail at getting to your goal if you keep your eye on it and make every step, every course correction, every decision; based on goal-calibration.

So, what is your fence post? Choose it, and then choose where you will focus. At each step, stay balanced, confident, determined. Yet, though you pay attention to your feet and your steps, you stay focused on your goal.

Remember, it does make a difference where you look.

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Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements