By Jeff Alexander
Not long after I learned how to fly a hot air balloon I had the opportunity to fly with an out of state pilot. I have always enjoyed flying with other pilots because I learned early that you could always learn something new from each one. On this particular day we were flying in St. George, Utah, in a ballooning competition where we were trying to fly to a prearranged destination. Immediately after we took off he told me I was the pilot in command and immediately began asking me questions about what I was doing. He wanted to know what my strategy was to get to our goal. I told him I was planning to fly to the southwest until we reached the destination. At this point, he taught me a very powerful lesson. He helped me to understand that if I only focused on the final destination, I would not be prepared for the many things that could happen before I got there. And as a result we might never reach the target destination.
As we progressed in our flight that morning, my pilot-guide taught me to find landmarks along the way to the target destination and that I needed to focus on flying to those landmarks on the way to our final target. He explained that, by doing this, a change of wind direction or other obstacle would not take us so far off course that we could not get back on track. We would still have time to adjust our course, aim for the next landmark and reach our target destination. What I learned that day has made a difference in my flying. I now make much better choices in competitions and in my landing destinations.
Life is much the same. Many times we have a goal in mind of what we ultimately want to achieve and don’t give it much more thought. From there, we just begin living life and expect our goal to happen on its own. Not likely. As I learned from my ballooning experience, we need to have a broader strategy. Not only do we need to have the final destination in mind, but we must have smaller goals along the way. By reaching those intermediate objectives, we have a much greater probability of achieving the ultimate goal. Besides that, if we miss one of the smaller goals, we have more opportunity to rethink our direction to still progress to reach the final goal.
Zig Ziglar once said, “You will never realize more than a small fraction of your potential as a wandering generality. You must become a meaningful specific.” Over time this statement has become more profound to me. Too many of us never take the time to set specific goals about what we want to become in life. We just wander, and take the paths of least resistance which leave us without direction in our lives. Specifics, not generalities, help us become what we want to become.
We have all heard goal-setting statistics stating that only 3% of people set goals and write them down. Why so few when statistics also show that those 3% are also those who are reaching their goals and finding greater success? Why don’t the rest of us follow? Is it really that hard or do we just not care about finding greater opportunities?
You want to set a goal that is big enough that in the process of achieving it you become someone worth becoming. Jim Rohn
Just in case you would like to reassess your goal-setting processes, as I have, I would like to share some of the insights I have learned. In the beginning of my career I learned these steps to successful goal setting and achieving:
- Decide what it is you want.
- Determine the price you’ll pay to get it.
- Resolve to pay that price.
Decide what it is you want
Deciding what we want should be the easy part, but many people never take the time to sit down and really think about their priorities. Take a little time to dream. Write your ideas down. This is your opportunity to brainstorm who you want to become and what you want to accomplish. What do you want your personal life to be like? What kind of friends do you want? Where do you want to live? What do you want to do for a living? What do you really enjoy?
It is never too late to start goal-setting. If you don’t take the time to think about life and your future, you will never become what you dream about. Life will run its course and you will be like a hot air balloon following any wind current that it passes through. Don’t allow that to happen. Decide now what it is you want and set your sights on the landmarks that will get you there.
All my life I’ve always wanted to be somebody. But I see now I should have been more specific. (In Search of Intelligent Life in the Universe)
As you are creating your list of goals, be specific. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to know what it will take to get to a goal and when you have achieved it. Besides, if you know exactly what you want, it will be harder for people and circumstances to deter you.
Determine the price you’ll pay to get it
Now that the easy part of your goal-setting is complete, and you have your list of goals, take time to really study them and decide what it will take to make those changes in your life. Some goals cost money, but more cost time and discipline. Be honest about the amount of effort it will take to reach those goals you have on your list. They may take a change of habits, relationships, or even employment. Your goals might require more education, which may mean making less money for a while. This is not the time to sugar coat the costs. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived. Be very honest about what it will take to reach your goals.
Resolve to pay that price
You’ve taken the first two steps. You know what you want to achieve and how much it will cost you. Now, are you ready to make the commitment? Are you ready to make the sacrifice? I run into people all the time who want to be successful, but when the requirements for that success are fully outlined, they just can’t make the commitment. The actions required are just too big a price to pay.
If you can make the commitment to yourself, and others, you might be opening up the opportunity for a whole new life. It won’t be easy, but success never is. The price is high, but the rewards are greater. If you don’t believe the sacrifice to reach one of your goals is worth it, rethink the goal. For instance, your family time might be too precious to you, and you aren’t willing to give that up to go back to school or take a job that has you on the road. You just need to decide.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. Robert Collier
Setting your goals and deciding to pay the price are just the beginning. Now comes the hard part, the day to day discipline to follow through. I’d like to share a few ideas that can help you as you move forward.
Goals are just dreams with deadlines
Once you have decided on the goal you need to set a deadline for completion. Without the deadline you will never have a process to review your progress. It is important to be reasonable with the deadline, but don’t be too easy on yourself. Expect yourself to stretch a little. Remember, it is not really a goal without a deadline.
One step at a time
Some goals are small enough that you can accomplish them quickly. Others are big and will take more time and effort. These are the goals that should be broken down into steps. By itself the goal may seem unreachable, but when you break it into smaller goals you can begin to see how it can be accomplished. Just like the landmarks I look for when flying a balloon, the steps toward your goal will help you reach your final destination. If you get off track or discouraged, you still have time to refocus and reach the goal.
I like the advice of Jack Canfield, the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. He calls this process the Rule of Five. Make a commitment to do five things every day that are focused on achieving your goal. Doesn’t that sound simple? If you can do that you are taking small steps every day that will eventually lead you to your goal. But remember it will take commitment to keep you on track.
Too many times we set goals and then forget for weeks or months about them. You must create the discipline in your goal setting to follow up on a regular basis. Daily you’ll have to be sure you are choosing the five things you’ll do. Then conduct a follow-up review weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. In these follow-ups you might recognize other steps you should be taking to achieve your goals, or you might realize you have made personal-life changes, and a goal isn’t important for you anymore. Follow-up gives you the opportunity to evaluate and change your goals. It also gives you the opportunity to recommit yourself.
Mind the Gap
What happens when you get to your deadline, and you haven’t reached your goal? Many people feel they are failures, and they give up even though they may have made significant progress. I learned from Dan Sullivan, of the Strategic Coach Company, that we need to celebrate these improvements. He called that area between our goals and where we are at the deadline The Gap. We must not discount our progress. We must set a new base and move on toward our goal. Don’t forget that Gap.
A speaker made the comment in a meeting I was in not long ago that all business people set goals. If they didn’t they wouldn’t know what direction they were taking their businesses. I couldn’t have disagreed more. That is the real problem with business today. Not enough people are setting goals and pointing their businesses and life in the right direction. We all have been living through the great recession. Some have given up, and others have found new opportunities. I appreciate this thought from Andrew Carnegie, “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”
Take the time to review where you are and decide where you would like to be. Now is a perfect time for all of us to evaluate our lives and get headed toward success.
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