Remember in Alice in Wonderland when Alice comes to the junction in the road that leads in different directions and she asks the Cheshire Cat for advice?
“Cheshire-Puss…would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
The grinning feline spoke words of truth, didn’t he? If we don’t know where we want to go, then any road will take us there—and it doesn’t really matter what we do in life.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only three out of every one hundred Americans reach age sixty-five with any degree of financial security. Ninety-seven out of one hundred Americans who are sixty-five and over must depend on their monthly Social Security checks to survive. Is this because the American dream is shattered? Is it because of constant reces- sions? All of the world economic conditions have an effect on our personal lives. It is more difficult to survive and thrive dur- ing harsh recessions and artificially stimulated recovery cycles, in which the value of our money is eroded. There are, however, internal considerations that we believe are equally as relevant as the environmental circumstances.
Would it surprise you to learn that only five of every one hundred Americans, who are in the higher income professions such as law and medicine, reach age sixty-five without having to depend on Social Security? We were astounded to learn that so few individuals achieve any degree of financial success, regardless of their level of income during their most productive years.
Most people live their lives under the delusion that they are immortal. They squander their money, their time, and their minds with activities that are “tension relieving,” instead of “goal achieving.” Most people work to get through the week with enough extra money to spend over the weekend.
People hope the winds of fate will blow them into some rich and mysterious port of call. They look forward to when they can retire Someday in the future, and live on a fantasy island Somewhere. We ask them how they will accomplish this. They respond, “Somehow.”
You have a gold mine in your goal mind. Goals are like gold. Thoughts and dreams are like ore. Until the ore is extracted from the soil, shaped, and given form, it has little value. The reason most people never reach their goals is that they never really set them in the first place. They spend more time planning a vacation than they do planning their own lives. The mind is like the guidance system on a space vehicle or an automatic pilot. Once a goal is set, the mind constantly monitors self-talk and environmental feedback, both positive and negative, making adjustments along the way to reach its target.Successful individuals have game plans that are clearly defined and to which they constantly refer. They know where they’re going every day, every month, and every year. Things don’t just happen in their lives. They make life happen for themselves, their organizations, and their loved ones.
Lesson 2: The Astronaut Age Ten
In the goal-setting seminars, we have been giving throughout the United States and internationally during the past thirty years, it is obvious that the majority of people spend more time planning a party than they do planning their lives. By failing to plan, they actually are planning to fail by default. In one of our seminars in the mid-West many years ago, we divided two hundred participants into groups of six. They sat at circular tables and wrote down and discussed their personal responses to each part in a series of five questions. The questions we asked were these:
What are your greatest personal and professional abilities and disabilities?
What are your most important personal and professional goals for the balance of the year?
What is a major personal and professional goal you have for next year?
What will your professional level and annual income be in five years?
Twenty years from now:
Where will you be living? What will you be doing? What will you have accomplished, that could be written or said about you by family or peers? What state of health will you enjoy? What will be your assets in money? After the groaning and grumbling had subsided, the mastermind groups went to work discussing the most important topics they could ever share. As difficult and unreasonable as these questions may appear, you must remember that these two hundred people each paid one-hundred fifty dollars to attend a goal-setting workshop. They seemed dumbfounded that someone actually was challenging them to think about their own lives in specific terms. It was fun to sit and listen to the stories of people crawling out of the ghetto into greatness. But it was no fun to consider doing it yourself. That sounded like being back in school.
As the groups of six got started, we noticed the boy. Eric had red hair, a face full of freckles and looked about ten. We thought it was a good move for this father to bring him along for some positive exposure on how the adult world operates. He had listened carefully while we had talked, and now he had come up to ask what the people were doing at the circular tables. We explained that we had given them a series of five questions about their goals in life to discuss in small groups and then asked them to come back later and discuss them with the entire seminar audience.
