“Living without goals is like going on a trip without a destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up nowhere, and any road will get you there.”
Do you set goals?
“I don’t know how to set goals. How do you set goals?” I was surprised when a 40+ year old woman asked me that question. I answered her question — but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “You can’t really be serious can you?” That incident happened years ago, but I still remember it. It was an eye opener for me. Goal setting was something I thought everyone knew how to do, and realized the value in doing it. If you’re new to goal setting, this post is especially for you. Hal Urban, author of the book “Life’s Greatest Lessons,” has some good advice on goal setting. Here’s an excerpt from his book:
Why Goals Are So Important
There are many ways to define success. The best definition I’ve ever seen is this: Success is the progressive accomplishment of worthy goals.
If there’s one thing on which all experts on human achievement agree, it’s the importance of setting goals. Success doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design. Dr. Charles Garfield, a psychologist at the University of California, has specialized for years in studying the habits of high achievers in science, business, industry, and athletics. He wrote about many of them in his book Peak Performers. He believes that any type of success “starts with a mission”: a specific goal accompanied by strong desire. Goals have been the starting place for every advancement in the history of mankind. The process is always the same: a dream becomes a goal, the goal becomes an achievement. Or in the words of Napoleon Hill, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
Living without goals is like going on a trip without a destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up nowhere, and any road will get you there. Despite living in a country with unlimited opportunity, that’s where millions of people end up: nowhere. Yet they don’t seem to understand why. Tragically, I see too many young people headed for the same place. It’s tragic because it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s something relatively simple that can change the course of anyone’s life, regardless of age or circumstances. That something is a clearly defined set of goals.
Unfortunately, we don’t learn about goals in the classroom. As great as our educational system is, it’s lacking in some vital areas. We don’t teach “how life works’ or “what is essential in school. Goal-setting is one of those essentials. Over the past thirty years, I’ve seen lives (including my own) change dramatically because of goals. It’s almost unbelievable what people can do when they discover what goals are, the benefits of setting them, and how to achieve them.
The Benefits of Setting Goals
Having goals can enrich our lives in a number of ways:
– Motivation – Goals are the starting blocks of motivation. They give us a reason to get off our duffs and get going.
– Independence – Goals help us take charge of our own lives. Instead of following the crowd or wandering through life, we choose our own path, the one that leads to fulfillment of our ambitions.
– Direction – Goals give us a destination. We’re far more likely to get someplace when we know where we’re going.
– Meaning – Goals give us a sense of purpose. Life has more meaning when we’re clear on what we want. Instead of merely existing from one day to the next, our goals give us reasons to start really living.
– Enjoyment – Goals are the antidote to the most dreaded of social diseases: boredom. How can you be bored when you’ve got exciting things to do? Goals make our lives more fun, more interesting, and more challenging.
– Fulfillment – Goals, more than anything else, help us reach our potential. Setting goals helps us see what’s possible. Each successful step toward attaining them builds confidence. Each goal completed helps us see more of what’s possible and leads to new goals and more success.
Setting Goals: My Best Suggestions
So, in a book of this nature, I can’t give you the complete picture. However, I can give you these suggestions for getting started in goal-setting and increasing the excitement level of your life:
1 – Understand the difference between a goal and a wish. Ask a hundred people what their goals are, and these are the three answers you’ll get most frequently: to be happy, to be rich, to be famous. Those aren’t goals; they’re wishes. A wish is a vague dream that we hope happens to us. There’s a vast difference between that and a goal. A goal is a clear picture that becomes an achievement because we make it happen. It requires hard work, self-discipline, and good use of time.
2 – Write down your goals, and make them specific. We draw up plans for buildings, businesses, meetings, weddings, sports, parties, vacations, retirement, etc. But do we draw up plans for our lives? That’s what goals are. One of the best investments you’ll ever make is to invest some time in sitting down, thinking, and writing out a list of goals. It can become the blueprint for an exciting and rewarding life. Writing your goals down is the first act of commitment — to yourself. And seeing them on paper is the first phase of turning them into reality.
Write your goals as specifically as you can. Put deadlines on them. The more precise they are, the more your mind will be drawn to them. Here are some other things to consider while you’re drawing up your life plan: What are the steps you need to take to accomplish the big goals? What are the obstacles you’ll have to overcome? Whose help do you need? What do you need to learn? What will the rewards be? The more precisely you write about your goals, the clearer the picture becomes.
3 – Categorize and balance your goals. One of the keys to succeeding in life is to live it with some sense of balance. Having goals in only one category puts blinders on us. It narrows our vision and makes us become one-dimensional. The best way to avoid this is to divide our goals into categories that allow us to experience some of the great varieties of life. This helps us keep things in perspective. It brings balance to our goals as well as to our lives.
The first personal goal list I saw was divided into categories, so I did the same with mine. Keep in mind that goals are not carved in stone. There’s no rule that says we can’t change our plans. In thirty years some of my goals, and even some of my categories, have changed as my interests and values have changed. But I’m still convinced that different categories of goals make life more interesting. Although I would encourage you to make up your own categories, you might find it helpful in getting started to see the ones I presently have:
– Own (things I want to have)
– Fun/Adventure (things I want to do)
– Personal Growth
– Learn to do
– Travel — within the United States
– Travel — foreign
4 – Review and revise your goals regularly. Do you ever make a “things to do” list? Isn’t it true that the more you look at the list, the more things on it get done? That’s why we usually keep those kinds of lists someplace visible. It works the same way with goals. We need to “see” them often, a minimum of once a week. We become what we think about; we become our pictures. They’re like previews of coming attractions. Regularly visualizing our goals is what makes us move in their direction. It helps us focus on our targets.
It’s also a good idea to revise them at least once a year. I do it each January. If something I wrote down earlier is no longer a goal, instead of crossing it out, I write NLG (no longer goal) in front of it. Since goal-setting is an ongoing process, it’s nice to be able to look back later and see how you’ve changed. I also add new goals and sometimes change the categories or develop subcategories, as I did with my travel goals when I divided them into “United States” and “foreign.” Another valuable thing to do in January is to mark all the goals you’re going to accomplish in that calendar year. Look at your goals frequently, revise them when needed, and most important, think about (picture) them as much as you can.
Goals are dreams with deadlines. –Diana Scarf Hunt
Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals – Part 1
If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else. –Yogi Berra