How To Set Winning Goals Like Lebron James: 9 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Make Your Next Move

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I’m a huge Lebron James fan. I study his game and replay his post-game comments to understand his thinking. I am inspired by his journey to greatness and tireless work ethic. Like Lebron, I believe we all have a unique talent, but that doesn’t guarantee our greatness. The difference is how we shape that talent through our goals.

For Lebron James, New Year’s Day is not January 1st. It’s the last day of the NBA season. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the 2011 NBA Finals, he went into a dark place—a place where I believe he dug deep and set goals for the upcoming season using these 9 questions, which ultimately resulted in an MVP, his first NBA Championship, and Finals MVP.

Like Lebron, every year in early January, many people set New Year Resolutions. Within 30 days, their aspirational piece of paper is buried under a pile of day-to-day life. After many failed attempts, most people would say that “New Year Resolutions don’t work.”

I beg to differ. New Years Resolutions aren’t broken—the way we set goals in our personal and professional lives is what’s broken and I’ve discovered 9 powerful questions, which you can also find on page 22 of The Free 2014 New Year Guide that will help you have your best year yet.

1. EXPERIENCE: I ultimately want to experience what it is like to be…

We don’t set goals for the sake of setting goals. When we do that, our goals just become another to-do list item and that’s not inspiring. The main reason we set goals is because we want to have a new experience in or of life. As we examine our current life, we see an opportunity to change, grow, and improve our lives in such a way that our experience of it is even better than before.

When someone sets a goal to lose weight, they are really saying that they want to experience what it is like to be healthy, full of energy, and alive. When someone sets a goal to change jobs, they don’t just want a new title and company. They are really saying that they want to experience what it is like to live in their strengths daily, make a visible impact, and be rewarded fairly for the results they create.

When we start with the experience we want to create first, it opens us up to a variety of different goals we can set to gain that experience. For instance, if I want to experience financial freedom, there are lots of different goals or approaches that may get me there such as paying off my credit card debt, starting my side hustle after work, buying an income property, learning how to day-trade, reducing my cost of living, or increasing my income.

Before we start doing anything, it’s important to determine who we have to be to do it. That’s the greatest and hardest change to make of all—a change in your being. If I want to lose weight, but I’m lazy, then doing P90x isn’t going to work for me, but perhaps there is a diet that will. If I want financial freedom, but my being loves to splurge on clothes, food, and travel, then reducing my expenses won’t work for me—instead I have to figure out how to make more income. By starting with the experience, you can choose the goal that is best for who you are, and who you ultimately want to be as well as where you are in relationship to your desired destination.

Lebron James’ Application:

At the end of the 2011 NBA season, Lebron James was experiencing what it was like to be a great NBA player who led two different teams to the NBA finals, but lost twice. He was not happy with that experience. He didn’t just want to be a great player. He wanted to experience what it was like to be an NBA champion multiple times.

2. INTENTION: Why is having this experience so important to me beyond just doing it?

The moment we declare what we want to be and experience, our tendency is to jump straight into doing and action. But before we do anything, it is important to establish our “why”. Why is having this experience so important to us? Victor Frankl once said, “A man who knows his why can bear almost any how.” Sometimes it’s not that we don’t know how to do something. Sometimes our why isn’t big enough and our inaction shows us that.

Lebron James’ Application:

Lebron James has said this in several interviews. He has one goal. He wants to be the greatest basketball player of all-time. Period. That’s his why. He doesn’t want to be the Dan Marino of the NBA. Great players win championships—plural.

3. GROWTH: What limiting beliefs or fears will be pushed by this experience?

Goals should require you to grow into someone you haven’t been before. An activity that doesn’t require growth is merely a to do list item. If you accomplished all of your goals last year, you likely underestimated your abilities and didn’t challenge yourself. If you didn’t accomplish them all, you may have overestimated your abilities. This is where a “30 Day Do It” can provide great opportunities. They challenge the chatter in our heads “That I can’t…”, “That I’m too…”, “That people won’t….”

A great example of a 30 Day Do It would be running a marathon in a certain time when you’ve only run half-marathons up until this point. Another example would be achieving sales of $20,000 in a week, when your personal best is currently at $15,000. A 30 Day Do It should stretch you in a way that creates some uncertainty, but also inspires you. This should challenge your limiting beliefs and expand your self-concept.