He mentioned that many of them looked as if they were talking about other things and that some of them were just laughing and telling jokes. We told him that we couldn’t expect everyone to take this goal-setting exercise seriously, because many people thought that setting goals was like trying to decide whether to watch TV or go to a movie. He asked us why we weren’t
working on our goals at one of the tables. Denis replied something about being mentors, and changed the subject by suggesting that it might be fun for him to copy the questions from our notes and try to answer them for his own life. He took a yellow- lined pads and a pen and began writing earnestly. When the forty-minute time period was over, we called the small groups back together for the debriefing session.
Question number one had been fairly easy. As we had anticipated, abilities such as “good with people,” “sensitive to the needs of others,” “dedicated” and “honest” were stated most frequently. Disabilities such as “need to organize time and priorities better” and “want to spend more time on self-improvement projects and more rewarding time with family” also were brought out. These were standard answers from every group.
However, 90 percent of the whole group seemed to find questions two to five difficult—if not impossible—to relate to. Goals for the balance of the year (question two) were “to do better than last year, to make more, get more, save more and do more” and “to be a better person.” The same kind of general, non-committal answers were offered to question three concerning goals for the coming year. The real problem came with questions four and five. When asked what their professional levels and incomes would be in five years they almost all laughed, using the same excuse: “Who can predict in these uncertain times? It depends on the economy.” “That’s up to my boss and the company.” Most of them did admit, however, that they expected to be at a higher level of employment and earning more money five years from now.
Question five was the real mind blower. In twenty year —where, what doing, what accomplished, how healthy, and what assets? They agonized, giggled, and hollered. One middle-aged man volunteered that he would probably be dead by then. The audi- ence chuckled. Chuckling relieves tension. Most of the group had never considered the question before and came up with inane, nonsensical answers. They said they would be millionaires with yachts anchored off the Isle of Scorpios, or have written famous novels, or have their own reality TV series. In almost every group the response was the same. No one wanted to forecast or predict his or her own future. They were like all the other groups we had taught, with one exception—the boy named Eric.
When Eric volunteered to come up to the platform and read his answers to the series of five goal-setting questions, the seminar audience was delighted. They looked forward to more laughs and games. We weren’t certain what to expect, but we figured he couldn’t be any more wishy-washy than the adults.
“What are your greatest talents and what would you like to improve most, Eric?” We began. He didn’t hesitate. “Building model airplanes and scoring high in video games are my best things and cleaning my bedroom is what I should do better.”
We moved on quickly to his personal and professional goals for the rest of the year. He said his personal goal was to complete a model of the Columbia space shuttle craft and that his professional goal was to earn about four hundred and fifty dollars mowing lawns and later shoveling snow. The audience murmured their approval. Now we are getting someplace, we murmured to each other.
We asked him what his personal and professional goals were for the coming year. He answered that his personal goal was to take a trip to Hawaii and that his professional goal was to earn seven hundred dollars so that he could pay for the trip. We asked him for more details about the trip. He said it would be during summer vacation, to Honolulu and Maui, on Delta or United—whoever had the best package. We asked him what the hardest part would be in reaching the goal of that trip and he said it would be getting his mom and dad to save enough for their tickets, so that they could take him.
We moved on to Eric’s five-year goals. When we asked him about his professional level and income in five years, he still did not hesitate. “I’ll be fifteen, and I’ll be in the tenth grade in high school,” he stated clearly into the microphone. “I plan to take computer courses, if they have any, and science classes. I should be earning two hundred dollars a month, at least, in a part- time job,” he stated confidently. The audience wasn’t chuckling any more. Even Eric’s dad seemed genuinely interested in what the ten-year-old had in mind for this “Fantasy Island” game.
Eric had to think a moment as he considered our question about twenty years from now. He started, “I’ll be thirty years old then, right?” We nodded and he continued. “I’ll be living in Houston or Cape Canaveral, Florida. I’ll be a space-shuttle astronaut work- ing for NASA or a big company. I will have put new TV satellites into orbit and I’ll be delivering parts for a new launching station in space. And I’ll be in great physical shape. You have to be in good shape to be an astronaut,” he concluded proudly.
