We hear so much about the importance of goal-setting. From S.M.A.R.T. goals to BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals), social media is full of posts with #goals, from the smallest to the most ambitious.
Goals are important. But the mindset with which you set those goals and work towards them is even more so. If the goal itself is motivating, the mindset surrounding it keeps that motivation going, even when the goal seems far away.
The goal-setting approach that works best for me—and many others—is based not on the finish line but on milestones.
The problem with focusing on the finish line
Making a list of general goals, like how much you want to earn in a year, is easy enough. But setting specific, measurable goals means you’ll have to work for them—and probably harder than you’ve worked in the past.
Aside from that effort, people are often scared of goals because if they don’t hit those measurable targets, it feels like they’ve failed.
Focusing solely on a specific monetary goal—like what you want to earn from a particular real estate transaction—is dangerous for two reasons:
- If you don’t earn the goal amount, you feel disappointed, even if everything turned out as well as it possibly could and your client is happy with the outcome.
- You’ve already spent the amount you’d set as your goal—at least mentally.
It’s not unusual for agents to spend that money before they earn it. You do yourself no favors by assuming the universe has already written the check.
That said, if you want to set monetary targets for sales volume for the month, the quarter, or the year, there’s a better way to do it—with milestones.
Three goal levels and two goal metrics
Central to this milestone approach is setting goals at three different levels:
- Floor—This is your base level. If you don’t work any harder than last year and if nothing happens outside your control to adversely affect your business, you should be able to hit this goal by the end of the year.
- Target—If you work harder than last year, and if market conditions don’t undermine your efforts, this goal means you’ve made progress; your business has grown since the year before. Example: “Increase sales volume or listings by 50%.”
- Game—This is your stretch goal—the one you reach for after you’ve hit your target before the year’s end. Example: “Increase sales volume or listings by 75% (or 100%).”
As a real estate agent, set a couple of different goals for each level:
- Units sold/number of completed transactions
- Sales volume
You can also measure the number of client relationships you’ve built over the year. Keeping track of those will motivate you to reach out to more people and deepen connections.
Milestones you can set
If you’re wondering what type of milestones you should set or acknowledge along the way, here are a few ideas:
- Getting a new client under contract
- Landing a project that involves multiple listings
- Reaching your minimum sales volume or listing number for the month
- Reaching your targets sales volume or listing number for the month
- Hiring your first Virtual Assistant (ideally a Transaction Coordinator)
You can probably think of others since you know what moves the dial in your business. Make a point of calling yourself out when you reach these milestones. You don’t have to announce every one of them on social media, but make sure you recognize them when you reach them.
Milestone-based goals create a healthier mindset
It can feel lonely when you see other agents advertising their successes. It’s easy to get discouraged when you see other people’s achievements as a reminder that you’re “not there yet.”
Focusing on milestones brings you back to where you are in the bigger picture of where you’d like to be—how you envision your business as a real estate professional. Milestones break down your bigger goals into smaller steps, every one of which is worth celebrating once you reach it.
I like to celebrate a milestone with a glass of good bourbon. You might prefer something else. Whatever you do, don’t let that milestone go without celebrating it.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it should definitely not be something that somehow works against you or sets you back. But it should be both enjoyable and meaningful to you.
Those little celebrations are one of the reasons why the milestone approach to goal setting makes it harder to have a negative mindset.
Marking progress—one milestone at a time
When you recognize and celebrate every milestone—every win along the way—you’re constantly reminding yourself that you’re making progress, getting closer to your floor goal, your target, and then your game goal.
And if your final result at the end of the year is somewhere between your target and your game goal—or even between your floor goal and your target—you can see that as proof that you’ve grown from the previous year.
Then you use what you’ve learned to set new goals for the next.
Actionable steps and accelerated growth
Setting these milestone goals—instead of driving hard with your blinders on, full speed toward the finish line—isn’t the same as lowering your standards or expectations. It’s not about going easy on yourself or being content with average results.
No way. The milestone mindset is not the average mindset. It’s an adaptive one.
With this mindset, prepare for the year by setting your floor, target, and game goals. Then, check in every quarter to track your progress toward each goal and each milestone.
Along the way, throughout the year, celebrate every milestone you reach. In doing so, you’ll remind yourself that those milestones matter just as much as the larger goals.
The milestone approach reminds you constantly that the journey itself is more important than any destination. What you’re building is bigger than the numbers you reach in a given year or from a given transaction.
That said, as you move from one milestone to the next, you’ll move with renewed vigor and determination. You’ll get more of the important things done.
And, you’ll celebrate success after success.