How’s your day so far, amazing? I hope your answer is yes. I hope you’re kicking ass. If you’re not, what’s your excuse? Make this day extraordinary, whatever this may mean for you.
I mean it.
I’d like to talk with you about goal setting … how to do it … why set goals … why most people fail in accomplishing your goals … and how to use your goals as a blueprint for your destiny.
But first let me tell you a story.
A few years ago, after I’ve just returned from Cyprus, I was kind of alone and a bit depressed. For whatever reason, while when I was in a relationship, I was like Hugh Hefner and a magnet for feminine attention most of the places I went … now I was invisible. I wasn’t even rejected. It was like I was not existing.
I’d tried everything. Online dating. Going to bars. Going to nightclubs. Going to small student parties. I was feeling like even if I was the last man on Earth and a girl dating me would guarantee the continuation of the species, I would still not get a girlfriend.
One day, I’ve heard about a self-improvement event. Statistically, I’ve had a date every time I’ve attended one. I may not stand out in a nightclub but I can surely stand out when self-help is the topic of the day.
On the day to the event I’ve told myself again and again – I’m going to get a girlfriend today no matter what. I was convinced. It wasn’t “I may get a girlfriend”. It was “I’m going to get one, period”.
After 20 minutes of walking I get there. I sit next to a beautiful young girl. She starts talking with me. We hit it off. We have instant chemistry. Two hours later we’re at a cinema kissing. Later that day, she’s at my home.
That night, when she left home, a part of me was asking – what the hell happened? Coincidence? Have I’ve attracted this in my life? Is this divine intervention?
It baffled me.
The answer was a lot simpler. I’ve decided to accomplish a goal. I wasn’t trying to accomplish it. I knew I was going to do and this is far more than semantics. Up to that point, I was trying and this is what I was focusing on – trying. The goal was the date or the conversation but not the connection. I was process oriented instead of focusing on the outcome. My idea of success was driving the car but not driving the car to the destination.
In that day, I’ve decided to focus on what really mattered for me then – results, a desired outcome.
Of course, some degree of luck was involved. The seat next to her could have been taken. I could have got there and leave before striking a conversation. A skeptical person can say that the conditions were ideal and this was the low hanging fruit.
But you know what? This worked for me not a single time. It worked again and again and again. When I’ve decided that I’m going to accomplish something, I’ve accomplished something.
Let me give you another example, okay?
When I was traveling around the world, at some point I ran out of money completely. I couldn’t worked as a copywriter for the last two months and I was running on fumes, that is, McDonalds and peanut butter. In the moment that I’ve decided that I must earn money, within three days, I’ve earned money.
There’s nothing magical about this.
It is just the power of a person that decided to accomplish something not just try it. This is because reality is generally neutral. It’s neither good or bad … but rather about the same all the time. While it may appear like some periods are better than others, in practice, reality tends to be very constant.
Things stay the same. You change.
Today I’ve started my day with a focus, a decision to have a great day and it is a great day. This is the power of decision. This is the power of saying “I’m accomplishing this”.
But what this have to do with goal setting or do I want just to brag that I’ve met a beautiful girl that day? No my friend – I’m not here to brag. The thing with goals is that most people set goals but they have no power whatsoever. They write them on paper or talk about them but they’re not determined to succeed in accomplishing them.
The goals are as disconnected to them as Venus is from Earth.
For most people goals are a “maybe” or a “should” but for very few they are a must. And the magic sauce, the magic powder that transforms dreams into reality is this “must”. Is this commitment to get to where you said you’re going to get … even if you don’t know how.
It took me a long time to understand this. I’m a slow learner.
For a long time I’ve created goals. I’ve wrote them down or used some software. I’ve created goals about how much to earn, where to go, how to be, who to be. But the problem was that I wasn’t believing in them. They were there on paper because someone told me once to set goals as successful people are goal setters. They were not a must for me. For a long time, if I was faced between playing Starcraft 2 and writing in my book, I’d just play the game.
When I’ve saw that my goals are not getting done I’ve started improving the way I did goal setting. I used new formulas. I’ve made them S.M.A.R.T. I’ve made them B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T. I’ve created plans and GANTT charts to go with them. I’ve made them look like the US plan to invade Iraq in Desert Storm with contingency plans, metrics, decision pathways and a lot more of that crap (yes, it’s crap, I’m going to explain to you why in a second).
The problem wasn’t how I set goals. The problem was that my goals were not important for me.