It was fantastic to hear Eric talk in specifics, whereas all of the adults talked in circles. The impact of what he had said was slowly sinking into the seminar participants. They had paid several hundred dollars each to come and sharpen up their goal- setting skills. A ten-year-old guest had come up and demonstrated how it should be done. The critical difference in Eric was that he hadn’t begun to believe that he couldn’t achieve his goals. Enough rain had not fallen to ruin his parade. He hadn’t watched the evening news enough, or read the paper enough yet. He hadn’t taken enough personal defeats. He was unspoiled, naive. His “weakness” of inexperience was his greatest strength.
Eric’s thoughtful answers supplied us with one of the best conclusions we have ever had to an all-day seminar. This redheaded kid had accomplished more in ten minutes than we had in five hours of talking, He had taught us that we can talk about our dreams in much more specific, concrete terms if we won’t allow our cynicism to stand in our way. Eric had given us all a living example of how goals should be set and pursued.
Eric’s perception as a ten-year-old is testimony that the human being is goal-seeking by design. A favorite analogy is one that was taught by a friend—the late Dr. Maxwell Maltz, plastic surgeon and best—selling author of Psycho -Cybernetics. Dr. Maltz compared the mind to the homing system in a torpedo or an automatic pilot. Once you set your target, this self—adjusting sys- tem constantly monitors feedback signals from the target area. Using the feedback data to adjust the course setting in its own navigational guidance computer, it makes the correction necessary to stay on target. Programmed incompletely or nonspecifically—or aimed at a target too far out of range—the homing torpedo will wander erratically around until its propulsion system fails or it self-destructs.
The individual human being behaves in very much the same manner. Programmed with vague, random thoughts or fixed on an unrealistic goal too far out of sight, the individual will wander aimlessly around until he gives up in frustration, wears out, or self-destructs. However, once you set your goal, your mind constantly monitors self-talk and environmental feedback about the goal or target. Using this negative and positive feedback to adjust your decisions along the way, your mind subconsciously makes adjustments to reach the goal.
And what about Eric, the ten-year-old who attended one of our goal setting seminars more than twenty years ago? One morning, not too long ago, we were watching the Today Show. A NASA astronaut was outside the space shuttle retrieving a satellite that had to be brought back to earth for repairs. It was actually him! He had achieved his twenty-year fantasy of becoming an astronaut, and we hadn’t given it another thought since that program twenty years earlier. While young Eric had been focused on his dreams during the past twenty years, had we been true to our own? Were we practicing what we were preaching? Were we so busy teaching other people how to set and get their goals, that we were putting our own on layaway? The young boy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa—turned astronaut—gave us a needed wake-up call. It’s one thing to talk and write about goals, and another thing entirely to stay focused on reaching your own. There is a gold mine, in your goal mind! What you can clearly visualize, you can realize. If you don’t set goals, your mind will set one to get through the day. With focused, concentrated goals you have the power of a laser beam.
Activity: Ask yourself: “If there were no constraints of money, time, or circumstance, what would I begin doing tomorrow?” What would my children really want to do?
Lesson 3: The Seven Steps to Goal-Setting
You’ve got to have a dream if you’re going to make a dream come true. To get somewhere you must know where you’re going. And yet for countless unhappy people, getting through the day is their only ambition. Unfortunately, most people would rather get home than get ahead.
The more we talk about goals, whether it’s with executives in corporate boardrooms or teachers at a convention, or parents at our seminars, the more we realize goal setting is more of an art than an exact science. That’s not to say there are not specific things you can do. There are at least seven ways to come at goal setting. What’s important is to do it. Probably the major rea- son people are not successful is that they never take the time to define what their goals are and how they plan to reach them. So, let’s take a look at these seven steps:
Make sure the goals are your own.
