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Starting / Setting business goals

How to achieve goals

This time last year I took a trip to Borneo, where I climbed south east Asia's largest mountain, Mount Kinabalu. I learned a great deal about how to achieve goals from the experience.

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I also learnt why climbing a mountain is so often used as an analogy in the world of planning and goals.

Here’s what I learnt.

You can’t plan for everything

Climbing the mountain was John-Paul’s idea. Initially I was reluctant to go and even after I was persuaded, I was scared by the prospect.

But like all good planners, I believed good preparation would mitigate this fear, so I worked hard to get in physical shape for the climb.

This turned out to be helpful, but only to an extent. In my preparations, I was so focused on how to reach the top that I gave no thought to what turned out to be the toughest part – coming down.

Super fit as I was, my knees gave out half way down the mountain. I hadn’t expected that. Having been relieved to make it to the top, I had to abruptly and reluctantly focus on a new goal: getting down in one piece.

"I could see the summit! It was just up there! And then I went into meltdown."

Preparation can only get you so far; pragmatism and perseverance is what will get you over the line.

Slow and steady wins the day

On the ascent we took frequent breaks to recover and adjust to the altitude. Fortunately we suffered no ill effects. We did, however, pass plenty of people who weren’t so lucky, many of whom had zoomed past us earlier, while we were resting. Aesop would have been proud.

Want more articles like this? Check out the setting business goals section.

Respect the mind/body relationship

I could see the summit! It was just up there! And then I went into meltdown. Tears spilled from my eyes. I was psychologically incapable of taking another step.

Having focused on preparing my body, I hadn’t appreciated that my mental state might be my undoing.

Have a decent support team

John-Paul did a fantastic job to get me moving again. He listened to me whine, fed me chocolate (always effective) and persuaded me to keep at it. He gave what may possibly be the best bit of advice on how to achieve goals, namely:

Keep putting one foot in front of the other

It had seemed All Too Hard, but this was the best course of action. I had become upset and overwhelmed by the sight of the summit. How on earth was I going to get up there? He made me realise the answer was simple: by taking it one step at a time.

I was delighted, and quite surprised, to have got so much from those two days. Next stop Everest. Not.

What have you learnt about how to achieve goals on your  journey? Let us know.

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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