Without argument, there is something special and uncommon about you. The fact that you are a member of this site and are reading this means you have the desire for increased personal and professional growth. Establishing that, let me say confidently, you have the potential for boundless achievement in your life. This is because desire is the precursor to decision, and the decisions you make now and throughout your life will greatly contribute to who you become.
When you decide to grow more, you also are making the effort to possess the potential to contribute more. Our lives are governed by the law of cause and effect, which means the more you contribute, the more you receive. Conversely, the less you sow, the less you will reap. Generally, when you contribute little you get back nothing, except for unhappiness and an unfruitful life. I believe fulfillment and success is directly correlated with the contribution you make to the lives of others. I believe you feel that way too. After all, you decided to work in an industry dedicated to increasing the well being of others.
What this article will discuss is the first step in developing the power to create an unbelievable internal feeling of fulfillment, as well as produce the external rewards of success.
The English philosopher/essayist Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, "Knowledge itself is power." Webster’s dictionary defines knowledge as "the ability to act or produce an effect." This means that until a desired effect is specified and knowledge is used as a means to achieve that effect, knowledge by itself is of little use. The conception of power occurs first, when an individual specifically identifies what they want to achieve or contribute and why they are emotionally impelled to do so. Second, when specificity of purpose combined with strong emotion is followed by action, results are produced.
The first component of power is analogous to an artist. Before a masterpiece can be created, there must first be the conception and internalization of a clear vision in the mind of the artist. Then the artist must take action to progressively bring the vision from his/her imagination into reality. As a matter of fact, is there any amazing experience you enjoy (architectural wonder, food, means of transportation, Epcot Center, Universal Studios, etc.) that did not first start as a vision in someone’s imagination? Through vision, clearly defined goals, actions and evaluation, intangible thoughts are converted into tangible reality.
A vision does not focus on what you desire to achieve, a vision focuses on what you desire to become. A vision answers the question, "Who am I?" And, "Who or what do I want to become?" A vision cannot be achieved, because we are all imperfect and consistently evolving. Our vision is a journey, not a destination. The growth necessary to achieve our goals move us further toward our vision of who we desire to become. Therefore, goals are an essential part of our personal growth and success.
Clearly Defined Goals
People who are absolutely specific about their goals are distinctly different than people who lack clarity. Earl Nightingale, in his book, "The Strangest Secret of Success," alludes to the idea that your reality is materialized by the thoughts that are most commonly maintained within your mind. This means you become your obsessions! Everyone has them. Obsession can be a good thing. No, on second thought a beautiful thing! If you are obsessing over self-centered issues, or negative thoughts about what didn’t work out in your life, or who betrayed you, that can be destructive. However, have you ever read about anyone who positively changed the world with a half-committed, practical idea? Think about it, seriously. Is there any lack of obsession in people like Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln and any other person who has ever achieved anything monumental?
Now I am not weighing the virtue of their accomplishments in comparison with one another, nor do I suggest that your goals have to be at the same level of contribution to be considered worthy. I am suggesting that people who contribute and achieve great things have great thoughts that occupy the space in between their ears frequently. I don’t gamble. However, if I did I would be willing to bet that many people who are dissatisfied with their level of accomplishment in their life/career’s are consistently focused on what they do not want. They seem to be consistently complaining about lack of money, or why they’re unhappy with their job, their relationships, etc. At best, they may have vague generalities of what they want. For example, the goal of becoming happy is not realistic. This is because there is no definition in that goal identifying what it would take to experience happiness. What needs to happen for you to feel happy? Or the goal to have more money? How much more? By when? How will you get it? What contribution will you make in order to earn it? How do you know if you’re consistently moving closer or further away from achieving your goal?
