goal setting

lately, i’ve been following steve pavlina’s blog. he’s got some pretty strong things to say about personal development. below is a somewhat shortened and edited excerpt of what he says about goal setting and decision making.

bunker hunt, a man who rose from a bankrupt cotton farmer in the 1930s to a multi-billionaire when he died in the 1970s, was once asked during a tv interview what advice he could give to others who wanted to be financially successful.

he responded by saying that it’s not terribly difficult to be successful and that only two things are required.

first, you must decide exactly what it is you want to accomplish.

secondly, you must determine what price you’ll have to pay to get it, and then resolve to pay that price.

clear goals are essential

study after study has shown how essential clear goals and objectives are to success. if you don’t take the time to get really clear about exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish, then you’re forever doomed to spend your life achieving the goals of those who do.

if setting goals is so critically important, then why is it that so few people take the time to define exactly where they want to go?

part of the reason is a lack of knowledge about how to set clear goals. but those who truly know what they want often outperform everyone else by an enormous degree.

a frequent deterrent to goal setting is the fear of making a mistake. teddy roosevelt once said, “in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

setting virtually any goal at all is better than drifting aimlessly with no clear direction. the best way i know to guarantee failure is to avoid making clear, committed decisions.

you’re probably spending most of your time working to achieve other people’s goals. the local fast food restaurant, tv advertisers, and the stockholders of the businesses you patronize are all very happy for that.

many people assume that because they have a direction, they must therefore have goals, but this merely creates the illusion of progress.

an example of the difference between a direction and a goal is the difference between the compass direction of northeast and the top of the eiffel tower in france. one is merely a direction; the other is a definite location.

define goals in binary terms

one critical aspect of goals is that they must be defined in binary terms. at any point in time, if i were to ask you if you had achieved your goal yet, you must be able to give me a definitive “yes” or “no” answer. “maybe” or “kind of” is not an answer.

be detailed

be as detailed as possible when setting goals. give specific numbers, dates, and times. make sure that each of your goals is measurable.

either you achieved it, or you didn’t. define your goals as if you already know what’s going to happen. it’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it.

commit goals to writing

goals must be in writing in the form of positive, present-tense, personal affirmations. don’t say “by the end of the year, i don’t want to feel alone anymore.”

rather, say “on december 31, 2006, i look back with satisfaction on a time full of romance and friendship.”

if you phrase your goals in future terms, you are sending a message to your subconscious mind to forever keep that outcome in the future, just beyond your grasp.

avoid wishy-washy words like “probably,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “might,” or “may” when forming your goals.

and finally, make your goals personal. you cannot set goals for other people, such as, “a publisher will hire me by the end of the year.” better say: “by december 1, 2006, i have started working in an interesting, enjoyable position with a north american publishing company, earning $55,000 a year.”

objectify subjective goals

what if you need to set subjective goals, such as improving your own level of self-discipline? how do you phrase such goals in binary terms? to solve this problem, i use a rating scale of 1 to 10.

for instance, if you want to improve your self-discipline, ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate your current level of self-discipline? then set a goal to achieve a certain specific rating by a certain date. this allows you to measure your progress and know with a high degree of certainty whether or not you’ve actually achieved your goal.


tomorrow we’ll go to part 2, where steve talks about the actual activity of goal setting and how goal setting helps in making everyday decisions.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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