No goals set for you by others will ever be sought with the same effort and time commitment as the one you set for yourself. So, ask yourself these questions: What does winning really mean to me? What does being successful mean to me? What do I really want to achieve in my life in the long run? What are my talents and capabilities? What am I willing to sacrifice, trade- off or invest in to become more successful? And how will other people benefit from my success? How will my life be improved by my success? How will my life be complicated by my success? And who can I count on to nurture and support me in my pursuits.
Remember, personal goals, the ones you want, are those you’ll be more likely to achieve. And when you do set personal, meaningful goals, keep them to yourself. Or share them only with other winners who will take the time to give you positive feedback and input. Remember, misery is always looking for a place to become company. Never share a dream with someone who’s likely to rain on your parade.
Set goals with deadlines
It seems to be an irrevocable part of nature that we work harder toward our goals as our deadlines approach. A goal is not a goal unless it has a deadline. In our seminars we describe three kinds of temporal goals. First, there are primary goals. Those that can be achieved within the next three to six months. Then there are intermediate goals. Goals taking from about six months to three years. These may include completion of a college degree or vocational training program, reaching middle management in your firm or the purchase of a new home. Or they may be stepping stones in the achievement of life goals taking longer than three years. These include long-term career plans or those things you’ll do in future years, but you start preparing for now.
And here’s another little tip. Often it’s not enough to put deadlines on your goals, you need to put deadlines on your deadlines. Plan out your progress and place time limits on the stages within your goal attainment. For example, saying that I’ll write my next book by May 1st is not enough. Section one, comprised of the first two chapters, will be finished by January 15th. I’ll allot one week to rewriting and proofing, then begin section two which should be completed by March 25th and so on and so on as you shoot for the final goal of manuscript completed by May 1st.
Set explicit, specific goals.
Would you ever dream of sending a carrier pigeon out with the instructions, deliver this to my cousin Bill? Would you fire a torpedo with it’s guidance system instructed to sink that enemy ship somewhere out there? Would you ask your son to go to the store without directions to do the shopping? Well, of course not. And your personal instructions to yourself, your goals, should never be vague or general either. You’re after specific goals, clear and accurate pictures of what you want. The more specific the goal is the easier it will be to set deadlines for each step along the way. Specific goals actually give you an inner power that helps you focus your efforts and which drives you forward.
It’s ironic, no it’s even tragic that many people take more time to plan vacations than they do the major parts of their lives. They get deeply involved in selecting a destination. Developing a timeframe, choosing a method of getting there, figuring costs, trade-offs and lifestyle when they arrive. They even get a vinyl, oversized wallet to carry the itinerary and maybe even the trav- elers checks. If a vacation is worth all that trouble, what about becoming better parents or better managers? What does it mean to us, what does it take, what do we need to do more of, when? We need to set aside certain hours and show up at certain times.
On New Year’s Eve, instead of going out in search of a hangover, why not congregate with your family around the fireplace to reflect on the events that made the year just past one to remember. Then have your own Oscar presentations as the Acad- emy Awards ceremonies for goals. Each of you opens your sealed envelope in which you placed your written goals made on December 31st of the previous year. Then proceed to share your blessings and accomplishments even though some of you probably fell short or completely missed the targets you set twelve months before. After many years of witnessing this type of experience, we can verify that the more defined and specific the goals were, the more often they were reached.
Commit your goals to writing.
Attorneys know the wisdom of the written contract. It demands clarity, specificity, conditions, a time frame and commitment of money. When all the terms are understood and mutually agreed upon, it usually results in better performance. Before you leave your place of business in the evening, write down at least five personal goals you want to reach the following day. Before you go to sleep that night prioritize these five personal goals and focus on how you’ll start reaching them the next morning. Carry a thirty-day calendar on your smart phone with you at all times and have a twelve-month calendar, never more than a briefcase or a purse away from your touch. On these calendars, whether in a hand-held electronic organizer or paper planner, write in all
your goals, priorities, appointments, projects, and anticipated completion dates. Adapting to changing circumstances and other feedback, you adjust and alter your calendar by correcting each monthly schedule so that you have a fresh, accurate, but still flexible preview of coming attractions.
