I hope you have dreams. In a recent blog, I wrote about the importance of having dreams. Dreams drive innovation. They are the beginning of great change. Every innovative company began as a dream. But in order to bring a dream to reality, you have to be able to execute. You have to be able to bring your dream to life. But, without execution, your dream is just a nap.
What is a Dream?
A dream is a mental picture of your vision. When you envision a future state for your business, it is very helpful to create it with more than just words. Develop a mental picture of what that looks like. If your dream is to have a certain level of financial status, picture yourself with the new car or new house that you wish to have. If your dream is to help a particular number or type of customer, picture yourself working with that customer. If your dream is to have Friday afternoons off in order to play golf, picture yourself on the links teeing it up.
A mental picture helps bring life and reality to your vision. We connect with visual pictures. It makes them more real. It personalizes them. Vision statements are great. Vision statements can be inspirational. But a mental picture makes it deeply personal and ties it to specific emotions that can help motivate you to act.
The Need to Execute
Our visions represent where we want our business to be. It’s where we envision it being. I know many people that have visions of grandeur with their business. They aspire for creating a new product, for providing an amazing service. But all too often their vision stops right there. Nothing happens with it. They make no progress in achieving their vision. Why is that?
For many reasons, people don’t act on their dreams. There are several reasons. The biggest one is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Often it’s just the fear of the unknown.
The second reason for a failure to achieve their dreams is a failure to execute. People often have wonderful intentions, but do not have the discipline to pull it off.
Failure to Execute
A failure to execute is caused by a few possible problems:
- An unrealistic plan
- Lack of an actionable plan
- Failure of accountability
An unrealistic plan is the result of big ideas without management steps. Strategic planning comes down to a fairly simple concept. You picture a state of being, we’ll call it “Point B”. You have a current state, we’ll call it “Point A”. The difference between Point A and Point B is your gap. To get across the gap requires taking steps. Let’s call them tactics. A realistic strategic plan lays out a series of tactics that will most likely get you from Point A to Point B. It’s just that simple.
If the tactics are not realistic or require you to do things that aren’t possible, we would consider the plan to not be actionable. An actionable plan contains manageable, realistic steps that can be achieved by you or your team. Note that they don’t have to be easy. They just have to be attainable.
Finally, an accountability system has to be put into place that will push you to success. Human beings are strange. We have a tendency to lie to ourselves. We tell us we are making progress on things even when we aren’t. And when we come to the realization that we aren’t where we want or need to be, we end up scrapping our plan and giving up.
Accountability That Works
I share this thought whenever we start talking about strategic planning. “Without execution, your dream is just a nap” makes my business owners chuckle. But then a dose of reality hits as they think about the number of dreams they have had that they never have acted on.
While holding yourself accountable is a strategy that works for some. For most of us, we need to develop a structure of accountability that drives results. I suggest finding an accountability partner or developing an accountability network that keeps you on track and committed to your success. I find this works very well with my coaching groups. These business owners who go through my program together develop a natural mastermind group who become committed to helping each other succeed.
Jeff Henderson, pastor of Gwinnett Church outside of Atlanta used this same concept when he said “if you don’t execute, a dream is just a nap”. He gives four recommended steps to get started on achieving your dreams
- Ask yourself, “What three key things do I have to get done this week?”
- Reflect on the past week, and then think about the next week.
- Write five handwritten notes to others.
- Review your weekly goals and get started.
The first and last goals are key because we know handwritten goals are critical (and seldom done). I believe the reason for #3 is to build accountability in with your relationships.
So, what do you do when your dream is just a nap?
The biggest challenge to achieving your goal is to get started. So reward yourself for getting started. And reward yourself again when you achieve your goal. The most common reason for not achieving a goal is not getting started, or at least not getting past the initial startup challenges. Just as it is for new businesses, the biggest single hurdle is to get through the first initial challenges. We call this the “three feet from gold trap“. And it applies to goal achievement as well as company building.
So if your dream is just a nap, or you fear that is where you are headed. You should hire an accountability coach. If you’d like to learn more about coaching, I would love to talk to you! Contact me today!