Lebron James’ Application:

Lebron James’ #1 limiting belief was “That I have to do it on my own.” He tried to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back to a championship. In the first 7 years of his career, he took a team whose record the season before he was drafted was 17-65 to 61-21 in his last year with them. But by the time he got to the NBA Finals or the Eastern Conference Finals, he was beat and you could see it in his demeanor and stamina in both elimination games. He didn’t give up, but his tank was empty.

You can download page 22 of The 2014 New Year Guide for free here.

4. GAPS: What challenges or excuses do I see/foresee stopping me from creating this experience?

Before we even set new goals, many of us have our excuses ready in the back of our minds. Instead of dealing with our excuses after trying to achieve our goals, why not just deal with them all upfront. Let’s say “Excuse me excuses. I’m going to get you out the way now because having this experience is important to me and nothing is going to stop me.”

Imagine yourself 30 days into the future. Imagine that you failed miserably at the goal you set. What would be all of the reason you didn’t do what you said you wanted to do? We know all of the commons ones—I don’t have time. The kids. I didn’t have the money. I was too tired. Work got busy. My boss this and that. My wife this and that. I didn’t have any support. One of my favorite quotes is “Excuses are monuments of nothingness. They build bridges to nowhere. Those who use these tools of incompetence, seldom become anything but nothing at all.”

Lebron James’ Application:

As stated before, Lebron James knew that at the end of his career, if he didn’t win an NBA championship, that his top two excuses would be that he didn’t have role players around him and that he never had a great coach. When you think about who was on Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s NBA championship teams, immediately names like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, Shaq, and Pau Gasol come to mind. If I ask you who was on Lebron’s Cleveland team that made it to the 2007 NBA Finals, who comes to mind? Nobody…unless you live in Cleveland. On top of that, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had Phil Jackson, the greatest coach in NBA history. So these were two gaps that Lebron could try to fill (no pun intended) in advance.

5. SUPPORT: How can I attempt to close these gaps in advance? Who/what can help me successfully create this experience?

Anytime we feel stuck or reach a plateau in our life, it’s usually because we have exhausted our know-how. In those moments, we end up doing more of the same. We hustle harder instead of hustling smarter.

When you don’t know how to breakthrough to a new level, one of the easiest things you can do is look for a course, on coaching, or consulting. A course will give you new information and insights. This will allow you to look at your situation with a new lens. Coaching will give you accountability and another perspective. Perhaps you have a blind spot or you’re procrastinating on doing that very thing which makes the difference you seek. And a consultant will do what they can to get you to who and where you want to be with as little energy and effort as possible from you.

Lebron James’ Application:

In 2010, Lebron made “The Decision” to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, where he would have support. Both players were already All-Stars. And Dwayne Wade (along with Shaq) carried the Miami Heat to their first NBA championship, which was the experience Lebron James was trying to have.

The stars would have had to align perfectly for Lebron James to get Phil Jackson as his coach. Pat Riley was even an option for a moment. But there is only so much you can control and he got the young Erik Spoelstra instead. Obviously the most important thing was that he finally got his supporting cast.

6. EFFORT: What are the actions that I am 100% accountable for to create this experience?

When you set a goal, differentiate between the action and the outcome. You can only hold yourself 100% accountable to the action and the effort required to complete the action. You may do the action with all of your effort and still not achieve your desired outcome. For instance, you can go to the gym every day for 3 months and still not lose the 20 pounds you desired if your workout plan wasn’t right.

This is where a coach, friend, mentor, professional, or colleague comes in—they help improve your strategy. They can help you make sure that you are engaged in right action through feedback, while you focus on right effort. The world and the economy are evolving faster than ever and sometimes what we want and desire doesn’t come to us in the exact way or form we expected it to. So be open—meaning hold onto your plan loosely, but stand firm in your intention.

Lebron James’ Application:

In his last year in Cleveland, Lebron played and shot more like a point guard. He had tons of 3-point attempts. In his first year in Miami, he had a lot less. And in his second year in Miami, most of his points were in the paint. He earned easier baskets because he made an intentional choice to work on his low-post game. He also altered his off-season and in-season physical training program so that he could endure the playoffs, not just the regular season. These were things that were 100% in his control regarding how he spent his time.