We are most aware of the things we focus on. There are literally thousands of pieces of information that our brains take in at any moment. We can’t possibly focus on everything. Our awareness is controlled by the Reticular Activation System (RAS) in our brain. It filters out information and focuses our attention and mental alertness. Our awareness is powerfully influenced by what our mind is focusing on. For example, have you ever bought or thought of buying a specific type of car? The second you decided you wanted that car you began to notice how many other people are driving that same car? Why didn’t you notice that before? You didn’t notice because your mind wasn’t focused on that car. This means that when you clearly identify a specific goal, your reticular activation cortex begins to go work to increase your awareness of people, circumstances and things that are congruent with that goal. If you are not clear, you miss opportunities that may be right in front of you.
Focused individuals have the potential for great success because they fail with excellence. Thomas Edison was unarguably one of the most accomplished inventors in history. When he was trying to invent the electric light bulb, he failed in over 10,000 experiments. At what point was this guy going to accept reality and give up? We now know (hindsight being 20/20) that he accepted reality before he attempted his first experiment. Reality is that breakthroughs only occur out of frustration, evaluation, perseverance and great moments of insight! All of which come out of failure. By his own assessment of his progress, Edison believed that every failed experiment identified what would not work. He saw failure as a temporary condition that provided the insight necessary to move him further toward his goal. He knew that if he could evaluate the cause of each failure effectively, he would eventually run out of every possible solution that did not work and be left with the only actual solution – the one that worked! Can you image what would have happened if he did not know exactly what he wished to achieve and had no specific plan to achieve it? Besides the fact that we would have to invest a lot more in candles. When we lack clarity and emotional drive toward a goal, we react to the inevitable setbacks in life with overwhelm. We feel a lack of control, which internalizes feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Rather, if we can envision the destination, we are able to evaluate and learn from setbacks. In fact, without them we would lack the growth necessary to cultivate the competence and fortitude necessary to achieve any goal worth setting.
Failure is an essential factor for success. It helps us in two primary ways. First, it gives us feedback. This enables us to learn and expand our capability. Then we can re-evaluate our approach and move incrementally closer to our goal. By consistently monitoring feedback and altering our approach, we make small, progressive moves toward achievement. Secondly, it can totally alter our thought process. Sometimes incremental improvement is destroyed by a moment of insight that reveals your whole paradigm was fundamentally screwed up. You thought you were progressively on your way and then you had a setback. That setback made you re-evaluate your perspective. Then comes the revelation that you’re clueless. Now you have to re-invent your whole approach to accomplishing your goal.
So many people fear failure for that reason. They would rather do nothing and experience entropy in their lives than consider the fact that they do not have the right answers. As human beings, we are driven to remain consistent with our vision of who we are. When information and experience challenge our beliefs and attitudes, it creates internal anxiety. Often we go through great emotional distress to dismiss or rationalize anything that conflicts with our internal self-perceptions. Psychologists call this "cognitive dissonance".
(Cognitive dissonance: Psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously- Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.)
If we are afraid to fail, we have no choice but to accept a life of mediocrity. Years ago, I received the advice that if something is worth doing right, it’s worth doing right the first time. I now know that the person who gave me this advice probably never achieved anything wondrous in their entire life! If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong the first time. You do it wrong, but you do it! You then learn from your mistakes, stupidity or both, and then re-do it, over and over again. You reinvent your approach until you get a result that is nothing less than magnificent! After all, what you do is your personal signature of integrity, isn’t it? There are some people that can’t fathom the thought that magnificence is never achieved within the first few endeavors. I would love the opportunity to welcome these perfect beings to the human race.
So, how do I set a goal?
To effectively set a goal, we need a system. Systems are a strategic approach to solving or accomplishing something. They provide a means of systematic application of steps toward a goal and a means of evaluating our progress. Our desired outcome must be definitively stated or written. Our sub-conscious mind cannot relate to vague generalities. We are internally driven by goals that are directed toward improving our lives. We behave in ways we believe will make us happy or relieve emotional dissatisfaction or physical pain. Therefore, our goals must be specific and fortified with powerful, emotionally driven reasons why it is crucial to achieve them. In other words, it’s not just what you want, but why you want it!
