How to Set Unplannable Goals

When pursuing a one-off goal, traditional goal-setting may be impossible. Rigor, however, isn’t. Surprisingly, actors and performers hold the answer to progress without plans.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #252

Measure Progress by Process

With traditional goals, it’s obvious when you’re making progress. “I plan to have 10 clients by June.” If you have 10 clients, you’re meeting your goal. But how do you measure progress when the path is uncertain?

Actors are making progress when they audition. Lots. Like, 15 times a week. They can’t measure progress by any one part they get, but they can measure progress by how often they audition and how often they get asked for parts without auditioning.

These are process measures, measures of effort. I discuss them in detail in my episode on how to set the right goals.

Measure your effort and learning, not just the outcomes. Getting 10 clients by June isn’t under your control. “Make 5 prospecting calls a day” is, however. Remember, you’re experimenting, not planning. Your experiment is the process of making 5 calls a day. After a few weeks or months, you use your aspiration compass to decide whether it’s worth continuing that process. Has it led to opportunities? If not, it’s time for a new experiment. If so, however, maybe it’s time to up it to 10 calls a day.

All the World’s a Stage, so take lessons from an actor.

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage,” so take lessons an actor! I’ve interviewed Missi Pyle about what it’s like to live in a career of complete uncertainty.

Now put this into practice. Next time you want something that isn’t plannable, let go of plans! Don’t set goals. Set experiments and use your aspiration as a compass. Cultivate opportunity by meeting people, make yourself attractive by learning more, and measure your progress through effort. You may or may not reach your original aspiration, but you’ll have a far more intriguing, fascinating journey than you ever dreamed.

I’m Stever Robbins. I help businesspeople pursue unplannable goals through repeated experiments that limit their risk. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.