Of all the lofty goals people set for themselves year after year, how many of them do you think they reach?
I would guess that whatever the number, it’s very very low.
I’ll be honest. My own tally for the goals I’ve committed to that I’ve actually realised over my lifetime is probably less than 10%.
Every year, throughout the year, I spend hours and hours in coffee shops around the world getting excited about goals. I drink coffee, I feel a surge of enthusiasm, I feel I can achieve anything, and I scribble down my goals and dreams.
I love to plan with a pen and paper. I love to motivate myself thinking about what I want to achieve.
Very often, the goals that I’d written in my notebooks at the start of the year have been wiped from my memory by the end of the year. I don’t even remember what I wanted a few months before.
I’m motivated by planning and dreaming, even if many of those dreams end up pushed to the dark room at the back of my mind.
And that’s ok.
But what about the goals I have actually achieved? Surely hitting goals if we can make it work is a good thing?
Of course it is. Life is a process, but we also need direction, and we also want to win. Setting ourselves goals allows for both.
Recently I was reading Daniel Goleman’s book: Focus, where he discusses that we find it difficult to stay focused on the future because it is abstract.
It’s easier to focus on concerns that we’re dealing with today, like getting our rent paid on time. It is harder for us to take longer-term concerns seriously, like preparing for environmental damage or writing that book.
Our struggle with sticking to goals, especially longer-term ones, has a lot to do with this too.
What we need is for future plans to feel as urgent as needing to take a pee after drinking four gallons of water in a row.
Eric Thomas, the Hip Hop Preacher puts it better:
‘When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.’
Goleman suggests that to make the future more concrete, we need to vividly imagine the threats that the future could bring as if they are immediate.
In doing so, we are more likely to act today in anticipation of events that are in the future.
When I look back over all the goals I’ve achieved, which is comparatively few, they have all more or less been reached because I was keenly aware of how crappy not achieving that goal would be.
Like when I was really short on money a couple of years ago and had a goal of earning a certain amount through coaching within a month. I hit that goal out of the park, because the alternative was not pleasant at all and I was regularly thinking about being hopelessly broke.
If we think about why it would suck not to achieve our goals, we will find it a lot more motivating to want to reach them.
This applies to shorter-term ones but more importantly can help us to focus on the ones further in the future too.
Most of us who set goals prioritise visualisation and focusing on what we want.
Many (including myself) tell us that we need to regularly affirm and repeat our goals in order to make them more real right now.
This is important but it also needs an extra ingredient.
We need to emphasise the reality of not achieving our goals too.
Instead of a goal being something ‘we’d kinda like’, we need to make it into an absolute must.
It’s the consistent urgency that gets us there, and in a distracting and comfortable world, it’s really hard to stay driven on one thing.
Most goals worth pursuing were reached by people who had the mindset:
‘I will do whatever it takes, no matter what.’
To continue with a hip-hop theme, Eminem rapped in reference to his journey to fame:
‘…I’ve got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot,
Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not….’
Whether this is conscious or not, the successful constantly remind themselves why they can not afford to fail.
And this is what we can do to create a stronger drive towards getting what we want.
Visualise and have direction. Be clear on the goal. Regularly write down your vision.
But we need the flip side too. We need to live, feel, absorb, and truly understand everything that is not good about not reaching that goal.
To start with, this is what you can do, and this I what I do:
- Write down a list of all the reasons you can’t afford to not reach your goal.
Having fewer goals helps here, and also makes it easier to achieve them.
What would you miss out on?
How would you regret not having gone for it in your older age?
Why would not having it be painful?
What do you risk by not going for it?
2. Write a list of all the reasons why this goal must be reached.
What opportunities will this goal bring into your life?
How will you be able to better contribute?
How will you grow as a person by working towards and achieving the goal?
How will your life look when you have achieved it?
Who will thank you when you are there, and what will they say?
This exercise, done regularly will charge your goal with emotion, even tears, making it more real and urgent to you.
Doing this might even make you reconsider what is really important in your life.
Remind yourself of your reasons daily, and use this passion, this purpose to chip away at it every day.