Set goals that can be incremental and measured.
It’s always useful to clarify long-range goals, the ones that have been stimulating future benefits that are worth the wait and the work. Long-range goals, however, don’t offer you the step-by-step reinforcement and feedback you need for continued motivation. So, if possible, break your long-range goals into many short-range ones where you can know the thrill of victory on a smaller scale. Then you can thrive on the many smaller wins, spaced closer together which will give you a winning pattern that will strengthen you for the long haul toward the bigger long range goals.
Behavioral psychologists use this method in modifying animal behavior. Remember that circus or county fair exhibit where the chicken climbed into the fire engine and turned on the siren. Or the ducks that threw tiny sponge basketballs unerringly through the hoops. They were not shown the truck or basketball and expected to learn by trial and error. They were in, psychological terms, reinforced for successive approximations. Their goals were broken into clearly defined tasks. In a word, they were incrementalized.
And here’s how it’s done: 1) you reward the animal for going near the truck; 2) once the animal begins spending time near the truck, you reward it again if it climbs in the truck; 3) once the animal remains in the truck, reinforce it only if it places a leg near the chain that when pulled will turn on the siren; 4) once the leg remains near the chain, reinforce it only when it grabs the chain; and 5) once it holds the chain, reinforce it only when it pulls the chain and starts the siren.
Well, you and I are not chickens or ducks but we learn in much the same way. The idea is to set short-term goals that are just beyond your current range of skills. And when you miss one of these short-term increments, you review, revise, and retry.
When you hit your incremental goal, you reinforce yourself with a positive reward or ceremony. Face the challenge, meet it, or learn from your mistakes and then move up to the next higher goal.
The point is, we all need to win and win again to develop the winning reflex. Setting step-by-step goals that can be reached, revised, retried, and reinforced really works. Wishy-washy day dreaming about pie in the sky payoffs doesn’t work.
Set goals with pulling power.
When you begin incrementalizing your goals, don’t fall victim to setting goals with little or no challenge. Going from a used Honda Civic to a new Yugo will hardly stoke the inner fires with motivation. But going from the Civic to a new BMW is more like it. Especially if you planned, earned and saved to afford it.
Goals we can reach with little or no effort have no pulling power. The excitement of reaching toward a challenging goal is often greater than the actual achievement. The joy is more in reaching than in the grasping. Your goal must be demanding, requiring knowledge, effort and performance to accomplish. With an honest assessment of your talents and skills, you can set goals that are realistic, believable, and worth working for.
Do your goals pass the win-win test?
To be true winners for life we must consider the impact of reaching our goals on other people. Once a goal is defined as to its integrity and merit for our own success, we must ask ourselves the key question before we embark on an action course. What effect will the realization of my goal have on the others involved? And the answer should be: beneficial.
One of the most critical aspects of goal setting is that we seldom succeed in isolation without the support of others. When our own goals match the aspirations of those with whom we come in frequent contact and they in turn identify with us, a chain reaction is formed and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Energy is converted to synergy. From where do you get the information you use in your daily efforts to win? We found that most people rely on their parents, their friends, the media, and a variety of individuals with questionable credentials for their knowledge base on how to win. We urge you to spend a few hours this coming week closely examining the sources from which you’ve gained or are gaining your insights on life. What have been the sources of your truth? What are his or her track records and credentials. If challenged, can the information be corroborated? You’ll be amazed at how frequently you ingest information from the environment that is no more than speculation based upon biased opinion. In other cases, you aren’t getting information, you’re getting titillated by people who are interested in circulation and not education.
Courses–Family Enrichment Seeds of Greatness: Roots (5 Courses)