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Setting Goals is Not Sufficient. Here’s Why Your Change Needs Momentum.

Find out more about why your change needs momentum – and how to achieve it – in my article Five Tips for Building Momentum for Change.

What is success? And how do we measure successful performance?

These are questions that academics, business leaders, and corporate thinkers have been probing for decades. Questions probed to find the secret formula to this ephemeral thing – success – we all seek.

One of the most widespread ways to measure and achieve success – in both business and personal life – has been goals. You set a target of what you want to achieve and by when. Then, if you reach that target by the date, you have achieved that goal. This achievement is subsequently framed as success.

But is it? As one of my heroes, Simon Sinek, has argued, people and business teams can reach their goals almost by accident. With ups and downs, delays and rushes, they ultimately fall over the finish line and reach the desired target on the desired day. The goal was achieved. But was it a success?

Maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t matter so much if you don’t reach your goal – as long as your journey to the goal is consistent, sustainable, and goes with momentum. Because whilst goals have their use, they’re not necessarily a sign of success.

Here’s why momentum matters a little more – and here’s why your change needs momentum.

What Do We Mean by Momentum?

So, what do we mean by momentum in change?

Momentum is the ability to keep going – at a pace that is maintained or that speeds up. It’s not about just meeting one goal. In one way, it’s about meeting one with the energy to meet the next and the next and the next. In another, it’s about the ability to keep moving at a steady – or increasing – tempo even when a goal isn’t being met.

As Sinek says, it’s more important to improve consistently than to meet goals at random.

That’s what momentum is: consistent performance leading to a form of predictable success.

Don’t Ditch Goals – But Don’t Believe They are Everything.

The trouble with goals is that, sometimes, they can destroy your momentum.

Say you’ve been going well, improving slowly at a pace that is comfortable and manageable. Yet, when it comes to the crucial moment, you are a whisker away from your intended goal. I talk from experience when I say that this can get you down – or make you feel that you aren’t good enough.

On the other hand, you try so hard to reach that goal that you get exhausted or overwhelmed. And whilst your progressed quickly for the purposes of that goal, you slump as soon as you have achieved it.

Both instances – and they are unfortunately incredibly common – demonstrate a lack of momentum, of course. But they also show a lack of perspective, of big thinking. You stumble from one goal to the next with no sense of your overall progress.

It might go without saying that this approach doesn’t work in the long term. Your change needs momentum – and to get it you need a strategic and wider lens view of where you’re heading.

The Role of Intention in Building Momentum.

Short term goals don’t allow one to build momentum. Momentum needs to be built over a longer timeframe, a longer distance, and towards a greater end. That’s what puts your intention – or your ‘why’ – at the centre of the search for momentum.

Your intentions are the larger aspirations towards which you strive. They are your dream vision, the person you want to be, the key priorities in your life that make you get up every morning.

Change should always be directed towards your intention. And it is this end point that gives your change – your progress – the momentum that it needs. By integrating new habits, tasks, and changes into your life slowly – and consistently – you can start to live moments of your dream life right now – and gain the momentum that your change needs.

How to Give Your Change the Momentum it Needs.

When you are considering your strategy for change, don’t just rely on short term goals. That’s nearly as bad as changing everything in your life all at once (something I like to call the New Year’s resolution syndrome).

What you want to do instead is work from your intention. What is it that you want in your dream life? Who is the person that you want to be? Let this be the vision towards which you work – towards which you build momentum.

Remember that momentum is about your ability to sustain and increase your progress. To improve this ability, ensure that the changes you make are prioritised well. (You can read more about this in my article on impact and influence.) Because in this way, each change you make provides the ground upon which the next change can be built. This is what momentum is all about.