At the beginning of each year, we all start with high aspirations and a lofty list of goals. Whether our objective is a promotion to district manager or an increase in sales by 5 percent per quarter over last year, on January 1 our sights are focused with laser-like intensity on our visions of greatness. But then, by January 10, a couple of curve-balls are likely to come from out of nowhere, and suddenly we’re down 0-2 in the count only ten days into the new year.
Instead of waiting on a pitch we can drive into left field, we’re forced to take a defensive posture. We’re relegated to fouling off pitches just to survive this at-bat. No longer are we thinking about offense and the goals we set for ourselves. Our thoughts are focused on survival, not advancement.
“Hopefully, in the second quarter I’ll be able to really focus on my goals,” we tell ourselves at this point. We try to convince ourselves that all will be well as one minor obstacle after another moves us farther and farther off track. Soon it’s March 1, then June 1, and the next thing we know it’s too late to realistically hope to achieve our goals for the year.
In baseball, just like in our careers, the difference between being good and being great is how quickly we can refocus from a setback, correct the issue that knocked us off track and get ourselves back on course for meeting our goals.
In the baseball example above, the batter has a choice: He can let that curve-ball for strike two totally unravel his at-bat, swing at a pitch in the dirt for the third strike and slink back to the dugout hanging his head, his confidence shot for the rest of the game, or he can battle to the very end, fouling off as many third-strike pitches as possible until he gets a pitch he can drive. If he chooses the second option, his confidence will allow him to quickly get himself back on track for the next at-bat and, for that matter, the next game.
No matter how hard you try or how good you are, curve-balls are going to force you off track from time to time. In fact, I would venture to say it’s human nature to get off track occasionally, in both your personal life and your career. And getting yourself back on track quickly is the “slump breaker” you need to overcome those setbacks. You get out of a slump by getting refocused as quickly as possible and getting a few early successes that will create some positive momentum. Hopefully, that momentum will turn into a multi-game hitting streak.
The first step to getting yourself back on track is to take a quick inventory of your goals. A simple reminder of what you planned to accomplish in the new year can sometimes be enough to at least get you headed back in the right direction. The next step is to prioritize your goals. Numerically rank your goals in order of importance, with number one being the most important goal for the year. From the top five goals you list, pick two that you can turn around easily. An early success is the key to restoring your confidence and gaining a renewed sense of accomplishment. After achieving one or two of your more reachable goals, you’ll have the confidence to tackle the more difficult goals with tenacity and grit. Back on “offense” again, you’ll no longer have to foul off pitches just to survive the at-bat.
So if you’re feeling a little down because a few curve-balls have derailed your goals for the new year, step out of the batter’s box for a moment, take a deep breath and then step back in and pick out a pitch that you know you can hit out of the park. Get yourself refocused for a few early successes and use that positive momentum to accomplish even your most difficult goals. Don’t let a strikeout in your first at-bat of the year affect the rest of your season—setbacks are inevitable, in business and in life. The key is recovering from them as quickly as possible. That’s what separates the good from the great.
Robert Luckadoo is an author, motivational speaker, business consultant, and Corporate Estate Planning Specialist. His new book “Grit In Your Craw: The 8 Strengths You Need To Succeed In Business And In Life” is available on Amazon (paperback and eBook), Ingram Spark and wherever books are sold.