Introduction to Goals
Estimated Lesson Time: 6 minutes
I can begin this lesson writing about getting in a car without having a destination, shooting a bow and arrow but not having a target, or any of the other hundreds of goal setting analogies, but I am not going to. If you passed the fourth grade, you have probably heard most of these analogies anyway, so I won’t insult your intelligence. I will get right to the point: proper goal setting is an important part of success. Over the next three lessons, you will read about why we need goals, how to set goals, and most important, how to achieve goals. By the end of this three-part lesson, you will have taken a major step toward your success.
What is a goal? By definition, a goal is “the purpose toward which an endeavor is directed.” In this sense, everybody has goals. Unfortunately for most people, their goals are as simple as making it through the day or making it home for dinner before six o’clock. In terms of success, I like to define a goal as “an outcome that one strives to achieve by proper planning.” There are two main differences between my definition and the dictionary’s definition—the words “strive” and “proper planning.” For a purpose to be a goal, you must exert much effort or energy toward its achievement. In addition, a goal must be consciously planned beforehand in such a way that makes its achievement more possible in your mind, and therefore, more probable.
To illustrate the importance of having goals, let’s examine why most people do not have goals.
- Unsure of the need for goals. At the very, very least, goals allow you to put conscious effort into taking regular “baby steps” to achieve an outcome. For example, one really does not need to set a goal to go to the store and pick up some bread. This is something that can be easily and immediately done at a subconscious level. However, setting a goal of learning how to make bread would be appropriate because one can’t simply just start making bread. There are several steps that must be taken before one can get to the point of actually making the bread such as Step 1: buying a book on bread making, Step 2: reading it, Step 3: buying ingredients, etc. It is goal setting that allows one to take these small steps that will eventually lead to the achievement of the goal.
- Creating goals provides your life with purpose and direction
- Having goals allows you to focus on the future when the present seems bleak
- Reviewing your goals can fill you with excitement and motivation
- Unsure of wants and lack of decision. Too many people wander through life waiting for opportunity to find them. They know they want things like a good job, a nice car, a nice home, love and friendship, but they haven’t really taken the time to be specific about what they want. They despise being broke, yet they fear success; they love the single life, yet want the security of marriage; they want to do something meaningful, yet cannot seem to get the motivation to do it. This is where the power of focus and decision comes in. If you have trouble deciding on the things you want, remember that most decisions you make today can be changed tomorrow if needed. Flexibility is an extremely important part of goal setting. Without decision, you cannot move forward.
- Lack of belief in the power of goals. This reason is one of the easiest for me to understand. There are so many goal setting books, workshops, seminars, and gurus out there who preach goal setting as “the key to success” or the magic bullet to instant financial, spiritual, and emotional success. While I do believe having goals is an important part of success, it won’t do much good without applying the many other principles of success described in this course. With authors exaggerating the benefits of goals, it is easy to see how so many become discouraged and no longer believe in the power of goals.
A great example of this exaggeration is a story told by many goal setting gurus about a 1953 study done at Yale, where the 3% of the students that had goals did better 20 years later than the other 97% combined. This story is untrue as reported by several independent investigators including the editorial staff at FastCompany. The fact is, goal setting is a powerful step toward the achievement of success; however, like anything else, it is the continual persistence and effort that makes goal setting as powerful as it is.
- The belief that goals are too rigid. Assuming that you never change your goals this is true, but an important part of goal setting is being flexible and allowing a new opportunity to change your goals. Columbus did have a goal... to sail to India. However, a new opportunity arose when he found America. Without his initial goal, he may never have made the “discovery” he did.
- Unsure how to set goals. This will be covered in detail in the next lesson “How To Set Goals.”
- The fear of both failure and success in achieving goals. If this applies to you, review the lessons “Failure is the Seed to Success” and “The Fear of Success.” Along the same lines, a common objection to goal setting is, “focusing on goals that you have not achieved leads to disappointment.” The excitement and anticipation of the achievement of a goal is a much more positive thought than focusing on the fact that you have not yet achieved it. True disappointment comes from not having any goals at all.
- Poor self-image. Believe it or not, many people just do not believe they are worth the effort. If this applies to you, it is best to refer to the lesson “Self-Esteem.”
A goal is an outcome one strives to achieve by proper planning. It is something one puts conscious effort into taking regular steps to achieve. This systematic process, or formula, makes the impractical practical, the unreachable reachable, and the improbable probable. With clearly defined goals, your chances of success increase significantly.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)