“Man is a goal-seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” –Aristotle
“Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.” –Elbert Hubbard
Millions of words have been written about goal setting. Millions of people set goals. Yet, most goals set by most people remain unfulfilled. I have distilled (from experience and education) the eleven essentials of successful goal setting here for you. Follow these and you will accomplish your goals. Fail to follow these and you probably will not. No hype. No rah-rah encouragement. No fluff. Just the simple explanation of how and why to set and ACCOMPLISH goals.
Your goals must be:
10. Time related
11. Written down
1. Goals must be original. That does not mean that they cannot be the same or similar to the goals that others may have; it means that they must be yours, not secondhand. Many people set goals according to the hopes and expectations that they have been programmed to have by parents, teachers, society or cultural norms.
As a consequence they do not own these goals. You cannot generally have or hold what is not yours or even if you do manage to keep it, it will not have any value or meaning to you. What’s the point then of having it? The real reason you set and hope to achieve goals is not just to have the thing, it is to be happy and fulfilled in the accomplishment.
Set goals that are yours; not inherited or assumed. If they are not your own original goals, even if you manage to accomplish them, it will mean very little to you. Why waste your life pursuing something that will end up as meaningless?
2. Goals must be inspirational. They must arouse your passion. This must be a consuming passion, not some whim or ‘someday I’d like to’ feeling. You must desire passionately to achieve what you set as a goal. It must drive you to action and you must feel fulfilled in that action because you know that it is leading to the fulfillment of your goal.
It is passion that drives you to move continuously toward your goal. It is passion that keeps you from getting distracted. It is passion that keeps you from getting discouraged. It is passion that fuels your motivation. It is passion that draws others to you to assist in your goals. It is passion that inspires you and others. It is passion that lights your way through the darkness that you will find along the way.
Get passionate about your goals or get passionate about someone else’s. Life without passion is not a life; it is merely an existence.
3. Goals must be harmonious. Obviously, you cannot have conflicting goals in life or you will be conflicted. That’s the easy part. Your goals, however, must also be in harmony with your core beliefs and your self-assigned purpose in life.
It is easy to understand that to having conflicting goals will raise your stress levels and frustrate you. Yet, people do that to themselves all the time.
It is not so easy to understand that you may have some deep set unconscious game plan for your life (whether from some basic spiritual urge or from some sense of undefined purpose) and the goals you set may actually be in conflict with that real, but hidden, game plan.
First, decide who you are and what you are here to do and then set your goals in alignment with that; or you, yourself, on a subconscious or super conscious level will continually be sabotaging your goals.
4. Goals must be realistic. There is not much point in setting a goal to personally live on Mars, if you are today over 95. The goals you set for yourself must be achievable within the framework of what is humanly possible.
But (and this is important) realistic does not mean what the majority commonly accepts as realistic. Most people did not think that it was realistic to attempt to fly a bicycle with wings and a motor attached, but two brothers named Wright did. Most people did not think it was realistic to build a personal computer for people to use in their home, but two guys named Steve did.
These 4 guys changed reality for all of us. Their goals were obviously, in retrospect, quite realistic. Don’t let your imagination be hemmed in by the crowd.
5. Goals must be idealistic. In two ways—they must involve your personal ideals in the five mentioned areas of your life and they must be progressively higher or further ahead than you are at now.
If your goals are not in tune with your ideals, you will be conflicted. Most people are, in some way, in conflict with the different aspects of self: Material and Financial ($$$ & Things); Physical and Environmental (Health of body, home and world); Emotional and Relationship (Happiness, Love, Social contact); Mental and Educational (Learning, Awareness, Self-knowledge); Spiritual and Ethical (Unity, Life purpose, Values, Sacredness). This is why they are unhappy and why they do not achieve their highest potential. Set your goals in harmony with your ideals.
