To goal or not to goal?

That is the question!  Every year at Rebel Business School we go away for a week in January to plan, think, set goals and make sure we are heading in the right direction!


Alan and the Rebel Team at the 2018 Poland Company Retreat

I have had a mixed relationship with goals and targets!  In my early years after a lot of self-development, I knew I had to set them and then when I failed to reach them I felt like a failure and de-motivated. I have sworn off them and not set them, I have fought against them for my business and then at times I have used them to amazing effectiveness in my personal life.  I don’t know whether they are a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know whether you should set them, whether you must set them or not!

​Let’s discuss……………

Targets you can’t miss…….

I saw the destructive power of goals when I used to work for a multi-national electronics company when I was younger.  At the beginning of the year they would set goals for what they were going to sell and then would break this down by quarter and month, and then work to hit those targets.  They felt those targets HAD to be hit no matter the cost, so at the end of the month they would do what is know as channel stuffing.  

They would go out to the retailers and sell off their stock at reduced prices to make sure they hit their sales targets.  The retailers got a bargain that they could then sell on.

The problem was then the subsequent months.  The retailers had a new price so they expected to pay that each time and they still were holding lot of stock from the last month, so didn’t want to buy any more in.  This made it even harder to hit the next month’s targets.

They seemed to go through this continuously and it caused them so many problems.  This early experience of the negative side effects of goals that you can’t miss no matter the cost has stayed with me for a long time and put me off having really firm goals (especially for business)

​I am not sure this helps anyone.  In fact when you miss the target then it can have the opposite effect.

The demotivational effect of goals

When I was starting my own business I knew I needed to earn money, I knew I needed to sell, and all the books and self-help resources that I read told me I had to set goals, break them down, and then work diligently to do them. 

So I did.

I set myself the goal of selling £100,000 worth of training and building a profitable training company.  I went out there and worked to sell, I wrote letters, I networked, I cold called and I worked away.

The further the year went along the more I could feel I was not going to hit the target.  The further away I got from the goal and the less progress I thought I made, the worse I felt!  Missing the target, and actually just the feeling of missing the target, depressed me.  I ended up watching movies at home and trying to avoid the pain of missing my target.  I wasn’t even close.

This was one of the most painful experiences.  I set up in business, I set goals, I monumentally missed them, and it HURT bad!

Missing goals hurts, feeling like you aren’t making the progress you should be making hurts, and they can have the opposite effect that the goal is intended to have!

So should we even bother setting them?  Should we work towards them?

Rebel and just do cool shit

When I was building Rebel I had a different strategy.  I would just sell what I could, work diligently and do cool shit!  My hope was that if I just did cool shit I would get noticed and my business would expand!

The only year at Rebel we have had clear targets was the first year Simon came back to work with me and he, Henry and I decided that our target was to sell 25 2-week PopUps at £20, making a turnover of half a million!  We set the target and then went at it!

We didn’t really hold ourselves accountable.  We didn’t really focus ourselves but we had set the target.

We ended up missing it significantly in our first year working on it and ended up turning over £204,000 (not bad for the 3 of us but a long way off the goal of half a million!)

Since then we have just gone out and sold, worked and done cool shit together and we have ended up building quite a cool company together.  We now have a team of 12 that travel around the world running amazing events and helping people to build lives, and we have done all this without having hard and fast targets despite the advisors and mentors telling us we should!

So should we have goals and big targets?  Should we be setting big goals and putting time frames on them and being SMART with what we are doing?  Does this actually help or hinder?

A target we have hit

A few years ago, my wife Katie and I set the goal of being financially free.  We wanted to have more income from our investments than we needed to live on.  Simple goal.  We set a set of targets after reading Tony Robbins’ book Money: Master the Game and we set out doing it. 

It was simple.  £500,000 invested would give us £20,000 annual income and would cover our mortgage and food.  We couldn’t go out and party but we could exist without having to work.

£700,000 invested would give us the ability to go out a bit and we would have most of the bases covered, and then £900,000 invested would give us a pretty nice lifestyle with holidays and doing whatever we wanted to do!

