Matters Column

We cannot achieve if we do not believe success is possible

October 3, 2014
TAGS goals
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There are many reasons we fail to live up to our full potential, but the most common of them are often tied to inappropriate or unexpressed goals, inadequate or unstated expectations, and a lack of accountability.

If you never set a goal or plan for an outcome, you cannot know when you have achieved something truly meaningful because you will not know when your beginnings should end nor when your ends will initiate new beginnings.

If we were to shoot an arrow toward an open field, would we succeed because we hit the “nothing” we were aiming for, or would we fail because our arrow missed hitting any significant target? One would typically establish an expectation when shooting an arrow — the center of a target, game when hunting, etc. — rarely shooting without purpose.

Unless a goal or objective is established, progress cannot be measured to validate success nor can one be held accountable for failures. Far too many people lead by setting an “achievement ceiling” lower than it should be when they establish “potential success” by projecting a known and finite past rather than seeking unknown and unlimited possibilities.

To achieve fully, we must believe fully, recognizing not only what we can do but visualizing what we could do if we identified and attained the tools necessary to transform our current state of reality into a not-yet-realized future.

Effective leaders recognize the need to tell others how their individual efforts fit into the big picture. Without knowing how their strengths and abilities contribute to the whole, people will focus more on the means than the ends as they seek individual rewards and recognition rather than overall achievement and success.

Leaders must make sure others know what is expected from them and what will happen if they meet — or fail to meet — expectations. A strong leader “says what is meant and means what is said” without exception when establishing the ends that are needed prior to moving on toward other opportunities. He or she must allow others to identify possible options and utilize acceptable means that may or not be defined or proven to reach their target if success is to become ongoing.

When we allow or encourage someone to act in a given manner, whether it is appropriate and good or inappropriate and destructive, we effectively set the “bar” and cannot expect any more from the individual as he or she moves forward. We cannot change behavior without first drawing a line in the sand by saying what was once good enough will no longer be acceptable, establishing a new bar rather than allowing the old one to be deemed adequate.

Declaring the need for change, however, is not enough. We must:

  • Set acceptable targets for which to aim.
  • Establish meaningful goals that have a reasonably good chance to be reached.
  • Communicate the goals to all involved.
  • Hold individuals accountable for the actions necessary to implement the change or accomplish the objective. 

The accomplishment of a defined objective becomes the basis for establishing future reality. Unless we identify and communicate our expectations to those around us, however, they will not know when one journey ends so another can begin. One cannot leap from the ground to a treetop without either climbing the tree or using a ladder to reach the top, one planned step at a time. One cannot reach the fertile valley beyond a mountain range without either climbing to the summit or finding a pass that leads around the seemingly insurmountable object.

One cannot achieve that which they do not believe to be a possibility. We can accomplish much more than we might believe possible when we establish realistic targets along the way, pausing to celebrate each accomplishment before we move on to the next. Greatness comes to those who resist the temptation to “land” rather than “rest,” as the end of one effort should be the beginning of the next.

Believing all things are possible opens the door to unlimited success. To achieve this success, we must give ourselves permission to lose along the way as we learn from our losses so they are not repeated. While  “good enough” is all some wish to achieve, “getting by” without ever tasting greatness, those who truly believe all things are possible will define (and redefine) success as they move toward what has yet to be achieved rather than finding comfort in what has already been accomplished.

In order to accomplish transformational change, people need strong, consistent and predictable leadership able to communicate clearly and consistently both expected results and progress throughout the journey. We must learn to measure success not by the number of goals reached but rather by the number of accomplishments celebrated along the way. 

When people quit accepting those things that are known and proven as absolute truth — as an end rather than as a means — greatness will become an expectation rather than a hope. When we refuse to accept the limitations placed on us by our proven abilities, believing we can become what we wish rather than settling for what we are, greatness will become a reality rather than a dream. When we transfer our strengths to others, allowing them to thrive through the combined and shared efforts of a team rather than their own limited skill, ability or experience, greatness will become more common than rare.

Only when we truly believe that much can be accomplished will much be achieved.

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