You may have seen or heard the quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” That famous quote is attributed to Lewis Carroll, and often used in discussions of setting goals. But have you ever REALLY thought about what it means?

I never gave much thought to where the quote came from or its deeper meaning, but I stumbled across a blog recently that shed some light on the context of this often-used saying. And it made me think more deeply about what it really means with respect to vision, clarity, setting goals and purposeful action in business.

According to Philosiblog, the quote is paraphrased from a conversation between Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat, apparently, and there’s a deeper dialogue behind it. And, according to the author of the post, this is the exchange that gave birth to the paraphrased quote:

Alice said, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

You see, Alice only knows she wants to get somewhere other than where she is, but she’s not sure what she wants her ultimate destination to be. Therefore, just getting busy and moving in any direction will take her SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE other than where she is. But is that really what she wants? Even if she puts forth all the time and effort to change her current situation, will the new destination be a better place to be – or a place she wants to be?

How many of us, as small business owners, have found ourselves in a similar frame of mind with our businesses? We talk in vague terms like bigger, more clients, more sales, and more revenue as goals. And we think that working harder or longer will get us there. If we just get busy, put in the long hours, and keep our nose to the grindstone, IT will happen… success is assured. But what is IT? What does that success look like for you? Do you know your targets or goals? Are you even setting goals?

It’s great to want growth for your business, but it would be better to be more specific. This might include that you want to grow by 20% and become debt-free in the process, for example. Want more sales and clients? How much and how many? What numbers would be realistic and allow you to maintain the work-life balance you desire? What numbers would you be able to handle and still maintain the excellent customer service your company is known for? Also, what is your ideal client, and how do you get more of those?

You see, being specific matters. If you aren’t clearly defining the goals you set, how will you be able to chart the path that will get you there, measure your progress, or know when you’ve arrived?

Clarity is so important when setting goals! Once you know where you want to go, you can chart your path and get there. You’ll be able to define and get focused on the right tasks and activities that will actually benefit your business, as opposed to getting distracted by busy-ness that makes you FEEL like you’re accomplishing something but doesn’t move you forward.

Intentionally setting goals, followed up with purposeful action, also makes it easier to measure your progress and make adjustments when necessary. When challenges come along (and they will!), they won’t derail you. If you have a clear vision of what you’re focused on, you’ll be better able to meet those challenges with a solutions-mindset and keep going in a purposeful direction.

In fact, there’s another famous quote I love that relates to this perfectly and is also often used in discussions of goal-setting for businesses. The quote is attributed to Jimmy Dean and reads, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” So true! But again, you have to know where you’re going to set those sails.

So, if you look at your current situation and find it’s not where you want to be in spite of your hard work, it’s time to clarify the vision and set some specific goals. Take the time to be intentional with your plan for success. There is a path to get you there. You just need to define it!


Here’s a Goal-Setting Guide you can use to help you get those goals down in black and white. I encourage you to start at the end, with the annual goal (or goals). Then work your way backwards through the document to define and clarify the specific steps and actions that will get you to those end goals. Definitely be specific! And if you feel overwhelmed or need help, contact me. I can help you define those goals, large and small. I can also help you evaluate where you’re at and what systems and processes you could implement to make it easier to reach your ultimate goal – SUCCESS – while still enjoying that work-life balance we all search for along the way!