Goals! Goals! Goals!

One of the most important things that any business regardless of size needs to do is to set goals.

Did you ever wonder why those marquees at the gentleman’s clubs say “Girls, Girls, Girls?” I know why. Because you have to tell most men something three times before they start paying attention. I know this because I am a man and my wife often has to ask me to pick up my dirty laundry three times before I actually do it. So I’m going to give something a try…

Set a goal today! (The ladies can skip ahead here)

Set a goal today!

Set a goal today!

Do you have goals? I’ll bet every single one of you said yes. For those of you that answered yes, are they written down? I’ll bet most of you now answered no. I have bad news for the group that did not write them down. If your goals are not written down, they are not goals; they are dreams, wishes and hopes. That does not mean that wishes and hopes don’t come true. They do. My sons hoped for all kinds of presents last Christmas and they actually got many of them, but a true goal is not something that you are hoping Santa will leave under the Christmas tree. A true goal comes with a plan of action.

Goals come in all shapes and sizes. They can be long-term or short-term. They can be big or small. They can be physical, mental, financial, spiritual or social. After 20 years of studying the goal-setting process, I can tell you that goals possess a defined group of characteristics. There is also a formula for achieving goals. If I asked you what the answer to 5 x 5 was, you should be able to spit out the answer rather quickly. If I asked you the answer to 1287 x 3498, you should be able to give me the answer if you have a pencil and a piece of paper. That is because you have been taught the formula. If you were never taught the formula, that would be a very difficult problem.

The formula is the first secret. The second secret is time. Time is a very valuable quantity. It’s even more valuable than money. Most dying millionaires would give up all their money for just a little more time. Here’s the secret about time. We all have the same amount of it. That’s right! You have the same number of minutes in your day as Donald Trump, Oprah, Ryan Seacrest and our new President. We all have the same amount of time, but some of us achieve a lot more than others. Why? Because truly successful people know the goals formula and they make the most of their time because of it. It’s not necessarily my formula, but it is going to have very similar traits.

So what is my formula? I call my method “The Grade School Method of Goals Achievement” because every fifth-grader could learn it and I would like to see it taught to every child in America by the time they reach the fifth grade. The formula can easily be remembered by asking “who, what, where, when, how, why?” and “Is it written down?” The men should go back and read that sentence three times. The ladies can start learning the process by reading ahead.

Step 1 Write it down.

Just because it is written down, it doesn’t make it a goal. Goals have to be realistic. They have to be achievable. It is okay to work on several goals all at once. Many people will start with a wish list of everything they would ever like to be, do, or have. You can then prioritize that list and figure out which items you are willing to take action on right now. This is your goals list. For each goal, you must answer all of the following questions and write down the answers.

Step 2 Who?

Ask yourself who is going to help you to achieve this goal and speak to all of these people personally. Most goals involve the help of other people. Most goals also will include individuals who might stand in the way of seeing them fully accomplished. You may need to speak with those individuals as well. For example, I might have a goal of losing 20 pounds. I would have to speak to my wife about it and ask her to create more sensible meals. I might also have to ask her to hide her delicious fresh-baked cookies from me when I get home from work. I might also need to speak with my doctor or a nutritionist. Make sure you communicate with everyone you can think of who can assist you in achieving your goals.

Step 3 What?

There are two parts to the what. The first is “What are my benefits of achieving this goal?” You need to write down everything you will gain by achieving this goal. In the example of losing 20 pounds, I might gain health, self-confidence, energy, and I might save money by not having to buy new clothes. I could live longer and create better relationships with my wife and kids. The benefits are endless and it is important to write it down every time you think of a new benefit. The second part is “What will stand in my way of achieving this goal?” There are many obstacles along the way and your job is to identify as many of these obstacles as possible. To use the weight loss example, ask yourself if there are any parties or functions you will be attending during the time you will be attempting to achieve this goal. Those obstacles may mean additional sacrifice is necessary during those weeks.

Step 4 Where?

The question here is not where (as in location) will I achieve this goal? The question is “Where can I get all of the information that I will require to achieve this goal?” Some examples of information resources are the Internet, the library, museums, specialists, publications and common sense. Before I attempt to achieve any new goal, I typically spend at least a week researching the subject at hand. You will also gain information while you are working on your goal. In my example, I may lose weight faster or slower during certain weeks of the diet. I have to examine what I ate and what my exercise program contained so I can reevaluate and readjust my plan and goals accordingly.

Step 5 When?

When will I complete this goal? A goal is still just a dream if it does not have a completion date. This date must be well thought out based on all of your research. This date must be written down next to the goal. This written document of the goal and completion date should then be reprinted and posted everywhere that you exist. Post it on your bathroom mirror, put it in your wallet, and tape it to your computer screen and onto the refrigerator. I even post my goals on the center of my steering wheel because I spend a lot of time behind the wheel.

Step 6 How?

How will I achieve this goal? What exactly is my plan of action? This is the most time consuming part of goal setting, but it is the most important. When I think of a goal without a specific plan, I think of a person in a little rowboat wandering across the Pacific Ocean without paddles who believes they have a goal of seeing France. The person may eventually land there someday but he or she is more likely to die before the goal is ever achieved. In my opinion, too many people die with dreams that were never converted into goals. If you want to lose weight or travel to France, answer the above questions of who, what, where, when, and then draw up a plan. This plan should be broken down into daily or even hourly achievements. A daily planner or something similar is a requirement for true goal setting. It is a place where you can keep track of everything. Going back to the weight loss example, in my planner, I can write down what I’ve eaten everyday and keep track of my exercise program. I can have weekly weigh-ins to check my progress. I can then readjust accordingly for the following week’s plan if I am ahead or behind the pace I have set. A well-written plan will often make the goal appear a little easier than it is. For example, if I want to travel to France in December, and my research shows me that the trip will cost me $1,550, I just need to save $5 per day for the next ten months. I could do that by just eating macaroni and cheese for lunch everyday. I just have to maintain self-control and not spend my savings elsewhere. Break your goals down to ridiculous levels.

Step 7 Why?

Why do I want to achieve this goal? Your goals have to be for you. You cannot set goals for other people. You can only encourage other people to set and achieve goals. You must define the reasons for achieving your goals and the “gain” must outweigh the “pain.” People will ask you about your goals and why you want to achieve them. A quick answer like “I want to go to France because I have always loved French architecture and the tour I will be on includes experts and guides to teach me even more about architectural history in France” is a good one. “Because my wife thought it had the best brochure” is a bad reason for a goal.

The Proof

It has been widely reported that in 1953, Yale did a study of their graduating seniors and they found that only 3 percent had taken all of the steps I have described in this story in setting future goals. In 1973, 20 years later, in the two measurable areas of success — career and financial — the 3 percent who had taken all the steps had accomplished more than the 97 percent who had not. Some examples in that 3 percent include Forrest Mars of the Mars Candy Empire and Robert Goizueta who went on to become the CEO of Coca-Cola. There are countless other success stories like JC Penney and Sir Edmund Hillary who followed the same process to achieve their goals. I can make you a promise; if you follow my steps for achieving goals, you will feel better, accomplish more and manage your time more efficiently. Share this article with your children. You never know, their love of eating candy just might turn into a candy empire someday.

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