Erin Dixon

Over the past six months I’ve summited four mountains, including Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. It might surprise you to learn that reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) was actually far easier than summiting three mountains in New Hampshire (<5,500 feet).  

Why? It’s simple: When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I knew my goal and I could see it. 

During my seven days climbing Kilimanjaro, I watched as the summit got closer with every labored step. Even above 18,000 feet, I knew that with enough determination and patience, I could make it to Uhuru Peak. In contrast, due to tree cover, the summits in New Hampshire were not within eyesight. Because of this, I never saw my goal, which ultimately lead to a very difficult day of climbing. I’m embarrassed to admit that I wanted to give up many times. The voice inside my head kept telling me it would be ok to quit. I truly had no incentive to keep going, other than pride.

It wasn’t until I stood on top of the first peak in New Hampshire that I realized why I almost quit. The answer: I couldn’t see my goal. I had set out on a path but had no idea what the goal looked like. This got me thinking, how many times in life do we give up on something because we can’t see the ultimate goal? Or, since we’re talking about mountains, how many times do we hike up a tree covered path and turn around because we can’t see the beautiful vista ahead?

Just as standing on the Roof of Africa was a personal goal for me, professional and business goals are critically important to success. However, they cannot be met without a clear vision of what it is we’re trying to achieve. At Reservoir, we’ve started using the OKR (Objectives & Key Results) method, a goal setting framework widely adopted by some of the most successful companies in the world for its ability to track progress in real-time, promote transparency and accountability, and incentivize team collaboration at every level.

As a growing company celebrating our five-year anniversary this year, we’re excited about the future of our burgeoning public affairs and strategic communications firm. By setting ambitious objectives and measurable key results, we’re able to identify areas of achievement and opportunities for growth. We’ve found this framework to be particularly helpful because—much like my views of Kilimanjaro—we’re able to see our goals, identify where we’re making progress, address barriers and keep pushing towards success.

While I recognize that most goals don’t involve walking around the office in ankle weights (yes, that happened), I’ll leave you with some key steps for success as you chart the course for your next big goal:

  1. Know Your Goal – Make it clear, achievable and ambitious. Do your research, understand what the goal means and what it will ultimately look like for your success. My climb in New Hampshire might have been very different if only I’d taken the time to research the route and knew what I was working to achieve. 
  2. Be Accountable – Check-in regularly; recognize where progress has been made and identify areas where more work needs to be done. If you’re not tracking towards success, there’s always time to course correct.
  3. Identify Cheerleaders – Make sure others know your goals. It’s a lot harder to quit when you know friends, family and colleagues believe in you.
  4. Make It Personal – Identify your why. I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro because I dedicated my climb to someone I loved. It was because of that motivation that I kept pushing when my body wanted to quit.
  5. Never Give Up – Success doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes we reach our goals on a very different timeframe than we first anticipated. It’s not about how long or how many tries it takes to get there, it’s about achieving what you set out to do. Success is success, no matter when you achieve it.