Painted high on the wall of the dojo where I study mixed martial arts is a quote from Bruce Lee: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

In class, those words remind me to keep focusing on mastering the basics—foot shape, balance, follow-through, control—as I work to reach the next level in my training. In my experience as a marketing communicator who helps companies express their core purpose in the world, Bruce’s quote also holds some deeper lessons about why we create goals—and what they enable us to achieve.

young girl breaking a block of wood in half with her foot

Goals make you accountable

Sometimes, company leaders and marketers resist setting measurable goals for their sustainability or corporate responsibility efforts because they’re nervous about falling short. They picture watchdog groups and social media trolls pouncing on the lower-than-expected results. Sure, no commitment may mean no disappointments. But that approach can also leave you stuck in mediocrity—like someone who’s never embraced the challenge of trying to make the same kick better each time. People will respect and admire your brand more when they see you stretching for that high bar, even if you don’t quite grasp it.

Goals give you a clear target

If you’re trying to advance a program or campaign without any explicit goals attached, there’s a good chance your work will start to feel like 10,000 random actions that don’t add up to any powerful or lasting results. Customers, employees and other stakeholders are never quite sure what direction you’re coming from or even what you’re aiming for. When you identify a specific goal and tell people about it, they can get behind your efforts more easily—helping generate the energy and momentum to put you over the top.

Goals keep you pointed ahead

The first 50 or so times that I tried to do a tornado kick, which involves jumping and spinning 360 degrees in mid-air, I kept missing the bag—by a lot. The problem? My foot was moving forward, but my eyes were still focused behind me. Similarly, brands that report only on past efforts to achieve their purpose often fail to connect with audiences that are looking for inspiration. Refresh those sustainability and CSR stories with details about your next set of objectives. Better yet, share how last year’s achievements and experiences will set you up to go even further.

Want to make goals a stronger part of your purpose-driven storytelling but not sure where to begin? Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Build on what you’re already doing. Use this year’s results—such as the number of students reached through after-school mentoring or the kilowatt-hours of electricity your new energy-efficient lighting saved—as a baseline for setting next year’s goals.
  • Put quality ahead of quantity. Ambitious goals can be a great motivator for your organization and employees, but don’t make simply hitting the numbers a bigger priority than creating a valuable impact.
  • Show your progress. Rather than wait until the end of the year—or your next annual report—to celebrate what you’ve achieved, create an ongoing series of smaller stories that draw audiences closer to the people, challenges, lessons and triumphs that are part of your journey.
  • Be humble, keep improving. It’s OK to show audiences that your programs and goals are a work in progress.

I’ve watched a 6-year-old girl launch her tiny fist through a wooden board. And I’ve seen a 60-year-old company chop its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. Focus, discipline and practice helped them create the desired impact. What goals could these techniques help you achieve?