By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently I was able to attend a speech given by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. He made a statement at the beginning of his remarks about “limiting strategic goals to our resources and willpower.” This is not a new idea in the world of foreign policy, but I think it is worth exploring on a more everyday scale as we look at setting our own goals and objectives and leading our teams through achieving them.

I’m certainly not going to get into a discussion about foreign policy or politics here today! I’m mostly interested in discussing the idea of our “willpower” as leaders. I’m not advocating limiting our goals (and I don’t think Mr. Gingrich was either), but I do believe that there’s a certain amount of follow-through required to keep from being pulled away onto efforts that detract from our overall vision. Just like sticking to a diet or getting to the gym every day, it takes willpower to follow through on our vision and keep ourselves and our teams focused on achieving it. If we don’t have the willpower, we’ll fall short of achieving the goal.

No matter what our vision is, we need to ask ourselves, “Are my actions and decisions today aligned with my overall vision?” It can be extremely easy to gloss over this question when faced with all the problems that crop up. Some mental preparation can help us build that willpower before we need to make those daily decisions. A few specific questions that you can ask yourself to align your willpower with your goals:

1) Do you have a strategy to achieve your overall vision? It is a rare and gifted leader who can bring all his people and resources together to achieve a large goal without thinking about what smaller steps need to be achieved to get there.

2) Are all of your short-term objectives in line with achieving the larger goal? If they’re not, consider if they should still be objectives. If external forces are setting these objectives, consider how much priority they deserve if they don’t help your overall vision.

3) Are those short-term goals aligned in a united effort or are they working at cross-purposes? This is more common than you might think. A goal that sounds like a good idea today can actually take resources away from other initiatives and hinder your effort to achieve the big picture. Periodic re-evaluation of the impact short-term goals have on the overall vision is a must.

Finally, it’s important that you don’t set your sights too low as you create your vision. All too often, we limit our goals to what is “realistic” as opposed to what we really would like to accomplish. My message for you today is not to limit your vision, but to focus your willpower on following through to achieve that vision and reap the rewards that come with it!

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