Once you have your mission in place you will want to set goals. Goals are more specific than a mission statement and can help you break down your mission into bite-sized pieces. If your personal mission was to eat a whole pizza, your goal would be how to slice it up.
Sometimes when we hear the word goals we go on a guilt trip. It reminds us of all the goals we should be setting and the ones we have blown. Forget about any mistakes you may have made in the past. Follow the advice of George Bernard Shaw, who said: “When I was a young man I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. I didn’t want to be a failure, so I did ten times more work.”
Here are five keys to goal setting:
KEY NO. 1: Count the Cost
How many times do we set goals when we are in the mood but then later find we don’t have the strength to follow through? Why does this happen? It’s because we haven’t counted the cost.
Let’s pretend you set a goal to get better grades in school this year. Good and fine. But now, before you begin, count the cost. What will it require? For instance, you will have to spend more time doing math and grammar and less time hanging out with your friends. You will have to stay up late some nights. Finding more time for school-work might mean giving up watching TV or reading your favorite magazine.
Now, having counted the cost, consider the benefits. What could good grades bring you? A feeling of accomplishment? A scholarship to college? A good job? Now ask yourself, “Am I willing to make the sacrifice?” If not, then don’t do it. Don’t make commitments to yourself you know you’re going to break because you’ll take withdrawals from your personal bank account.
A better way is to make the goal more bite-sized. Instead of setting a goal to get better grades in all your classes, you might set a goal to get better grades in just two classes. Then, next semester, take another bite. Counting the cost will always add a touch of needed realism to your goals.
KEY NO. 2: Put It in Pen
It’s been said, “A goal not written is only a wish.” There are no ifs and buts about it, a written goal carries ten times the power.
A young woman named Tammy told me how writing down her goals helped her eventually choose the right marriage partner. Tammy had been in an emotionally abusive relationship with a guy named Tom for several years and felt trapped. She had become dependent on him and was miserable. A visit from a special friend one day finally gave her the inner spark she needed to make a change. This is an excerpt from Tammy’s journal when she was eighteen:
Just yesterday I found enough strength and strong will to leave Tom and the environment I was a part of for the past 2½ years. I needed to make a 180-degree change in order to find inner strength enough to succeed. I drew up a mental picture of where I wanted to be in five years and how I wanted to feel. I had a vision of being my own person, of having the strength to make good decisions for my life and most of all being with someone in a good, healthy relationship. I came up with a list of qualities I wanted in a relationship, and I think I will write them down now for future reference.
Qualities for a Relationship/Future Spouse:
Now that I have this list documented I have someplace to turn to get a glimpse of what the future can hold. It gives me hope when I read it, and it reminds me of a better way to live life.
Tammy later met and married a great guy who fulfilled her requirements. Happy endings do happen.
As Tammy discovered, there is something magical about writing down your goals. Writing forces you to be specific, which is very important in goal setting. As actress Lily Tomlin has said, “I always wanted to be somebody. But I should have been more specific.”
KEY NO. 3: Just Do It!
I once read a story about Cortés and his expedition to Mexico. With over five hundred men and eleven ships, Cortés sailed from Cuba to the coast of the Yucatán in 1519. On the mainland he did something no other expedition leader had thought of: He burned his ships. By cutting off all means of retreat, Cortés committed his entire force and himself to the cause. It was conquest or bust.
“To every thing there is a season,” says the Bible. A time to say,
“I’ll try,” and a time to say, “I will.” A time to make excuses, and a time to burn your ships. Of course, there are times when trying our best is all we can do. But I also believe there is a time for doing. Would you lend two thousand dollars to a business partner who said,
“I’ll try to return it”? Would you get married if your partner,
when asked to take you as the lawfully wedded husband or wife, said,
Get the point?
I once heard a story about a captain and a lieutenant: “Lieutenant, would you please deliver this letter for me.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“No, I don’t want you to do your best. I want you to deliver this letter.”
“I’ll do it or I’ll die, sir.”
“You misunderstand, lieutenant. I don’t want you to die. I want you to deliver this letter.”
Finally the lieutenant caught on and said, “I will do it, sir.”
Once we are fully committed to doing a task, our power to complete it will increase. “If you do the thing,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “you will have the power.” Each time I have committed myself to a goal, I seem to dig up gold mines of willpower, skill, and creativity I never thought I possessed. Those who are committed always find a way.
The following passage by W.H. Murray is one of my all-time favorites. It describes what happens inside when we say “I will.”
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans, that the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things begin to occur which would never otherwise have occurred, and a whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
In the words of Yoda, the great Jedi master: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
KEY NO. 4: Use Momentous Moments
Certain moments in life contain momentum and power. The key is to harness these moments for goal setting.
Things with starts and finishes or beginnings and ends carry momentum. For example, a new year represents a start. Breaking up, on the other hand, represents an end. I remember how sick I felt after breaking up with my girlfriend after two years of dating. But I also remember the excitement of creating a new list of girls to date.
The following is a list of moments that can provide momentum for you as you set out to make new goals:
- A new school year
- A life-changing experience
- Breaking up
- A new job
- A new relationship
- A second chance
- An anniversary
- A triumph
- A setback
- Moving to a new city
- A new season
- A new home
- A promotion
- A demotion
- A new look
- A new day
Often, tough experiences can carry momentum. Are you familiar with the myth of the phoenix bird? After every lifespan of 500 to 600 years, the beautiful phoenix would burn itself at the stake. Out of the ashes, it would later arise, reborn. In like manner, we can regenerate ourselves out of the ashes of a bad experience. Setbacks and tragedies can often serve as a springboard for change.
Learn to harness the power of key moments, to set goals and make commitments when you are in the mood to do it. Be assured, as well, that the mood to do it will pass. Sticking with it when you don’t feel like it is the true test of your character. As someone once put it:
Character is the discipline to follow through with resolutions long after the spirit in which they were made has passed.
KEY NO. 5: Rope Up
My brother-in-law, the mountain climber, once escorted me and a friend up the 13,776- foot Grand Teton. It was terrifying! As we ascended, the mountain turned vertical. At that point, we “roped up,” or tied ourselves together with ropes to aid us in climbing and to save our lives if one of us fell. On two occasions that rope kept me from taking thousand-foot falls to my death. Believe me, I loved that rope as I’ve never loved a rope before. By assisting each other and relying on the ropes, we finally reached the summit safely.
You’ll accomplish much more in life if you’ll rope up and borrow strength from others. Let’s suppose you set a goal to get in great shape. Now think. How could you rope up? Well, maybe you could find a friend who has the same goal and the two of you could work out together and become each other’s cheerleaders. Or maybe you could tell your parents about your goal and get their buy in. Or maybe you could share your goal with an athletic trainer or your gym coach and ask him or her for advice. Get creative. Rope up with friends, brothers, sisters, girlfriends, parents, counselors, grandparents, pastors, or whomever else you can. The more ropes you have out, the greater your chances for success.