10 Ways to Achieve Your Goals By Managing the “Taint” Zone

You’ve set a goal and a lot is riding on achieving it. Clearly, there are the benefits that motivated you to set that goal in the first place. However, there is also the self-esteem and sense of integrity that comes with doing what you say you’re going to do, even if the only person who knows about your goal is you.

So, what might stand in the way of achieving your goal? How do you increase the number of times you set a mark and accomplish or surpass it? The key is managing the “taint zone”.

The “taint” zone is that period of time between making the commitment to change, and actually achieving success. You “taint” at the beginning, and you “taint” at the end point either. It’s often a frustrating place, where you hit obstacles that make it hard to maintain your momentum and easier to “backburner” your goal and focus on something else instead. It takes time, personal discipline and most of all, planning to overcome the challenges that can divert you. In my experience, most executives have a track record of successfully achieving goals. Yet, there are always new personal, professional or organizational challenges ahead, with unexpected twists. You may benefit from the following ideas:

  1. Keep sight of your guiding purpose and values. Accomplishing goals requires making changes, which takes a lot of energy. How will you re-supply yourself? One source of renewal is tying your goal to the core values and sense of purpose that motivate you. Here are examples: “making a difference in the world”, “living a healthy lifestyle”, “achieving financial independence”, “helping others succeed”, “creating something new”, “using talents and abilities to the fullest”.

    How does this concept work in real life? One of my clients knew he needed to delegate more often, but repeatedly declined chances to do so. He was concerned that none of his senior leaders had enough financial knowledge to make good business decisions, so he kept his hand in all major decisions. The idea of coaching his direct reports so they could make better decisions seemed like a burden until he looked at the larger purpose it served. He had built his multi-million dollar company from the ground up and was planning to retire in two years. He wanted to see the company prosper after he left. Coaching and delegating to his direct reports now became critical to a larger purpose: securing the legacy he wanted to leave behind.

  2. Once you’re clear why your goal is vital to you, sum it up in a simple, inspiring phrase, symbol or picture. Make sure you see or hear it periodically throughout your day. A vivid mental picture, symbol or motivational phrase is a quick and powerful way to remember your vision. In addition to helping you, it also provides a vehicle for you to communicate the vision to others.

  3. Increase your flexibility. People often think meeting goals requires establishing more control over yourself or your situation. I believe the opposite is true. What’s needed is agility, the ability to quickly and easily select from a rich assortment of knowledge, tools or skills to deal with the inevitable obstacles on the path to success. Utilize your network to help expand your pool of ideas and skills.

  4. Don’t believe your old storyline. We all have excuses and great reasons for why we should give in, take a break, go back to the old ways for just a while, or why a slip is OK “just in this case”. It’s the siren’s seductive call. Don’t give it credence. These rationales are really about doubt and fear. Doubts about whether the goal is doable and fear that you (or your organization) might fail. Pay attention and use these concerns, for what they are: reminders that there are some additional plans you need to put in place to pave the path to success, especially under stressful circumstances.

    When the doubts and resistance come from others, the same concept applies. The doubts and fears being expressed may signal there are blind spots you need to address, or some additional action that needs to take place. If not, move on.

  5. Plan for success. Most likely, you know which situations are stressful for you (or your organization) and cause you to fall back into old patterns. Instead of falling victim to these circumstances, proactively plan your way around them. Figure out 1-3 of the most important steps you can take to avoid or manage the stressors, and make them happen. Get creative about possibilities, or ask for help from others, but take action.

    Here’s an example. A Marketing Director was trying to decrease the stress and exhaustion she experienced during her overseas business trips. Despite trying to limit the number of appointments on her calendar, well-intentioned people would inevitably ask for last-minute meetings, and she would agree. Her meetings would run from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm every night. Through our work, the Director identified three things she could do to meet her overseas employees’ needs while maintaining a reasonable schedule. First, she put technology to better use, so she could communicate with people between trips. Second, she turned more decisionmaking authority over to her senior overseas-staff. Third, she started holding some group meetings while at the field offices so she could discuss issues with more people, in fewer hours. Not only did her overseas trips become more manageable, within a year she found she could decrease the number of trips she had to make.

  6. Stretch yourself beyond your present limits. Part of what makes change difficult is the (conscious or unconscious) fear that the goal is unachievable. Break those mental barriers by experiencing yourself surpassing what you think is possible. Pick something to do that will extend you to your limit, and then stretch yourself a bit farther. Pick an objective that’s specific, measurable, and can be completed within a short amount of time. At this point, it’s not important whether you can repeat or sustain the effort. What’s critical is breaking the “this is beyond my capabilities” barrier and therefore, opening up a new world of possibilities.

  7. Renew the decision each day to keep, start or stop doing something that helps you attain your goal. Change is about choices. Seeing results makes those choices easier. However, if your goal is a tough one, it may take time before you see measurable, tangible results. Expect that your patience and faith in your decisions will be tested. Be sure to look for the subtle signs that the needle is moving in the right direction. Odd as it sounds, an early success may even be the fact that things aren’t getting worse!

  8. Use a chart to help motivate and track your progress. Remember, change is a process not an event. It’s easy to get lost. Utilize a chart to track results. There’s something about posting one more success, or having to own up to a failure that keeps you focused and on track.

  9. Own but don’t moan, your setbacks. Some people look at setbacks as evidence their goal is unattainable or that other people are to blame. “The timing is wrong”, “The support isn’t there”, “There are too many other things going on”, and so forth. Instead, look at setbacks as information that offers rich data about the traps and pitfalls you face. Discover where you need to make adjustments to morph a potential failure into a success.

  10. Replenish your energy along the way by setting milestones, and celebrating when you achieve them. The celebration can take as little as 5 minutes, it’s just important to do it. When you’ve achieved the big goal you set, pause before asking “what’s next?” Find a meaningful way to celebrate. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it!