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"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit." - Conrad Hilton

So you’ve been eyeing that new boat sitting on the lot for five months now. Or maybe you’ve been thinking about striking out on your own and living that entrepreneurial dream. A new car, a bigger house, more time with the family, a weekend retreat, more trees in your yard, a management position, lose some weight, an increase in pay…I’m sure you’re no different than the rest of us that dream of someday making our lives better. Whether you look towards improvements in your relationships, in your career or in your bank account, we all aspire to one day have something that we don’t have today. But you know what? These are all just dreams. And if you think that one day, when the situation is just right, you will get exactly what you’ve been dreaming about…You’re dreaming. It will never happen.

Dreams are just that, dreams. And they will stay “dreams” unless you consciously decide to transform those dreams into goals. There is a big difference. Goals are measurable, precise, have due dates and most importantly, they are communicated. But even having goals alone will not bring your dreams to reality. There is one critical element that must follow, ACTION!

Goals Defined

There’s an expression, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” While that expression reinforces the need to set goals on where you want to go, too many people misinterpret that expression and think that all they have to do is picture where they want to go and magically, it will all appear someday. Creating a vision of your destination in your mind is only one step. Defining goals is much more precise than that. Here are the four requirements for properly defining your goals:

  • Your goal must be objectively measurable.
  • Your goal must have a definitive due date.
  • Your goal must be attainable.
  • Your goal must be communicated
  • Goals are Objectively Measurable

To say that you “want to be happy” is not setting a goal, because that cannot be objectively measured. Stating that you “want to be rich” or “you want to be successful” are also too arbitrary. What does “rich” mean? How much is enough? Stating that you want to eliminate all debt and have $50,000 in your bank account for emergency purposes, is a much more accurate description of what it means to you to be “rich.” Successful can mean a bigger house, a fancier car, more dedicated time with your family, or a promotion in your career. Make sure that your goals are quantitative and objective. Success in reaching your goal will not be open to interpretation, you either attain the measurement or you don’t.

Goals Have a Definitive Due Date

If there is no due date on your goal, it is too easy to procrastinate. Have you ever noticed that the day before you go on vacation you tend to get more done? The reason is that there is a definitive due date. You don’t want to worry about any unresolved issues while you are sipping margaritas on the beach! Your vacation is the compelling event that has created a hard and fast deadline for completing projects. This compelling event will shift your mind and body into high gear. You will become more focused and work longer hours just to get it completed on time. To achieve your life goals you need to approach them with the same intensity. The only way to do this is by creating a “compelling event,” a deadline that must be met.

Goals Must be Attainable

What if I wanted to be a great high jumper and I set my jump height goal at 9 feet. It would not matter how hard I trained, setting my jump height goal at 9 feet would be ridiculous. First of all, I am not a world class high jump athlete today. Second, the world record for high jump is barely over 8 feet. If I pursued the 9 foot height goal starting out on day one, how soon do you think I would become frustrated and abandoned my goal? It wouldn’t take long. Your goals should always be set at a challenging level, but still attainable. Set the marker at a spot that is better than your best but yet still within your reach.

Goals Must be Communicated

Most people will agree with the first three requirements of proper goal setting, but some may disagree with this one. Why do goals have to be communicated? Who do they need to be communicated with? Communicating your goals with others will help you make a formal commitment. Verbalizing and publicizing your goals with supporting friends and family also does something wonderful for you, it gives you a cheerleading group. There is a simple reason why support groups like A.A. are so successful. You are verbalizing your commitment and enlisting the support of others. Make sure that you have a “home team” cheering for you as you work towards your goals.

While you may not have communicated some of your goals in the past to other people, I guarantee that if you achieved them, you communicated them to the most important person…yourself. Do you know what I find upsetting? The fact that some people set goals and communicate them only to themselves, then without giving it a second thought, they will dismiss the goals they set and let themselves down. This happens quite often when people set a weight loss goal. They communicate it to themselves that they will diet for 6 weeks and lose 10 pounds. Then by the second week they are cheating on the diet and by week 4 they have completely forgotten the commitment they made to themselves. What would you think of a friend that consistently made commitments to meet you for lunch and every time they were either 20-30 minutes late or even worse, a complete “no show?” You would lose respect for this person since you would know that you cannot trust them to keep their commitments. Don’t do this to yourself. You should treat yourself with the same respect you would give to others. If you make a commitment to yourself, you need to keep it. Consistently abandoning commitments you have made to yourself can have dramatic effects on a person, including lower self esteem.

The Secret Sauce…ACTION!

"We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success." - Henry David Thoreau

Setting goals in work and in life can give you a greater sense of purpose and direction. It lays out the direction and destination for your journey. You may not have all the steps laid out to get you from here to there, but knowing where “here” is and knowing where “there” is can be more than half the journey. Setting the course is one thing, now you need to put the oars in the water and start rowing. Goals, even well defined goals, will become idle dreams if they are not acted upon.

There is a plaque that sits on my desk with a picture of a Lion and a Gazelle on the high plains of Africa. I don’t know who to give credit to for the quotation, but I have seen it in several different mediums. It is one of my favorite quotations that sums up the importance of taking action every day…

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed…every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle…when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Put your running shoes on. It’s time to get started. Your time is RIGHT NOW!


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