If you were standing at a busy intersection downtown right now and asked people passing by,
"Can you predict how much money you'll have five years from today?",
"Can you tell me what job you'll be working 10 years from today?",
"Can you describe the home you'll be living in 15 years?" or
"Can you predict the savings you will have when you retire?"
-- you would find that most people wouldn't have a clue.
A major university conducted a research project a number of years ago in which it took a graduating class and followed them for 20 years. It found that only 3 percent of the class had set goals, put them in writing and adjusted them over that 20 year-period. It was also found that same 3 percent had accomplished more materially than the other 97 percent of the graduates combined.
Is it possible there's a correlation between those who don't have goals and those who don't go anywhere? The truth is that if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
Most people don't have goals and as a result, most people don't make it -- even after spending 40 to 45 years in the working world. The bottom line is that a goal has to be something you really want. If it's not, then you won't do what's necessary to reach it.
Maybe your goal is a better job, to earn more money, to give your family a better life, to take the vacations you want, to have savings in the bank, or to own your own business. As you ponder the possibilities of the coming year, set aside a few hours to think about what you'd like to accomplish - not only for the upcoming year, but throughout your life.
Then set yourself some goals. The time you spend in this process will be one of the most meaningful time investments of your life.
There are four important things to remember when setting your goals. The first is that a goal has to be big. It's difficult to get excited about something as mundane as making next month's car payment. Therefore, when you set your goals, make them what your heart truly desires so they'll be worth working for. Shoot for the stars. Design your goals around the things you really want, the things that you most wish for that would make you sincerely happy.
Second, your goal has to be long term - at least five years or more. Since you'll need time to accomplish a large goal, working toward it will give you long-term direction and structure. Admittedly, adhering to a structure can seem arduous day to day. However, if you make the commitment to always work within that structure then when you have a bad day, week, month, or even a bad year, you'll have ample time to make up for it and still remain on track toward your goal.
The great boxer Rocky Marciano once said, "It's not how many times you get knocked down that counts; it's how many times you get up." When you get knocked down along the path to your goal - and you will - it's imperative to get up, brush yourself off, and go at it again.
Understand that you will get knocked down again and again until you learn to develop effective ways to get around the obstacles that block your way. After all, there has to be some means of separating those 97 percent that don't make it from the 3 percent that do - that thinning of the herd will come in the form of the trials that befall you. Your ability to survive these trials, to get up one more time than you get knocked down, will ultimately determine which category you belong in. These challenges will show you what you're really made of.
The third requirement is that your long-term goals should also be viewed in terms of tasks you're accomplishing in the short term. Like a garden, it is essential that you tend to the growth of your goal every day, lest it wither from neglect.
You cannot expect to be where you want to be in five years if you don't nurture your goal today. Further, in achieving your goals, there's no such thing as a cram session the night before the test. If you haven't worked methodically toward what you want on a daily basis, you will never be able to make up the lost time.
A successful life is comprised of successful years, months, weeks, days and even hours. Cynics may see this as nothing more than motivational hype, but some of the most successful people in the world believe and practice these principles. Choose to take your advice from these people rather than cynical know-it-alls. Cynics only seek to drag you down to their level of mediocrity as a means to soothe their envy of your success while they attempt to justify their lack of it. Believe in your own potential and in your ability to create the life you deserve.
The fourth essential consideration in setting your goals is that they absolutely must be put in writing. Something profound happens when you put your goals in writing. They are no longer wishful thinking. Instead, they become a commitment, a contract you make with yourself. Write your goals down and you will see that they will become exponentially more meaningful in your life. Your goals will begin to drive your life the moment they are put on paper.
I am confident that you will come to find that goal setting works and that it will soon become a way of life for you.
Start setting your goals today.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.