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  • Writer's pictureLacy Starling

#34: Targets vs. Goals

In the Before Times, my daughter was very excited to be able to participate on her school's archery team this year. As a fourth grader, it was the first year she'd be able to be on the team, and she was PUMPED. (A blog for another time is the surreality of sending my daughter to a school with an archery team.) I'm not sure if it was the 3,457 viewings of "Brave" when she was a child, or just the inherent coolness in getting to shoot arrows, but she'd been talking about being on this team for years.

I was excited about archery for her for a different reason. I loved the idea of her pursuing an extra-curricular that required so much focus and discipline. (Not to mention upper-body strength, which is important for all women.) Selfishly, I also wanted to use her participation in the archery team as an opportunity to introduce my own child to one of the foundational tenets of my strategic planning framework—"Establishing Targets" instead of "Setting Goals."

For me, the difference is really, really simple. A goal is something you work on. A target is a point that, in order to hit it, you have to focus on it relentlessly, and with incredible discipline. When you are shooting a gun or loosing an arrow, if you look away for a second, you will not hit your target. Same thing in business. If you are aiming for a target and you get distracted by shiny objects, ideas of the day, or other issues, you will miss. Targets force you have to have tunnel vision, and not allow anyone (including yourself) to wander off the path that will take you to the bulls-eye.

Goals, to me, are looser than that. Most people think of a goal as something that would be good to do, or would help, but not as mission-critical. Language is important, and the precision with which you deploy certain terms can help you get into the right mindset to move your company (or yourself) forward with determination.

So, even though my daughter won't get to be on the archery team this year, we're still going to set targets together. I'm going to start teaching her about the discipline necessary to stay focused on what she wants to accomplish, and hopefully, when we return to some version of normal next year, she'll be ready to put those practices to work.

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