We set the targets and then more or less forgot about them, and just did the actions we knew we should be doing to get there.  We saved, we minimised expenses (I drive a really small car!) and we invested the difference.  We work diligently, we tracked our net worth every month, and we kept going.

We didn’t set a deadline or a target date, we just knew that was the goal and worked on it.

Tracking our net worth each month actually became one of my favourite times of month to see if we made progress or not!  I am going to write a post in the future about “what gets measured gets improved” (update: you can read it here.)

We breezed past our top goal last year and have kept going.  So this goal worked whereas so many of my previous goals have not.  What was different?

  • I set the intention.  I had a clear goal of where I was going and I knew where I was heading but there was no pressure to get there; I was just excited to do it
  • There was no timeframe.  I think a big part of feeling relaxed and just working away at it came from the fact there was no timeframe. It was just something we wanted to do and whether it happened now or in ten years didn’t really matter – we just worked on it
  • We did it together.  In the past we have had very separate goals and having someone (Katie) to work on this with has been amazing.  I have absolutely loved doing it together and we would do our monthly net worth figures and then go for walks around Basingstoke discussing it together.  We were utterly inspired by the goal together
  • I knew this was something I had to do.  It didn’t matter to me if we made it when I was 35, 40 or 45, I just knew I had to do it and it was such an inspiring goal that it kept me focused on it.

Goals versus daily activity

I think the difference between goals and daily activities is where a lot of the frustration happens with goals.  It is great to have a goal to build a half million pound business but what are you actually going to do about it each day to make it happen?

Let’s have a look at examples of goals versus daily activity:

  • Goal be a published author – daily activity: write!
  • Goal to be a millionnaire – daily activity: spend less and invest more
  • Goal to build a successful company – daily activity: make 15 sales calls every single day

I know I have had big goals in the past and been SO, SO, SO frustrated that I haven’t hit them but I now know I wasn’t doing the daily activity to actually get to where I was wanting to get to!

If I want to have a successful blog then I need to write exciting, valuable and interesting content every single day and publish it.  I need to promote the blog and share it, and I need to build it with my daily action.

I think quite often people get excited about the big goal but don’t actually get round to doing the daily activity that makes it happen!  If you want to write a book then you had better write 1000+ words EVERY day and keep working on it.  It is the daily activity that gets you there.

I am lucky now that I have a team I work with on Rebel.  James is out selling every day, Henry is organising and making things happen, Simon is running events, and together our daily activity has built an amazing company that changes lives.

When I started I didn’t have this and it was all down to me!  If I didn’t make any sales calls, I didn’t get any sales and my business didn’t grow!

Turning it into a next action

Every year in January I do go through a goal setting exercise and I write down lots of ideas and things I want to do.  I get very excited and I write a huge amount of things that I could do!  Does it all happen?


​But I get lots of ideas written down and started.  The key to taking a goal and making it real is to work out what the next action is and START!

One thing I have got really good at is breaking down big goals and just starting on them.  I have had to get good at this to create my own dream life and I have had to get really good at it to help unstick the people that come on my courses around the world.

  • If you want to write a book then the next action could be write an outline.  Or write the introduction? Or write the first chapter? 
  • If you want to be a millionaire then work out how much you can reduce your spending by each month and start to invest.  Next action: cut out Starbucks and save £50 a month more……
  • Launch a blog.  Next action: open a Weebly account and write your first blog post in a standard template!

The simpler you make the next action and the easier it is for you to get started, the quicker you will make progress. 

If there is one thing I have learned about making big goals happen, it is about turning it into a simple next action that you can take NOW!

Discussion – tell me what you think

I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t know everything.  I am still learning just like you are.

I wanted to share with you some ideas and some thoughts that I have learned along the way to start the discussion about goals and targets and how to make things happen.

I would LOVE it if you write me a comment with your thoughts, questions, ideas or stories below.   That would make my day!

I am going to be writing  a lot more about getting things done, making shit happen and building dreams over the long-term over the coming months and years as I think it is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Start learning everything you can about how to get things done and make dreams come true and then set about making yours come true.

You can live any life you want to live.  You just have to make it happen.

The extraordinary belongs to those that create it

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