If your goals are not idealistic (in the sense that they are progressive), you will get bored and unsatisfied. People (those who don’t understand) often wonder why those who are already extremely wealthy continue to pursue more wealth. It is because the ideal is always being extended or raised. Great achievers don’t rest on their laurels. Each goal achieved is merely a stepping-stone to more and greater achievement. It is not the end in itself.
6. Goals must be specific. Goals like “I want to be rich” are not worth the paper they are printed on. Rich must be defined. $1 million in the bank might mean rich to most people but it means poor to many others. It is the same for more ethereal goals. I want to be happy means nothing. Happy must be defined just as rich must be defined. I want to be spiritually fulfilled is the same…meaningless, unless defined.
What does rich mean to you? Exactly. What does happy mean to you? Don’t know exactly? Then how on earth will you ever even know if you get there? I have met a lot of people who say that they are on a spiritual path. I like to ask where that path is leading. Most can’t say anything specific. It is all very nebulous. If your destination is not defined, how in heaven’s name will you know if and when you get there?
7. Goals must be adaptable. One of my favorite jokes (which would offend some readers so I will not quote it here) involves a guy who had set a specific goal but when a gal came along to offer a much better fulfillment, he asked her to help him to accomplish his original one. Many people miss the better fulfillment of a goal because their focus on the one they had originally visualized is too intense and narrow to recognize the better one when it shows up.
Be sure that you are focused on the best possible fulfillment of your goal, not just on the method that you foresaw that goal fulfillment happening.
8. Goals must be visualized. If you cannot see it as real and as true and as a part of the way you live your life…it will not happen.
Many folks, when confronted with some seemingly outrageous possibility or goal, will comment, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it made real, not just some imaginary ideal.’ The dreamers, schemers and achievers of history all had a different approach…’I see it. I believe it. It is real if it exists in my imagination.’ Tiger Woods ‘sees’ his shots landing on the green a few feet from the cup before he takes the shot. The average golfer looks up (usually too soon) from his shot to see where it went. Guess whose shots end up where most often. Visualize the reality in your imagination and it will become real in your manifestation.
9. Goals must be affirmed. You must tell yourself all day, every day, in your constant conscious and subconscious self-talk that your goal is real and achievable. AND, you must tell others what your goal is so that they can ‘buy into it’ and contribute to it. If you don’t believe in it enough to make it a part of your daily conversation and are not passionate enough about it to be compelled to talk about it to yourself and others, it is NOT real for you and it will NOT become real.
You will be surrounded by naysayers. Someone must speak the truth of the reality of your goal. That is your 24/7 job. Constantly affirm where you are headed and why. You’ll end up not only convincing yourself but the world as well.
10. Goals must be time related. Everything exists in space and time. If something is not defined precisely in space and time, it does not exist. A goal of someday, I’d like to be financially secure, or someday, I’d like to climb that mountain does not, and it is highly likely that it WILL NOT ever, exist as anything other than nebulous wishful thinking. You must set specific times for your goals to be made manifest OR you will be forever going towards you goals and never quite reaching them.
Almost everyone in developed countries sets the goal of retirement in financial security, but the overwhelming do NOT achieve that. Why? One of the reasons is that it is always a ‘someday’ goal not a ‘by June 21st 2008’ goal. Of course, it is also likely that these people are also not applying the other 10 rules of effective goal setting.
11. Goals must be written down. If it exists only in your head, it is only wishful thinking. This is the basic, proven by experience, truth of the matter…95% of people who have specific written goals, accomplish them; and 95% of people who have unwritten goals (specific or not) do not. If you can read that sentence and not begin immediately to write down your goals, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that you will not accomplish what you imagine you want to be, do and have in life.
Yes, there are those few high achievers who manage to set clear distinct goals without writing them down and also manage to stay focused on them for their entire lives. Don’t kid yourself…you are not one of those people. I’ll prove it to you. Tell me (or anyone) right now exactly, specifically and in full detail what goals you held 1,000 days ago.
Write them down. Period. Now.