Goals: Stepping Stones to Your Vision

By Nancy Fredericks

Goals are the stepping stones along the path of life that turn your wispy, insubstantial dreams into a strong, dynamic, compelling vision that leads you into your future. Many people dream; but the distinction between the results-oriented doer and the wishful dreamer is putting goals into place and then taking the necessary action steps that turn them into reality.

Who are you—the dreamer or the visionary? More importantly, who do you want to be? Asking these questions is very important to developing your goals. Studies have shown that introspection is an essential process for success-oriented people, while the “getting-to-know-who-you-are” process has been found missing in individuals who are not goal oriented and thus are less successful. Set your goals and create the life you will love.

The bottom line in all of this is, “How important are you to yourself?” Many people find they are resistant to setting goals because it requires them to constantly measure their actions today against the possibility they have created for tomorrow. It means accountability to self and requires keeping the commitments you have made—not just to others, but also to yourself. For many of us, it is far more difficult to keep the promises we’ve made to ourselves than it is to follow through with promises made to others.

Goals are the details that create your tomorrow; and although they may appear simple, they are really at the very core of creating the future you desire. You must envision and create the big picture, yet that vision can only be achieved by taking one small, simple step at a time. As Fran Tarkenton said, “Your only limitation is the script in your head and the fear in your heart,” so move forward into your future.\

1. It Is Your Responsibility. As the world becomes more and more complicated and chaotic, the only guarantee you have of creating the future you want is by taking control yourself. There really is no one out there that is going to give you the life you want. Support, help, interdependent relationships will assist you along the way, but you are the only one who cares enough to dream and then create action steps that will turn that dream into reality. The successful people in the world take responsibility for their future and don’t look to others to determine the next step. A study of the l953 graduates of Yale University emphasizes this point. The graduating class was asked how many of them had clear, specific, written goals. Only 3 percent had. Twenty years later, they went back and interviewed the members of the 1953 graduating class again. It was discovered that those 3 percent who had written goals were worth more financially than the other 97 percent put together. Additionally, by their own subjective measurement, these same 3% were more satisfied with their life then the non-goal setters. This research just demonstrates how important it is to set your goals and then create the life you love.

2. Measurements Are Essential. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once succinctly outlined a road map to achieving success and joy when he stated, “First, have a definite, clear, practical idea—a goal, an objective.” He then went on to recommend that we should use whatever means we have available, whether “wisdom, money, materials, or methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” Each of your goals should have measurable expectations put in place during the planning process with a specific time frame for achievement, resources necessary along the way and what the end result will look like. Without these measuring sticks being designated out front, you will never be able to determine whether or not you are on the right path or even if you are making progress toward attaining your vision. It is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day process of living, so make sure you are measuring your progress or you may not end up anywhere close to your vision. The critical ingredient that will ultimately determine whether or not you achieve your designated outcome is your actions, but only actions that are in alignment with your vision. You can’t hit a target, after all, if you don’t know what it is.

3. Commitment Based, Not Feeling Based. Once you have established meaningful goals for yourself, it is not unusual to almost immediately face difficulties, which challenge the commitment you just made. It is a test. Life is asking, “Do you really want to achieve this goal?” Until you become commitment based—that is, committed to the future you are creating—your emotions will be determining your future. Emotions and feelings are, more often than not, externally focused on or reacting to other people’s thoughts, ideas and considerations. They change from moment to moment, and thus are unreliable as gauges for determining action. On the other hand, commitments are internally based and stand on the foundation of your vision for the future. Studies from Cornell Medical Center attest to the fact that goals are one of the most powerful motivating forces known to man. Being commitment based means that you ascertain what is in alignment with your vision and then take action based upon tomorrow, not what you are feeling today.

4. Bite-Sized Steps. Sometimes a vision is so far out that even interim goals are too big, and the thought of achieving them is beyond your wildest imagination. When a goal is too big to even touch in your thoughts, you can go into panic and, in fact, sabotage any effort by no longer mentally participating in reaching the envisioned results. Don’t let this stop you. Simply take a bite out of your goal by asking yourself, “What piece can I start tomorrow?” By breaking an unmanageable goal into small, achievable bite-sized steps, the unachievable becomes easy and you are on your way to creating life satisfaction for yourself.

5. Stay In Action. Sometimes to achieve your goal, it feels as though you are pushing a boulder up a steep mountain. Remember, once you have that stone moving uphill, don’t stop! It takes far more energy getting the stone going again then it does to slowly, consistently, incrementally, continuously keep it moving. One step at a time is all that it takes to get up a mountain. It is the same with your goals. “What action do I need to take next,” should be the question that you ask yourself. Just simply stay in action, keep the movement going, and one day you will triumphantly arrive at your destination.

6. Fine Tuning. Ask yourself, “Does this add value to my life today and help me reach my tomorrows?” Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your plans as you see a better way to reach your ultimate vision. Rigidity has never been a part of a winning formula, but it has always been a debilitating influence in the lives of people who are rut-oriented. Successful people are able to react with flexibility and agility as life hits them with surprising twists and turns. Their stability and anchoring comes not from staying put; it comes from keeping their eye on the end result, as they make appropriate decisions about and adjust to their next move.

    Working World
    February 20, 1995