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Goals are like leaders. Everyone knows they can be powerful parts of success, but because the term is used in such broad ways, vagueness can surround the term. Have you ever heard a one word definition of leader? John Maxwell says leadership is simply “influence.” This may not be a sufficient definition for some, but for me it was very clarifying. I’d like to share a similar epiphany I had when I thought deeply about goals.

Let’s start with a few semantics. To become financially free is what many people would consider to be a “goal” in life. It’s not mine. I want to become financially free so that my wife can stay at home with the kids, I can pursue my desire to coach full-time, and we can live a lifestyle that supports health, happiness and peace.  These are huge motivating forces in my life.  They are what get me excited and help me persevere through hard times. But they describe my dream… not my goal.

What is the difference?

I want my goals to be something over which I have complete control. So my one word definition for goals is “steps.” Maybe it’s my competitive nature or my competitive nurture growing up in sports, but I like there to be a winner and a loser…a yes or a no…did I accomplish the goal or didn’t I? I typically ask my teams, “What are your goals for the season?” Many times they’ll say, “To go undefeated.” Then they lose the first game. Does that make them failures? Should they quit improving and stop trying because their goal can’t be realized? Sounds preposterous, but I’ve seen it happen all too often.

So their understanding of goals (or lack of understanding) actually prevented growth. They didn’t have complete control over their goal. They had no idea if the goal was attainable because they  couldn’t control how good their opponents were that season, who was going to get a season ending injury, etc. So why not call it a dream, not a goal, so it still has the purpose of motivation but doesn’t make you a failure if you don’t reach it? And here it is…the “certain aspect” that was so helpful to me in having goals play a meaningful part of success in my life: It is the fact that my goals are process oriented and not outcome oriented. Processes are actions by me that I can control.

The processes may be difficult for me to accomplish, but that is OK because they are completely within my control. Outcomes are not always in my control. For example: My goal is NOT 50 pips a week. That is where I want to be, but right now I don’t have the skill to accomplish it. So my goal for the week is to make all of my entries with a physical risk out. Because I don’t always recognize good entries or exits, because I don’t always measure from the right spot, because I trade emotionally, I don’t have 50 pips a week as my goal. But 50 pips will be an outcome of my behavior.

So if I’m going to improve my outcomes, I must improve my behavior as a trader. I must do things (take actions) that will improve my chances of positive outcomes. A high level trader, Billy Himan, looked at my screenshots and made the recommendation “never take a trade without a physical risk out.” So that has been my goal in the last 4 weeks. My trading has improved vastly. Only one of those weeks did I reach 50 pips, but I felt successful every week because I reached my goal and saw improvement. I am closer to my dream which is a great feeling! An addicting feeling actually.

And it was that simple goal or “step” that caused growth.

If you’re a new student don’t make your goal to get 10 pips this week. That is an outcome that you don’t have complete control over.  You don’t have the skill to do that yet. You may get lucky and get 50 pips, but that doesn’t make you a better trader or get you closer to your dream. Instead, make your goal, “I’m going to ask two questions of the instructor every day this week.” Or, “I’m going to see if I can sit and watch the market for one whole session and NOT make a single trade.” Or, “I’m going to get to the classroom three times this week.” These were all goals for me because even though they were difficult for me as a new student they were completely within my control.

For some of you more experienced traders you know that 50 pips a week is a great goal for you because you know the process you need to follow to get that goal. I would still make the case that you should make other goals that focus on the process itself. My guarantee is not that you will gain more pips this month but that you will learn and grow – so that dream of yours will become a reality much sooner.

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