Measure Success using “Guide Posts” Rather than “Goal Posts”

January 25, 2011
Terri Maxwell

Measure Success using “Guide Posts” Rather than “Goal Posts”

I’d like to introduce a new way of measuring success. Regardless of what you’ve been told, start-up success is not measured in a linear manner. Goal posts set us up to fail. Guide posts, however, accelerate success.

Part of the desire for setting measurable goals comes from the American culture where success is measured in dollars, things or points scored. Unfortunately, small business success doesn’t work that way. 

In my last post, I shared a specific process for goal setting that is in direct conflict with what we’ve been taught about success. Remember “SMART” goal setting? (SMART being an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.) 

This old way of thinking about goals is a bunch of bull. Now to be honest, I am a recovering obsessive-compulsive planner who used to drive employees crazy with detailed plans and measurable goals. Needless to say, it was hard to let go of the incessant need to measure. The truth is…it just didn’t work. Success is relative, period. Now, before you throw away this advice from a recovering planaholic, hear me out.Perspective: I built a profitable $6 million (annually) consulting business that created true financial freedom. However, the target revenue goal wasn’t $6 million. It was $50 million. By the planned “measures,” I had failed. And that’s exactly how it felt, like I had failed. That’s crazy. Furthermore, a lot of negative energy was spent focused on what wasn’t working. So much so, that I neglected to enjoy what was working. As a result, everyone around me was miserable too. That is not success.

Maybe you can relate. How many measureable goals have you actually hit?  Probably not enough to feel successful. So, “if you want something better, you have to be willing to do something different.” Yeah, you can quote me on that.

Here’s another way to think about goals:

Since late 2008 I’ve learned how to completely reshape the way I intend, manifest and work goals. That’s not to say that measurement isn’t important, but it can’t be the key indicator that determines our sense of success. Instead, we have to learn how to use measures as “guide posts” rather than “goal posts.”

We have to learn how to use measures as “guide posts” rather than “goal posts.”

Entrepreneurs set goals like this: We start a business and set a goal to earn $50,000 in the first year. In our mind, the $50,000 target is a “goal post.” If we cross the goal post, we have achieved success. 

It’s like we a belief that if we achieve $50,000 then we will be a success. And what happens when we don’t hit the goal? Right, we feel like we failed. My purpose for writing this blog is to help entrepreneurs (and would be entrepreneurs) redefine the way we think about and measure success.

Regardless of what you’ve been told, start-up success is not measured in a linear manner. Goal posts set us up to fail. Guide posts, however, accelerate success. Here’s an example. 

Succeed on Purpose incubated and launched 7 businesses in 2010. Of those 7 brands in our portfolio, 6 were successful. That’s pretty good odds: 6 out of 7. 

One of my favorite CEO’s had a terrific brand, but despite repeated warnings, he set very detailed revenue goals for 2010. For this business owner, his targets were “goal posts.” Unfortunately, the business did not hit those revenue goals. He missed the goal post. However, in the process of its growth, and because of the nature of its services, his business changed lives. It changed lives. How do you think that business owner felt despite the number of lives he touched? You guessed it – like a failure. Let me give you one more example, and then I’ll give you the secret sauce behind this new way of measuring success. 

Another CEO, who is the owner of our fastest growing business, started a self-publishing powerhouse, Inspire On Purpose™. Now get this, she never set revenue targets, but instead set goals of abundance and joy. She established high-level revenue targets that were only used as a guide. Her singular goal was to make a lot of money doing what she loved to do, publish books. She blew the doors off of her revenue “guide posts.”

That’s right; the business with a detailed business and financial plan missed his goal post by a mile. The other set very broad targets and used them as a guide post. She focused on abundance and joy. Her business exceeded our wildest expectations.

So to find true success, you have to use measures as “guide posts” rather than “goal posts.” Now let's cover how exactly to do that.

GIVE THANKS for what your life is today…just as it is

Because of where we are today, we have been “prepared” for more.  I cannot express how important gratitude is. We’ve heard that before, but it bears repeating. Give thanks for wherever you are now.

Define REAL goals (goal posts) in broad terms as an end result, such as Health, Abundance, and Joy

If you’re starting a business, or trying to grow one, you should definitely set a goal for abundance.

Next, set guide posts (target revenue) at key points throughout the year, rather than by month

These guide posts should be just that…a place to direct your aim. For example: if you just started a business, perhaps you want to earn $3000 per month after 6 months, and by year-end you intend to be at $5000 per month. Remember, the numbers are to be used as a guide. They let you know if you’re on track or need to adjust. So, don’t attach to the numbers themselves, attach only to the broad goal of abundance.

Now comes the critical part, and it’s based on one principle: 

We can’t control the outcome, we can only control our activity

Set very specific activity goals for what you will DO to achieve the broad goal of abundance. How many contacts will you make? How many networking events will you attend? These kinds of goals are completely in your control and should be measured and evaluated. These are the real goal posts because you have control over them.

Finally, here’s how to measure success

Each day, evaluate how you’re feeling against the broad goal of abundance rather than the revenue targets. Do you feel abundant? Why or why not? This is where entrepreneurs get off track. They’ll say, “Well Terri, I didn’t hit my goal of $3,000 per month, so how can I feel abundant?” That’s not the point. If you’re not feeling abundant, then what has to change? Your attitude or your actions? You can’t control the outcome (how much revenue you make); you can only control your attitude and your actions, right? So, which needs to change, your attitude or your actions? 

Goal post measures should ONLY be those that you can control. Since you can’t control the outcome, it should never be a goal post.

Now, if you’re not feeling abundant, and you’re not hitting your revenue target, then you have to adjust. 

Here’s how to adjust and change course:

  1. Give thanks for what you have achieved. Focus on what is working. Again, gratitude is the key. You’ll find it easy to be grateful when you focus on what IS working.
  2. Evaluate what adjustments need to be made. There are only two categories to choose from: your attitude or your actions. Did you do what you committed to in terms of the calls you would make, or the networking events you committed to attending? Most of the time, the issue is here. We don’t do what we said we would do. If you didn’t meet your commitments, then adjust your actions. This part is totally up to you. You have complete control over actions.
  3. If you achieved your activity goals, and are not achieving the results desired, perhaps you need to readjust your attitude. How can you focus on what IS working and refocus on the broad goal of abundance? Maybe you need to visualize more, or maybe make a list of what did work. Success becomes easy when we focus on what IS working.
  4. Finally, if things still seem off track, then either there’s something you need to learn, something you need to change or something you need to heal. Ask God for guidance to show you what that is so you can achieve the true goal of abundance. Open yourself up to be guided because God is trying to get your attention
We look forward to a continued dialog on the true success. May 2011 be the year of abundance and joy.


With the soulfulness of Wayne Dyer and the entrepreneurial spirit of Richard Branson, Terri is a world-class business growth expert, social impact investor, and serial entrepreneur whose purpose is to inspire potential. With her own money, Terri built a portfolio of purposeful companies, Share On Purpose, Inc., and now invests in and creates mission-driven start-ups.

In a career that spans more than 25 years, Terri has launched, owned, sold, rebranded or turned around more than 40 companies. She is known for her game-changing business models and personal transformation frameworks.

Everything she built came directly from a wellspring of perseverance and soulful resiliency, which she openly shares through her first purposeful brand, Succeed On Purpose.

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