Bullet Blog 1 Setting Goals

Setting goals – thinking small is the key to success

It’s that time of year when many of us look ahead and make commitments to what we want to achieve over the next twelve months. In our personal lives we’d call these resolutions and for those of us in the business world we’d probably call them objectives, or goals.

The idea I want to share today is hopefully relevant to both business and personal goals, and it is that the key to your success will very much be dependent on the degree of clarity you have between your ‘outcome goals’ and your ‘means goals’.

Let me give you an example. I’d like to be 8kgs lighter by the end of the year and I’m pretty motivated to do this, having achieved similar goals in the past. This is an ‘outcome goal’ – it sets a target but it doesn’t tell me anything about how to get there.

To enable me to hit my target, I need to figure out what I must do; my diet, how much exercise I should be getting, behaviours I need to change – these are my ‘means goals’. They include literally dozens of things I must do in order to be in with a chance of hitting my outcome goal.

Means goals share the characteristic that they are small (none will get me all the way to my target) and they are black and white (I either succeed, or I learn and try again) and they are very specific and relate to my daily and weekly behaviours. Each is individually achievable with a bit of self-discipline and effort, and every small achievement will give me a sense I am moving towards my outcome goal. Importantly, means goals can and should be modified as you find better ways to do things or decide you can do more, but they do not change your target goal except perhaps in bringing it closer!


  • A single desired outcome measure
  • Large, meaningful, all-encompassing
  • Describes the ‘what’
  • Non-negotiable
  • Linked to your overall business purpose


  • Multiple improvements & changes you can make
  • Small, highly specific, and measurable as Yes/No
  • Describes the ‘how’
  • Can be amended
  • Linked to your business process

Set out like this, the difference looks fairly obvious. Yet you’d be surprised how many business managers I meet who only set outcome goals. Their instincts are correct, they want to aim high and think big; to perhaps hit an additional £1 million in turnover or may be open a new branch or pursue a new opportunity. Their level of desire is infectious which is why I love meeting them, but I often have to remind them that without articulating the small stepping-stones of means goals, they and their teams will find it hard to hit their outcome goal. I liken it to walking on bubble wrap (if you’ve never done this, try it!). Each step forward pops tens of tiny bubbles and not only do you feel buoyed by the sensation of literally walking on air, you have a sound-track of small exclamations to encourage you on. This is what it feels like to set, and succeed at, means goals. They set direction and mark progress, they feed motivation and create momentum – and they ensure success.

I hope you have found these few thoughts helpful and that they may have motivated you to reflect on your goals. One of my goals this year is to share a regular series of posts on my ‘Bullet Blog’ like this, so if you have any topics you’d like me to cover or questions you’d like to ask, please do get in touch.