Life, I have learned, is not a straight journey from one destination to another. It is more like wandering through the woods. You begin somewhere along the edge with optimistic plans to get to the other side. Between the two points, however, you encounter thorny thickets, thundering streams, sunlit clearings, shaded pathways and (the often indistinguishable) mountains and molehills. It’s easy to get sidetracked, waylaid, frustrated.
When traveling in the woods, you need a compass to point you in the right direction so you won’t end up back where you began.
It’s the same way in life. You need a navigational tool to help you gauge your progress so you won’t feel like you’re getting nowhere.
Your compass in life is your list of goals. Writing down your goals gives you a sense of direction, solidifies your purpose and is a visible reminder when you stray from your intended target.
If anyone knows the significance of keeping his eyes on a goal, it’s an accomplished archer. Prior to positioning his bow, he selects his target so he can calculate the projection of the arrow to get the result he needs. Then he mentally evaluates how the weather, the weight of the arrows, the arrangement of the feathers, the bow’s size and composition and the length of the string, draw and tiller will all work together to produce a smooth launch and accurate hit.
This preparation is complete before he ever takes aim at his target. Why? Because he knows that, if he misses the mark, the fault lies within – not without. Failure to hit the bulls-eye is never the fault of the target.
To improve your aim in life, begin by improving yourself. To improve yourself, set your goals. And by the end of the year, you will have a sense of accomplishment, of being on the right track and on target.
Don’t go through the year list-less. Apply this simple formula to establish your goals for your business and personal life.
I. Write Your Goals. If any goal is not in writing, it is merely a wish. The primary reason people don’t write their goals is because they lack commitment. Putting one’s name on the dotted line signifies a commitment and builds a psychological obligation.
When you write each goal and the plans for its achievement, you usher in clarity and reality. Your goals should be in precise detail. For example, if you want a new home, describe in detail how it will look. What is its location? How many bedrooms and baths? Does it have an office or gym? How is it decorated and what is the square footage? When you can visualize your goal, it becomes compelling.
II. Decide And Desire. Complacency and fear are the root causes of selling yourself short of what you deserve. However, a concrete decision backed by an intense desire will propel you to take action. Motivation comes from within. You must develop strong reasons to keep your desire burning bright. How can you do this? Make a list of all the benefits you will enjoy as a result of accomplishing your goal. The more benefits you identify, the more intense the desire; and a strong desire will keep you from being discouraged if the going gets rough, as it almost certainly will.
III. Record Goals That Are Significant And Incremental. They should not be out of reach, but should stretch your abilities. If your goal is to lose weight, don’t attempt to lose 20, 30 or 40 pounds overnight. Instead, set believable incremental goals that will motivate and fuel your fires. Start with five pounds and, after that achievement, reset your goals for another five pounds. If your goal is beyond anything you have ever achieved in the past, setting it too high too quickly may cause disillusionment and usher in discouragement. It’s easy to quit unless you are experiencing success in measurable degrees.
IV. Determine Your Starting Point. To get where you are going, you must first determine where you are. If you want to increase your net worth, you must create a financial statement of your current liabilities and assets. Keep in the forefront what gets measured is what gets done, and analyzing your current position gives you a baseline from which to measure your progress.
V. Depart From Your Personal Comfort Zone. Whenever you embrace greatness there is a sacrifice involved. There is a price that must be paid and the price must be paid in advance. What are you willing to either start doing or stop doing?
VI. List Your Obstacles. If there are no obstacles, you probably do not have a worthwhile goal, but merely an everyday activity. Your obstacle may be external, such as your involvement in a bad relationship or a job. External obstacles are easier to correct. It’s just a decision to let go and move on. However, internal obstacles are the most difficult to confront. If your internal obstacle is a lack of skill, for example, you may have to sacrifice evenings to obtain an education. If your obstacle is a destructive habit, then you must be willing to work toward breaking it.
VII. Discover Whose Help You Need. List all of those whose cooperation you may need. No one does it alone. Everyone needs someone. The rule in obtaining cooperation is to be a go-giver, not a go-getter. The most successful people are those who have helped other people obtain the things they want. Zig Ziglar says, "You can have everything in life as long as you help other people get what they want." Refer to the principle of cause and effect. If you take every opportunity to help others, others will help you.
VIII. Make Your Goals Time Sensitive. What is the exact time, day, week, month and year you will achieve your goals? There are tangible goals and intangible goals. When establishing timelines for tangible goals, you activate a "pressure system" that ensures accomplishment. The most common reason people don’t set deadlines is that they fear they will not accomplish their goals. So, what if you set a deadline and don’t achieve it by that date? Fine. You still will have made progress. So simply establish another timeline.
IX. Review And Rehearse Your Goals. Form your goals in clear mental pictures as if they were already achieved. Each time you visit and revisit your goals you increase your belief and faith. Burn and etch your goals deep into your subconscious by repeatedly reviewing them. As you think, so are you.
X. Take Action. Take action and realize situations or circumstances will never be perfect. Get started where you are with what you have. The hardest part is always the first step.
XI. Persist. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is quitting. If you tenaciously persist, you will succeed. When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and climb upward. You will eventually reach the top. And when you do, I promise you won’t feel listless.
The Yale Study
In 1953 the graduating class of Yale University was interviewed and asked, "Do you have a specific written plan of action (goals) for your life?" Three percent of the class had committed in writing their goals for life. Ninety-seven percent of the class, though well educated, would be going into the world by the seat of their pants and winging it.
Twenty years later, in 1973, the class was again interviewed and the study revealed that the three percent who had established clearly written, detailed plans for their lives had accumulated more wealth than the ninety-seven percent combined. In addition, the three percent with goals were happier, more well-adjusted and much more excited about life in general.