The Stealth Approach to Achieving Big Goals

Last Updated Mar 28, 2011 11:43 AM EDT

Ask anyone who is overweight if one of their goals is to lose weight and most will say yes. But losing weight is hard, so most people look for help, fueling a market for weight loss products and services worth about $120 billion in the U.S. alone.

The CDC estimates 34% of Americans are overweight, and a further 34% are obese, so it's obvious most people don't achieve their weight-loss goals, even after spending thousands on products, services, and support.

All of us know how to set goals. We know how to set conceivable, achievable, measurable, aligned, etc., goals. We create checklists and milestones and find ways to reward ourselves after making even the smallest gains. We know achieving goals takes determination and drive and effort and persistence.

We think about our goals a lot, as evidenced by the popularity of this recent BNET post by Kelly and Marshall Goldsmith about achieving goals.

Yet despite our best intentions and efforts, much of the time we still fall short.

If you're failing to achieve a major goal, don't resolve to try harder. Don't apply the same old strategies. Don't do more of the same while hoping for a different result.

Instead, try achieving a different goal -- one that will naturally result in achieving your primary goal. Try the stealth approach to goal achievement.

Here's how it works. Say you want to lose weight. Look around: Who tends to be thin and fit? Runners, to name one "group." Not people who run; runners. As the old saying goes, you may see a fat person running, but you'll never see a fat runner. (I know other "groups" are also thin and fit. I chose runners just to illustrate the point.)

Runners are thin because they can't help but be thin: They burn tons of calories, eat healthy to try to improve performance, spend idle moments thinking about achieving their running goals... and in the process, without focusing on losing weight, they become or stay thin and fit.

So if you want to lose weight, one stealth approach is to train for and complete, say, a marathon. I guarantee you'll lose weight in the process. And you'll feel an incredible sense of pride from having conquered a separate and amazing goal. Achieve two goals for the effort of one? You can't beat that.

Is training for a marathon an easy way to lose weight? Oh, hell no. But unlike the endless parade of "incredible weight loss breakthroughs," it works. Achieving a difficult goal isn't easy; if it was, everyone would be successful, satisfied, and fulfilled.

You can apply the stealth approach to just about any goal, whether personal or business. Here are a few quick examples:
  • Want to be an entrepreneur? Don't focus on forming an LLC or developing a business plan or setting up accounting systems, at least not at first. What do entrepreneurs really do? Entrepreneurs make money. Focus on learning to make profits. Turn a hobby into a business, no matter how small. Turn a skill into a sideline. Become an entrepreneur and you'll learn a lot, start to spot opportunities, and begin thinking like an entrepreneur because you are an entrepreneur. Before long starting a business will seem easy because you've already done it once.
  • Want to get more media opportunities? Developing a better delivery and presence will help, but who gets media opportunities? Experts. Become an expert in your field and have something original or insightful to say. When you're an expert it's easier to get booked, and often the media will seek you out.
  • Want to write a book? Don't spend hours learning how to find an agent and write killer proposals. Start small and focus on writing things people will read: Newsletters, articles for your local paper, items for local organizations, etc. Writers write. Become a writer and the ideas (and skills) for a book will follow.
  • Want to be rich? If you're starting from scratch getting rich isn't easy. Who tends to become wealthy in a relatively short period of time? Athletes. Entertainers. Business owners. If you want to be rich, don't focus on money. Become a business owner and focus on building an outstanding business. In time you possibly will be rich, in more ways than one.
Think about what you really want to achieve, no matter how difficult it is to imagine. Then think about a way to sneak up on your primary goal by achieving a different yet complementary goal. It won't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Read More: Photo courtesy Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (PS3) and IGN.com
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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