Second, the more complex my goals became, the less effective I was. Why? Because I’ve started to focus on creating plans instead of using common sense. I’ve started to say things like “If I work 100 hours on this, I have a 75% probability of accomplishing it”.
I mean, c’mon. What was I – Mr. Spock from Star Trek?
This never worked and as a tip, never create plans for your goals. This is because the way you get from where you are to where you want to be must generally be flexible. There are very few goals that can be planned in a strict and rigid way. Focus on where you want to get … but don’t obsess on how you’ll get there.
The truth is that each time I’ve set a goal, things turned out differently. Yes, I’ve got to the destination but how I’ve got there was very differently than I’ve envisioned. The people I’ve counted on disappeared. The people I’ve never knew became my new best friends. The sure opportunity where the money was in the mail proved to be a dud. That person I’ve hardly paid any attention proved to be my new best business partner. A girl I’ve hired became my love interest and long term relationship. The girl I was dating and seemed promising wanted nothing to do with me.
You see … life is unpredictable and it doesn’t follow a logical manner. Things make sense only in foresight. When you look back, all the dots connect and yes, they make some sense. But when you look forward, don’t try to connect the dots because you’ll end up trying to make the dots work while ignoring the destination itself.
Set your goal but then be flexible. Don’t come with preconceptions and judgements on how you’ll accomplish it. The more you focus on the HOW, the harder it is going to be for you. Trust me, please.
Now, while I wasn’t accomplishing the goals that I had on paper, I was accomplishing the goals that I had in my heart. The things that made me eager, joyful, I did. I accomplished. I moved forward. It wasn’t a big deal. Actually, most of the best things that happened in my life were never on paper, only in my heart and mind.
And those are you real goals. Wherever your heart takes you – that’s your real target. You can write goals on paper, you can write them on a whiteboard, you can make them fancy but at the end of the day, you will always move towards your dominant thoughts.
Earl Nightingale said “You become what you think about” and he was so right. Virtually every culture and philosophy of life has a variation on this. You don’t become your goals unless you think about your goals. If getting somewhere is important and you think about the destination to the detriment of the other things in your life, yes, you’ll get there. But if you set some goals on paper and then forget all about them, they won’t work. Goals work when they are actually aligned with your true self.
So let’s review what we’ve learned so far.
Key Point #1 – You can accomplish only the goals you’re actually committed to accomplishing.
Key Point #2 – Focus on the destination, the end and not so much on the process. Life is complex and a rigid process will generally prevent you from doing what takes to achieve your goal.
Key Point #3 – Your mind will always direct you to your true goals – those things that are congruent with your true self. Your external reality will always reflect your inner world. There can’t be any incongruence between your self image and your environment and when it is – the incongruence is quickly eliminated, usually by modifying the environment, not the self.
Now, let’s move to the most important point … how to set goals to create a new destiny for yourself.
Here’s the process that I use.
First, I buy a new notebook. I like to use a legal pad. I use it only for my goals. After I have the notepad, I set a set of goals for the month at hand. I don’t set weekly or daily goals anymore because as I’ve said, I want to be flexible. I want to have that space to give my mind and my creative mechanism way to find solutions, as opposed to micromanaging. The more space I give myself, the easier it is to maneuver towards a solution that works.
Third, I review my goals often. My goals are simple. They are usually a simple sentence. I don’t write a lot about my WHY and I don’t write at all about my HOW. This is because the WHY can change often. It is a “living” concept. I prefer to let my conversations and my day-dreaming decide on why I want to do something, instead of using the limiting power of words. The WHY of yesterday may be weak compared to the WHY of today. As far as the HOW is concerned, you know this very well – you don’t know how you’ll accomplish your goal.
You’re not even supposed to know how to accomplish your goal because if you do, the goal is not quite ambitious. A good goal is like a journey in the Wild West. You are on your horse, hat on head, six shooters in holster. You move to the north. You don’t know if you’re going to find bandits that want to rob you, a damsel in distress or a wolf that want to have you for dinner. You just know that you’re going there. You may get a straight line or you may have to go around.
Pursuing a goal is an adventure. You are in the dark most of the time, you are off-course and constantly adapting and then you win. In the moment that you get used to being too much to the right and having to go to the left or otherwise, you win.
This is how goal setting works. You set a destination. You believe in it. You make a decision to accomplish your goal and not try to accomplish your goal. You don’t define a HOW but only the end OUTCOME. You go at it as a cowboy would go on a life changing trip through the Wild West.
And then my friend – you win. You reach your goal. Your life is never the same for two reasons – the journey changed you and the goal accomplished enriches your life dramatically.
See you at the top mate.