7. INITIATION: What is the “first domino?” What’s the easiest action I can do right now that will set my experience in motion?

Dates don’t hold you accountable—events that involve other people and deliverables do. If you’re serious about accomplishing a goal, create an event that involves other people where you will share a deliverable. A deliverable can be a document you create, photos, a proposal, or a demonstration (i.e. you weighing yourself in front of your accountability partners). It serves as proof that you did what you said you were going to do. I wrote my second book called Good Excuse Goals in 30 days by sending an email to 100 friends and telling them that I would send them the first draft in 30 days. By doing that, I activated positive peer pressure and I delivered. As human beings, we have a weird psychology about us where we are more comfortable disappointing ourselves than we are other people. So use it to your advantage by getting other people involved and promising to show them the results of your effort. For you, it may mean sending invitations, paying a coach or trainer, buying your tickets, or giving a friend $100 if I don’t do what you say. Do whatever works for you.

Lebron James’ Application:

Lebron’s first domino was to schedule low-post training in the off-season with Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the best low-post players of all-time. Once those sessions were schedule, Lebron just had to show up and Hakeem would guide him through the rest. He invested in coaching and used his coaching as a source of accountability to become the player and champion he said he wanted to be.

8. MEASUREMENT: How will I measure my success during the experience?

Focus on your input and the journey as much as the outcome and the destination. Your life is your vehicles to design, drive, and maintain. Thus, you need a dashboard. Though a dashboard has no functional use in a car getting from point A to point B, it lets you know how well the vehicle is doing along the way by measuring how hard, how hot, how far, and how full the car is. Without a dashboard, you could overheat, run out of gas, or break the speed limit. I invite you all to create a visual dashboard for yourselves. Rather than leaving your goals as words, make a one-pager that has bar graphs, pie charts, or check boxes so that you can visually see where you are along your journey this year. If you have a savings goal of of $20,000, put a big bar graph on the back of your bedroom door and color it in as your savings grow. If you’re giving up smoking, pin a $10 bill to a calendar for each day you don’t smoke to symbolize what you would have spent on a pack and celebrate that you didn’t. Make it visual. Other examples of measurements include pounds lost, running time, dollars earned, and # of new clients.

Lebron James’ Application:

Lebron’s metrics of success are clear based on his stat sheet. He is focused on increasing his points in the paint and field goal percentage and decreasing his turnovers and personal fouls. Most people celebrate number of points scored, but that isn’t Lebron’s focus anymore. He is not going for the scoring title. He wants to be a facilitator like Magic Johnson, getting his whole team involved, but at the same time be able to score at will from the inside or outside when his team needs him to. Ultimately, he believes that being this kind of player will improve his chances of winning another NBA championship with the Miami Heat.

9. AUTHENTICITY: Do I accept this goal as an authentic intentional choice of my own?

Look within and answer “Yes!” or “No.” While our goals may be influenced by things we’ve heard and seen, in order to be fully committed, we have to fully own the goal as our own. People close to you can make recommendations and give advice, but at the end of the day, you have to determine if this is the right goal for you. Before you begin, get a clear “Yes!” or “No,” and then go. The x-factor to success is knowing your “why”. The clearer you are on the reason you are doing anything before you even begin, the more likely it is that you will succeed.

Lebron James’ Application:

Every NBA player isn’t seeking to be the greatest player of all-time. In fact, only a few probably ever consider it. For some, getting to the NBA was enough. For others, starting is another. For some, becoming an NBA all-star is enough. For Lebron, nothing is enough unless he becomes the great NBA basketball player of all-time.

Congrats to Lebron on winning the Associated Press’ 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award that has been annually awarded since 1931 this past Thursday. And hopefully he goes on to win 6, 7, or 8 NBA champions. Go Heat!


I believe in the Creator in you to create a life worth living.

Change your day. Change your life.

May this year be your best year yet!

Jullien Gordon
aka The Innerviewer

Comment Below & Inspire Others:

I’m curious to know…

What is one of your big goals for this year?

Let me know in the comments section and inspire others with your answer.