“Have a dream and follow it. Have a plan and stick to it. Have a goal and achieve it. “ – Unknown
Almost everyone has big dreams but few of us ever reach them.
The reason for our lack of achievement is simple. We don’t accomplish as much as we want to because we don’t create a solid plan. We don’t execute because there is nothing to execute on.
The science supporting the power of written goals.
There is clear scientific evidence supporting the value of written goals.
One Harvard study surveyed a group of MBA graduates and found that 3% of people surveyed had written goals, 13% had goals but didn’t write them down and 84% had no specific goals.
10 years later the same people were contacted and researchers were surprised to learn that the 13% of people who had goals but had not written them down made 2 times as much money as the 84% who had no goals. The researchers also found that the 3% of graduates who had written down their goals were making 10 times as much money as the other 97% of people combined.
As cliché as it sounds most people don’t know where they are going and as a result have no clue on how to get there.
Defining the straight line.
I probably don’t talk about it enough but the major focus of my life’s work revolves around optimization. I work with people and organizations and help them get from where they are to where they want to be in the most efficient way possible. As a result I spend a great deal of time considering the challenges associated with goal achievement.
In geometry the shortest distance between two points is a straight line .
Goal achievement is no different. You need a starting point (where you are), your end point (where you want to be) and a plan to get from where you are to where you want to be (the straight line).
The only purpose behind creating a plan is to help you focus on the daily activities that take you closer to achieving your goal. Organizational and individual goals are only met by taking continuous actions that are in alignment with achieving the stated goal.
The importance of defining the end point
The majority of people and organizations have only vague ideas about what they want.
Most people want to “lose some weight”, “get back into shape”, or “get rich”. All of these weak and powerless statements are wishes not goals.
Brain scientists such as Dr. Gail Matthews have learned that generally thinking of a goal is a left brain activity. In a very general sense the left hemisphere is the artistic and inventive side of our brain, while the right side of our brain is more involved with actual planning and execution of our goals.
The act of writing the goal down engages the right side of the brain and also activates the corpus callosum which is a large flat bundle of nerves that connects both the left and right brain hemispheres.
Once the whole brain is involved a very cool process called reticular activation occurs. In short reticular activation means that you will automatically start noticing and taking advantage of situations and circumstances that take you closer to the achievement of your goal.
A great example of reticular activation occurred a few weeks ago when my son bought himself a jeep. After we picked up his new vehicle I started noticing just how many jeeps were on the road. The mere fact that my son bought a jeep caused reticular activation to occur and I began to notice what was there all along.
The process works equally well with business opportunities, relationships, or health related matters. Defining your goal literally opens your eyes to possibilities and opportunities.
The importance of full brain engagement in goal setting is so important that the mere fact of writing your goals down increases the chances of success by 42%.
The importance of being S.M.A.R.T.
By definition a true (and reasonable) goal needs to follow the SMART criteria.
The goal has to be;
For a more detailed explanations of Smart Goals check out THIS link from the University of Virginia
Know your starting point.
Once you have clearly articulated what you want to achieve then you need to honestly determine your starting point.
The benefits of knowing your starting point are huge!! At a minimum knowing where you are starting from allows you to understand the work involved to achieve your goal.
Assessing your starting point can also help you avoid potentially catastrophic mistakes.
I know of several examples of people who left great jobs to pursue businesses they knew nothing about. In each case the business failed, costing the person who committed to it hundreds of thousands of dollars, years of lost time and mountains of stress and frustration.
Had they done an honest assessment of their starting point each one of these people would have either created a robust training plan for themselves or they would have chosen a different path.
Create the straightest possible line
As previously stated the straight line is another way of describing work that has to happen to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
The better you understand the work you have to do the greater your potential for success.
One of my friends has the goal of running in the Boston Marathon, which has a qualifying time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. When he first came to see me about his goal he was running marathons in about 3:45.
The 30 minute improvement in his time to run a marathon represented the gap between where he was and where he wanted to be.
Based on his goal of cutting 30 minutes off his marathon time he was able to create a training plan that he could live with. The plan was precise, specific and covered every detail from diet to recovery.
We knew exactly what he needed to do and when he needed to do it.
The plan was created and then the focus moved to the execution phase.
I am pleased to report his training is going well and he should be in fine shape for the 2018 marathon.
Achieving huge goals is rarely easy but it is possible. You just need to plan well, work hard and follow the straight line.
What about you?
Are you on the straight line to achieving your goals and dreams?
Thanks for reading Success on the Far Side of Fifty.