How to Set Goals: a Philosophy
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” -Tony Robbins
Every day your efforts are wasted on activities that have no value to you. Everyone has waste in their lives, but some have much more than others. I will argue to anyone that the number one way to cut waste, motivate yourself, and efficiently progress is to properly set goals. There is a system to proper goal setting and many methods have been published, but my theory is the most important goal is the one your reach. Most people set goals that are too extravagant or too far off and never come close to making their goals a reality, then blame the concept of goals or any other number of excuses for breaking their goals.
Goals are a promise to yourself, and it is up to you to keep yourself honest. Telling friends and family can help hold you accountable but the responsibility finally rests on those of us who want better for ourselves. Goals are not wants, and they are not dreams. Dreams are something we forget after we wake up, goals are the reason we get out of bed. It is important to remember that goals will often feel unachievable or too difficult to be worth it. To be as cliche as possible: there is no rainbow without the rain. Pushing through the difficult parts forge our character and I assure you everyone can tell the difference between someone who has grinded for their goals, and those who haven’t.
With the above said, the following are my ground rules for setting goals. These rules are the foundation of success.
- No deadline, no goal.
Without this rule, all goals are useless. The only difference between your dreams and a goal is that a goal has a deadline. When do you get things done? I would wager that a strong majority of people wait until the last minute to do anything. Paper due next Wednesday? Watch Netflix now, and write it Tuesday night. A phone call to make by 4 pm? Make it at 3:30 pm. Now, what if you have a dream to one day be financially independent? You spend your days dreaming about stability and multiple income paths and know exactly how to get there. It’s almost as clear as day while you listen to motivational speeches and quotes, but unfortunately, it’ll never happen because even the first step in your plan lacks a deadline. Do yourself a favor and set a timeline and hang it up. Look at it daily. Memorize it. If you do that I believe in you, so get out that planner and set some dates!
“I believe in you. You CAN.”
2. You need a road map.
To get somewhere you’ve never been you need one of two things. First, someone who knows the way and is willing to show you. These are your mentors both professional and personal, and the industry leaders we look up to. Your other option: a map. In other words, how do your goals interact?
March madness is happening and an estimated 60 million people are filling out brackets. How many of those people do you think are filling out a bracket of goals? A tournament style bracket can be a great format for your goals. Instead of teams winning and moving up, the two goals must be accomplished before the next one can be achieved. Think of it as a roadmap. To get from point A to point B there are several roads and turns to take. Just like goals, one waypoint cannot be reached before another. Further, by having a hierarchy of goals each goal is easier to reach. As an example, is it easier to save $5,000 each year for ten years, or wait nine years and realize that you’re $25,000 away from your goal and only have one year left? Exactly. Not only will a hierarchy of goals make your path easier, each accomplished goal will motivate you because it is an achievement on its own.
3. Reflect, Review, Revise.
Time and people change and so should your goals. Long term goals typically don’t change much, but as your life changes, any number of your short term and daily goals will evolve to fit the endlessly improving you. Never be afraid to modify plans to better fit new values, priorities, or scheduling. Simply remember the old story of Thomas Edison creating 1,000 failed light bulbs before finding the right combination of the filament, bulb vacuum, and electricity. Each failure was really new information that led to the next design. In this metaphor, your goals are the light bulb designs, and the final product that worked is your legacy. That is a lesson to carry through life: The ability to tweak and mold designs and plans as you go will always get you farther than a genius who refuses to learn and adapt.
“The hardest part is starting. It’s also the most rewarding”
Do yourself a favor and write down who you want to be in the end, what you want to be known for, and what you want to have accomplished in your life. Set the goals, and act. Life is far too short and you only get one. I would rather lay on my death bed saying “oh, well I did all I could” than “If only..”. I believe in you. You CAN. The hardest part is starting. It’s also the most rewarding.