Five years ago, on Halloween in 2017, I attended a training in New York City with two newfound friends, Gabrielle and Rhonda. We were quite a threesome. Gabrielle (Ral) Dolan is an internationally sought-after keynote speaker who helps leaders tell better business stories. Dr. Rhonda Glover Reese is a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent who is now a Law Enforcement Coach and Mentor.
As an Australian, Ral wanted to learn about the American custom of dressing up for Halloween. As we walked down the street, we kept stopping to ask costumed New Yorkers to pose for pictures Ral could send back home. Sometime that night, Rhonda told us about the time she participated in New York City’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and ended up on the Grand Marshall’s float. I asked how in the world does a person get permission from the FBI to serve in such a high profile public role. “Easy,” Rhonda shot back, “I dressed up as the invisible man!”
I’m telling you this story because, when I walked into that ‘thought leadership’ training I didn’t even fully understand what a thought leader was, let alone envision becoming one. After the training, my life pivoted for the better. I chose to put my ideas and ‘thoughts’ out in public. On that day, I set this goal that I can happily say I have achieved: Become an established thought leader in this country by October 31, 2022.
We’ve all done our share of goal-setting. Research from Scranton University shows that 92% of people do not keep their New Year’s resolutions. So, what’s the difference between goal-setting and goal-hitting?
I believe there are Three Keys to Successful Goal-Hitting.
The first key is writing. I wrote the goal down. I first wrote it down with a pen and notebook. According to Forbes, the simple act of writing down a goal increases your likelihood of success between 20 and 40 percent. This is partly because the brain goes through a different process when you write, than when you only listen. Write down your goals. Then what?
The second key is reading your goals. I have read over that goal and referred back to it many times since then. Re-reading your written goals and reviewing them re-activates your brain around the goals. Learning that reviewing your goals regularly leads to greater success, pointed me to the importance of reading and re-reading the goal over time. Of course, nothing changes until you take action. I started with a small step which was creating a system for posting a blog post at least once every 4-6 weeks. It was a challenge to get into this new behavior.
In addition to writing your goal, and reading your goal, third key to goal-hitting is making sure the goal is SMART. SMART is an acronym that identifies whether a goal is Strategic, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, and Time-bound. My goal was strategic because I am a social justice leader working to do good in the world, it was ambitious because at the time I had not written or shared publicly at all—in fact, I was managing a fear of speaking in public. To me the goal seemed realistic but a definite stretch. And it was time-bound. As I look at it now, I could have done a better job measuring exactly defining what I meant by ‘becoming a thought leader.’ Thought leadership is leadership that shapes the ideas in your field.
Since then, I have written my first book called Thriving in the Fight: A Survival Manual for Latinas on the Front Lines of Change and self-published the Spanish version of it with Deletrea publishing. Notice, the book wasn’t the goal. The book was a milestone on the way to the goal.
Today, I am working on book #2, going on tour of Thriving in 2023, receiving invitations to speak to broader audiences, and clarifying my thinking. My public speaking and writing skills have improved. People in my field are more familiar with not just my name, but the impact I am making. Writing the book, helped leverage the largest donation my non-profit has ever received in the amount of $25 million. It also won me two gold medals and a silver at the 2021 International Latino Book Awards – one of which was Best-Latina-themed book! I feel satisfied with how my life has improved in response to that one choice I made many years ago.
I encourage you to aspire to become not just a goal-setter but also a goal-hitter as often as possible by remembering the Three Keys to Goal-Hitting: Write it, Read it, and SMART it.
Part of why I remember Rhonda’s Halloween story so clearly is because she’s an incredible storyteller. The other reason her story impacted me is because I, at the time, felt like the invisible man. I had been putting my head down, and doing good work. But I wasn’t happy with my impact. Today, I don’t feel like the invisible man anymore. I am thriving, living a full life, doing great work, and sharing my ideas with others. I’m learning how to get my messages out like medicine to those for whom it is needed.
It is helping leaders feel seen.
And everybody, I mean, everybody needs to hear the words, “I see you!”
Denise Padín Collazo is a social justice leader, a mentor to women of color, and a family work integrator. She is the author of Thriving in the Fight: A Survival Manual for Latinas on the Front Lines of Change (Berrett-Koehler, 2021.) Her work has been featured in the Miami Herald, Telemundo, Chronicle of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Quarterly. Twitter @DeniseThriving