How to Use Questions Instead of Goals to Evaluate and Guide Your Business

Many of us have been conditioned to think that overstating our intentions as specifically and boldly as possible is a good way to help these ambitions materialise. The more we define the future, the more successful we are likely to be, right? On the contrary, actually. It turns out that SMART goals or BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) don’t necessarily deliver the results you’d expect. In fact these lofty goals can often have a deleterious effect, leading to discouragement, unethical behavior or even underachievement.

So if we abandon BHAGs, how do we make progress?
Part of the solution is to identify what’s limiting about goals. Let me explain.
My biggest beef with distant big goals is that they are too static. And during your efforts to achieve them you will actually become better informed as whether the goal is appropriate and worthy of continued pursuit. Further, in an effort to make a goal specific and actionable, we end up defining ACTIONS for ourselves rather than desired OUTCOMES.
It’s the difference between saying “I want to lose 5 pounds” and “I want to feel more energised and better about the food I eat.” There are lots of ways to lose 5 pounds. But if you only lose 4, have you failed? What if you could easily lose a couple more but revert to your old habits when you hit 5 because the “goal has been reached.” Or what if you make lots of healthy changes to your life and ended up slimming down but not lightening up? Will you feel bad about your weight even if your clothes fit better?
Instead of static and specific goals, I want rely on questions as a way to guide my business. You can too. Here’s how:


1. ASK YOURSELF: What new lessons did I learned this year?
It’s important to continually recognise the learning that comes from being in business. Chances are you’re starting off this year with a whole different set of desires and challenges than you did last. So start by defining how things have changed. It will help you focus on the business that you have in the moment rather than the business you started with.
Remember to: Be objective. The point is not to beat yourself up over things that didn’t go as you had hoped. If things didn’t workout examine WHY, then translate that into a specific lesson learned. You want to be able to accurately describe where your business stands.
2. ASK YOURSELF: What are my burning questions?
What are you unsure of when it comes to your business? This exercise isn’t meant to stoke your anxiety, so don’t mistake this an invitation to get caught up imagining all the worst-case scenarios. Instead focus on the areas of discovery in your business. What answers and information are you seeking? What will help you make more informed decisions? Where do you need additional perspective and insight? Starting your sentences with “I’d like to know…”
Remember to: Focus on findable answers. Lots of business questions are a matter of opinion. Strike the word “should” from this exercise. such as “what direction should I expand my business?” Instead seek information that will bring you more insight, such as “Do my customers think I communicate with them too much?” “Am I getting as much value out of my newsletter as possible?”

3. ASK YOURSELF: What changes would I like to see?

This allows you to identify your areas of focus for the next year. These areas may be aspects about the business that aren’t performing well or they may just represent the new frontier for you. After you identify each area you’d like to see changed, make a quick list of possible ways to make that change happen. Be open and non-judgmental. This list will only serve as a starting point when it is time to step on the gas.
Remember to: Prioritize! Be careful not to have too many horses in the race competing for your resources. Allow particular projects to get more attention while others wait on the back burner.
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