Setting Strategies for 2020

Intrinsic to this time of the year is the need to reflect on the year that has passed. A review of the “what was”, “what could have been” and the “oops, that should not have been” events.

The next logical step is to start planning for the year ahead. That makes this my favorite time of the year as strategy sets my heart on fire. The idea of planning for new, innovative, world-changing, purpose-fulfilling activities is just up my alley.

Unfortunately, that is where I see things go wrong as, whether we are setting life strategy or business strategy, there are a few mistakes I think we often make in an attempt to be rational and logical about where we want to be in the future.

Now make no mistake, I believe in the power of strategies and goals, and their ability to help us focus on what we want to get out of life in general. However, the following mistakes limit us in our ability to leverage our goals properly.

1. Basing strategies on what was achieved in the past

Henry Ford is quoted as saying “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” With that thinking, cars would never have been invented. In the same way, limiting the future by tying it down to the achievements of the past is counterintuitive.

Tip: Instead of basing strategies on what has been achieved, base them on big hairy audacious goals, as mentioned by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”. Then challenge yourself and your employees to get it done. It is likely to have a great team-building effect.

2. Aiming too low

A well-known idiom is that if you aim for the moon, and you miss, you will land amongst the stars. Often in business risk-aversion sets in and the passion that drove the entrepreneur fades. The problem here is that if you aim low and you miss your target you will have gained nothing. However, if you listen to the idiom the advantage of aiming too high is that even if you fail you will still have exceeded expectations. That translates to a win, even if you fail.

Tip: Set a target and then add on another 10-15 percent, whether in targets, increased metrics or productivity, whatever works in your environment. If you reach your initial target, celebrate – you did well. If you exceed that and reach the stretch-target celebrate even more knowing that, either way, you have gained.

3. Lack of personal contribution

One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela who said: “Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?” Other than avoiding disappointing others, such as investors and spouses, I believe that sometimes we set “easy strategies” to reduce stress on ourselves. In the process though we rid ourselves not only of a potential sense of achievement but we also run the risk of not making a personal contribution and developing ourselves which is shown to decrease feelings of personal worth.

Tip: Ask yourself what would bring fulfillment in your life and set your strategies and goals for 2020 so that you may end the year feeling you have grown as a person and that you are fulfilled, purposeful and happy. 

I hope that 2020 is a very successful year for each reader and that you “shoot the lights out” as they say.

Please feel free to reach out and let me know if you have other pointers on how to optimize strategy for 2020. I can be found at, or follow me on LinkedIn.