Those three times I tried to learn French led to this goal setting formula
“J’ai oublie beaucoup Francais.”
That’s my go-to phrase whenever anyone asks me if I speak French. It means “I forgot a lot of French.”
It’s a shame. I really should be fluent in the language after all the opportunity I had to learn it over a twelve year period.
I lived in Montreal during an internship while I was in college. French is the official language there, and I took classes a few days a week for months.
The following year, while on another internship, I took private French lessons.
And then a few years ago, I did self-study with Rosetta Stone.
I learned a lot of French over the years. But I forgot a lot too. Boo.
A formula to make goal attainment possible
Have you ever tried to reach a goal, but for one reason or another, you weren’t able to make it a reality?
If so, you’re not alone. Goal attainment is something many people struggle with. Research show that only 8% of people are able to stick with their New Year’s resolutions.
But over the past few years, I’ve been learning and experimenting with it in both my personal and professional life. And I found a formula that works.
Here’s exhibit A: It’s a super quick excerpt from an interview I did a few weeks ago:
Just in case you weren’t sure – that’s Spanish we’re speaking, not French.
I’ve been learning Spanish since June of 2014. A little over a year and a half later, and I did my first interview in the language.
So what’s the difference? Why did I suck so badly for so long at reaching my French language learning goal, while doing pretty good with tackling Spanish?
It comes down to four things. The combination of these four factors will pave the way to you achieving the goals you set for yourself.
1. The Right Strategy
When you set an intention to do something, you’ve got to have a plan to get you from where you are, to where you want to go. You need a strategy.
But not just any strategy. The right one. Here’s a quote I love, love, love from international best-selling author Stephen Guise, that encapsulates the importance of choosing the right plan.
“We’re quick to blame ourselves for lack of progress, and slow to blame our strategies. Then we repeat them over and over again, trying to make them work.
But here’s the thing – if you fail using a particular strategy more than a few times, you need to try another one. It doesn’t matter if it works for everyone else if it doesn’t work for you.”
My strategy for learning French was all wrong. My focus centered around taking lessons. But becoming fluent in French, required me to speak to actual people. In French. I had no plan for doing that. And so I didn’t.
Practice had a greater priority in my quest to learn Spanish. My strategy for practicing was to spend time living in Spanish speaking countries. If I wanted to communicate, I had to speak the language.
And so I practiced. Every day.
Let’s apply this approach to your business. Let’s say your goal is to get $100K in sales in your business this year. If you don’t have the right strategy to reach your target, you will struggle to get there.
Instead of going in a straight line, you’ll get lost, or end up taking many detours along the way.
Make sure you spend time mapping out the ideal route to take to get you from your current state to your desired goal.
2. Adequate Resources
You can have a lot of determination to reach a goal, but you need the right tools and resources to make progress possible.
A big part of learning a language is hearing other people speak it. Native speakers don’t always sound the same as instructors do. They speak more rapidly. They often use words and phrases in everyday conversations that are different from the formal lessons.
While learning French, I wasn’t around enough native speakers to understand them when they spoke at a normal speed. That also meant I wasn’t able to pick up any slang they used.
Because I spent a lot of time in South America while learning Spanish, native speakers were abundant. I picked up their phrasing, their intonation, and got better about understanding them when they spoke at a rapid pace.
If your business goal is to reach $100K, a strategy you could use to capture new leads is running Facebook ads.
But if you only had $25 to invest for the year in Facebook ads, then your resources won’t be enough, in most instances to reach your goal.
Resources aren’t always monetary. Sometimes it’s time, knowledge, and other people.
Before you choose a plan to reach your overarching goal, make sure you understand who and what you need to execute your plan.
3. Productive Habits
Habits will make or break your progress. But because of the resistance that comes with breaking a routine, habits are difficult to establish.
I was diligent in learning French when I had a class to go to, at set dates and times. But when I had to study on my own, I was inconsistent. Life got in the way, and my time studying dwindled to nothing.
When learning Spanish, I established a habit of doing something in the language every day. Sometimes it was talking to locals, other times it was doing lessons, and others days I only had time to read a few Facebook posts in Spanish.
But I didn’t let a day go by without interacting in the language.
When it comes to reaching your goals, doing the activities that will take you from point A to point D need to be at the forefront of your mind. They need to be things you do on a consistent basis, whether you want to or not.
Yes, there will be resistance in the beginning. But the more consistent you are, the easier it will be for you to develop a degree of automaticity when it comes to executing your new habit.
If your strategy for reaching your revenue target is to write a book, then you need to establish a writing habit. You need to write enough each day to complete your book on time.
Once you determine your plan of action to reach your goal, identify the habits you need to establish to get you there.
4. Openness to imperfection
When you embark on a new journey, it’s safe to say you won’t have expert status on day three. Getting good enough at something to be effective with it takes time.
And if you don’t give yourself permission to suck a little while you learn, you’ll derail your efforts before you even start.
My unwillingness to speak bad French hindered me from practicing outside of classes. Every time someone would correct me, I’d get so flustered, I’d start speaking in English.
In Spanish, I took the complete opposite approach. I focused on communicating. Of course, I messed up. A lot (that interview I did in Spanish was far from perfect). But the people worked with me. They started to understand me, and my imperfect way of communicating. The more I spoke, the more I engaged, and the more I learned.
I still have a long way to go. But fear of messing up or looking foolish doesn’t hold me back.
To reach your big goals, you will need to learn new skills. And that learning curve, no matter how steep, will feel uncomfortable.
Let’s say your strategy for reaching your goal requires you to do public speaking. If you’ve never stood in front of a group to share your idea, your first few experiences may not be world class.
Who cares. Do it anyway. Embrace the stage, and look for opportunities to speak every chance you get.
You’ll get better every time you show up.
You can reach your goals
You are capable of doing big things. And your goals are worthy of chasing after.
So here’s your homework for the week to help you get going:
- What is the goal you’ve set for your business?
- What is the primary strategy you are using to reach your business goal?
- Why did you select this strategy? What indicators have you seen elsewhere that signal that this may be the right approach for you?
- In choosing your strategy to reach your goals, what strategies are you choosing not to do?
- What resources do you need to be successful in executing your chosen strategy to reach your goals?
- What habits do you need to establish to make executing your strategy much more likely?
- As you execute your strategy, brainstorm three things you need to get comfortable being not so perfect at while you grow.