Once you have answered those two questions (what you want and why you want it), you need to identify what resources are essential to achieving your goal. For example, if your goal is a promotion or to increase your clientele, what continuing education, knowledge or research would you need to reach that goal?
Will you need help from anyone to reach this goal? Maybe from your boss, or the assistance of a friend. Break down your goals into the task-specific actions necessary to achieve them. In other words, if your goal is to get 10 new clients how many people do you have to speak to? How many follow-up calls do you have to make? Then break that information down into smaller time-specific tasks. If you wanted 10 new clients in 30 days, how many people would you need to contact each week and each day? By setting time-sensitive goals you have a method to evaluate your progress. If you needed to meet 100 people to service 10 new clients, you need to decide how many people that amounts to per day based on your work schedule and time restraints. Let’s say you work five days per week and you set a goal to meet five potential clients each day. You now have an evaluation process. If you fail to meet an average of five people every day for a month, that could be an obstacle to achieving your goal. If you met more than five people per day and still fall short of your goal, you know that your problem is not the amount of people you contact. It may be your skill at assessing the goals, needs and abilities of potential clients. It may be the inability to design a program that addresses their needs and goals enough for the prospective client to see value in a training program. Without a system, you never know how close or far you are from your goal. Without that information you can’t take the necessary actions to positively affect your outcome. You end up hoping you achieve your goals and gradually become disgruntled after repeated frustration and disappointment.
An essential step in goal achievement is to take action no matter what. Inertia will kill you, professionally. When the fear of losing what you have outweighs the desire and the courage to expand and grow, inner happiness is replaced by a fear-induced complacency. Surrendering our dreams to trepidation and self-doubt kills our spirit. Les Brown says that many people die at age 26, they just don’t get buried until age 65.
I am not saying take blind leaps – by all means, do your homework. But remember…action is far better than inaction. Hesitation moves nothing forward. Action produces an effect. Even if it is the wrong action, at least you can get feedback, learn from it and do something else. Don’t wait for the situation to be perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect situation. We live in a seemingly chaotic, constantly changing, complex world.
Therefore, only the dynamic, flexible individual who relentlessly adapts his or her goals and means to change achieves victory. This is accomplished by a consistent, painfully honest evaluation of yourself and your goals.
Your approach to achieving your goals, and even your goals themselves, will need to change in response to new information and circumstances. You yourself may change internally and no longer have the desire to pursue the same goals. No matter how much time, energy or resources you have invested in previous pursuits, don’t allow yourself to get caught in the "this is the way it is" mindset. Resistance to change is at best delusional and futile. If you are too rigid in your thinking, when the winds of change hit (sometimes it’s a hurricane), and they will, you will break. Adaptive thinking will give you the flexibility to bend with the wind and move forward.
This is a summery of the strategy presented. It is not the only strategy, but it is a working thought process.
What exactly do you want?
What is so important about this goal that it motivates you?
What information do I need before I take action?
What action(s) do I take do I take first? Do it now!
Is my approach working?
If yes, what is the next step?
If no, what obstacles exist?
How do I adapt my approach?
Is my goal still significant to me? Why or why not?
Although we need change to grow, we also need a degree of certainty. In life very little in our outer world is certain. Our inner world is the only thing that we can control. Who we are and what values we stand for is a decision that cannot be treated as optional or for the future. The greater the uncertainty in the world, the greater the need for a strong foundation. When traumatic change occurs, we realize that what we sometimes perceive as important is really inconsequential. If you only had one week left in your life, what would matter most? What would no longer be important? Who in your life would be most important? What would you say to them? How would you spend your time during your last days? It would be tragic if we waited until the end of our lives to decide what our values really are. The purpose of setting goals is not so much what you acquire, but rather who you become. Who you become through perseverance and growth beyond what you thought was possible enables you to contribute more to the lives of everyone around you, bringing more enrichment into your own. Never lose sight of your purpose in pursuit of your goals.