Want to know how to be successful?
The answer lies both in setting direction and reaching targets – those outcomes that together inform our ‘what’s next.’ Setting direction is determined, encompassing and influencing all that follows. Reaching targets is highly focused and at its best, feeding into and supportive of the chosen direction and resulting fulfillment and satisfaction.
Some outcomes in life will be the result of circumstances. Life happens. And none of us – individuals or organizations – are resistant to external influences.
Other outcomes will be reached as a result of planning and effort. To say we can always reach any outcome we want may be naive. To say we have no choice and should just let life happen is fatalistic and foolish.
Setting Direction, Reaching Targets
Whether it’s the way we choose to live our lives or run our businesses, or whether its very precise objectives and goals we aim for, setting good outcomes, both general direction and specific objective, is extremely important.
If outcomes are the final product, or the end result of all our dreaming, planning and efforts, then those we set should be the very best they can possibly be. Those outcomes we set for our lives, businesses, ministries or legislatures should be thoughtfully and carefully arrived at. They should be crisp and clear so we can move forward with confidence on those things that are important to us.
Success then, has both directional and achievement elements.
- When you and I have set a certain direction, and we are moving consistently forward in it, we consider that ‘success’. We are where we want to be.
- Similarly, when we set out to reach specific targets or goals … specific destinations, and we achieve those, we consider it a success.
In this vein then, your working definition for success may be – I’m going the direction I have set out to go and I am achieving the specific things I have set out to achieve.
The dictionary defines success as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors”.
No matter how you define it, think carefully about the outcomes you are aiming for. Define them accurately.
Success is not measured only by achieving specific goals. It is also measured by being true to a way you have chosen and having walked consistently in that way.
We determine on principle that there is a certain way we want to live or a way we want to run our business or conduct the affairs of our nation. To follow through on that is success.
Success can be measured. When it comes to reaching something very specific, it’s simply a case of assessing, “Did we reach it or not?” There will be measurables attached … dollars, pounds, people served, percentage of completion, etc. The measurements are quite objective.
In the case of setting direction, success may be less objective and more subjective. It may be measured more by that satisfaction that comes from having kept true to those principles that defined the journey in the first place. It will often be measured against less tangible and perhaps more emotional, character and principle centered benchmarks.
And while these less tangible benchmarks that bear on the direction an individual or an organization has set may not be as easy to discuss, they are nonetheless equally valid and preeminently important. It can be all too easy to overlook them for the less turbulent waters of discussing specific goals, objectives or targets. It’s much like avoiding the why to discuss only the what and how.
A Word for Christians
For believers, the final word goes to God. Ultimately He determines the definition of “success”, regardless of what we might think it may be. Scripture indicates Joseph was marked with success even as he stood naked in the slave trader’s dock in Egypt. All had been stripped from him. Nothing remained beyond his personal relationship to the living God. He literally had nothing to note physically and yet …
God’s Word says, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.” and “the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.” “The Lord” then, must be at the heart of our appropriation of Joseph’s life. Minus the Lord, he stood empty. With the Lord he already stood a success.
The extension of this thought is pretty clear. With the Lord, God already sees you and me a success. Whether or not that results in achieving all the accoutrements our culture deems important to being seen as successful does not matter. God has made a determination and it is based on relationship with Him.
It’s important then that relationship with Him be settled as of first priority. Scripture indicates that this is at the heart of “setting direction”. It may not be the only thing, but it is certainly the most critical.
As I train professional coaches in the Clarity Model, we spend a lot of time talking about direction and targets. Direction will to a large extent determine targets. On the flip side, targets will make direction the source of satisfaction it was meant to be. The “what I do” fulfills the “who I am” (or whose I am). The external answers to and fulfils the internal. The “what’s next” is informed from the “what matters”.
This leads to three questions well worth asking yourself or your leadership team.
If that matters, what’s next?
If that’s next, when are you willing to start?
I’d encourage you to take some time to think about the direction your life, business or ministry is taking. Is it on track? Are you on track? Within this larger context … are you achieving, or even consistently working toward the specific targets or goals that really matter? Your answers should be insightful.
Executive Coach, Gary Wood works internationally with leaders, executives and organizations to beat burnout and less stressfully but more effectively move forward significant causes, projects and programs. Gary’s “Clarity Model Training” provides Christian coaches a robust and scripturally referenced suite of tools for helping individuals and organizations with clarity, planning and effective action. Gary’s website is www.gewood.com. For further information on Clarity Training.