The art and Tao of goal setting and dream achieving
It may seem intuitive to you that to set a goal you just write down what you want. But the problem with this is that while everyone has goals, very, very, very few people ever actually achieve their goals. You can argue that this is because some people aim too high so that their goals are unachievable, or that the exclusive group of people who are accomplishing their and fulfilling their dreams are somehow more gifted, talented, capable, or just luckier than you. But neither of these statements are true.
The real difference between the people who set goals and the people who accomplish them begins with the who you define and think about your goals, your goal setting mindset.
Setting a goal that is so high that you can’t even take action on it today or that seems possible for you, is not a goal at all, it is a dream. And your dreams are useless, until and unless you make them actionable. What are some common dreams people have “I want a million dollars,” “I want to travel the world,” “I want to quit my job,” and “I want six pack abs. It’s great that you want things, everyone wants things, but the real question is what you are you willing to DO in order to get those things?
Writing down a dream for which you are unwilling or unable to take action does absolutely nothing. You are better off wasting your time playing Candy Crush on your phone rather than teasing yourself with the inactionable dream you have.
It is easy to say “I want a million dollars,” or “I want six pack abs.” But that is not a goal, it is a fantasy. It's not that it's impossible for you to make a million dollars, it's that you don't even know where to begin. The important difference between a dream and a goal is that goals are actionable. When you have set a real goal for yourself, you immediately feel empowered to take action on it and make it a reality. You don't find reasons to procrastinate or make excuses like: the timing is not right, or that work is too busy. You just act because you want to act. When you truly want to do something, you find reasons to do it, instead of finding reasons to avoid doing it.
The key to effective goal setting is to begin with your big dream and end with an actionable goal that will move you in the direction of your dream. The key is to continue to pairing down your dream until you feel empowered to act upon it.
Let’s walk through an example of someone who wants to be a millionaire.
- I want to be a millionaire.
Is this a dream or a goal? It is a dream, because the person who makes this statement is usually stuck in a job they do not like, in which they are earning, far, far, far less than a million dollars a year. There is nothing they can do today to make a million dollars. It is a nice dream, but it is a fantasy because it is not actionable. So what would a scaled back version of the dream be?
- I want to have extra income that is going to help me become a millionaire.
Now this statement is better. There are numerous ways in which you can earn extra income. You can pick up a second job, you can sell something you already own, you can start a business and sell services or products you are providing, you can begin investing in real estate, etc. Will all or any of these result you making a million dollars? Maybe, or maybe not. But the problem with this statement is that it is still too vague. What action are you going to take to earn the extra income?
- I want to start a business that is going to produce income that is going to enable me to become a millionaire.
This statement is better. But what if you have never started a profitable business before? Then it is not really actionable. Is it possible to start a profitable business in a single day? For some people it is! But are you one of those people? Probably not, so let’s scale this back further to something we know we can accomplish today. Also what type of business is this going to be?
- I want to start an online business in which I am teaching people how to set goals.
See now we are getting more specific about what the nature of the business would be, but is it actionable yet? Because “starting a business” is such a vague statement, we want to be more objective in our goals. We want to be able to clearly determine yes/no did we accomplish our goal?
- I am going to register for a domain name and write a blog post, that hopefully I can turn into an online business in which I am teaching people how to set goals that is going to contribute to me becoming a millionaire.
Now this is a real goal, because for most people this would be actionable and achievable today! And importantly the goal that is connected to a dream you have to become a millionaire. Is there any guarantee that the business will become a success and that you will earn a million dollars through teaching people how to set goals? Nope. But success is never guaranteed in any endeavor by anyone. Taking action is the key to progress. You could begin the blog, begin teaching people how to set goals, and then pivot to doing something else. Maybe you find out that people really want to learn how to cook low-fat meals instead. You will never know until you begin taking action. You can only begin where you are.
To be actionable means that your goal is an activity you can reasonably predict that you can perform or accomplish within a specific period of time. The time period could be within an hour, a day, or a week. But you should never have a goal that you believe will take you more than two weeks to accomplish.
Goals that extend beyond two weeks begin to become daunting, and you begin finding and making excuses as to why you were unable to achieve them. Life tends to get in the way. But anyone can sit down and focus for two weeks for something that is important to them, including you.
If you think your goal may take you more than two weeks to accomplish it, then you still need to scale it back further and make it even more immediately actionable.
Now here is another example of goal setting, this time it is someone who wants to lose weight.
- I want to lose 100 pounds and have six pack abs.
This is clearly a dream. Do you think the person who wants to lose 100 pounds feels at all empowered to make this a reality? Probably not. Is there any possible way for this person to lose 100 pounds within two weeks? Nope.
- I want to begin exercising more and eating healthier so that I can lose 100 pounds and have six pack abs.
This is better, but it is still a bit vague. What does this person mean by “exercising more” and “eating healthier”?
- I want to go to the gym today and walk one mile on the treadmill, and I am going eat at least one vegetable with dinner tonight.
Now this is actionable goal that will move you in the direction of your dream. Will walking one mile on the treadmill and eating a vegetable with dinner cause you to lose 100 pounds if you don’t do anything else? Nope.
But what it will do is get you from making excuses as to why you cannot achieve to dream to taking action on your dream. You goals enable you to build up action-taking momentum.
And as you progress on your journey towards your dream you will find that taking action becomes easier and easier over time. A car uses more fuel going from 0 to 1 mile per hour, than it does going from 60 to 65 miles per hour. Why is that? Because it already has action-taking momentum.
The key to effective goal setting is to begin with your dream, but then continue to scale your goal back until it becomes actionable for you today. A goal without a dream is just a task, and dream without a goal is nothing but a fantasy, and neither will help you improve your life today.
When you are just beginning on whatever journey you on, whether is is building a business, losing weight, finding the love of your life, making a million or even a billion dollars, or whatever other dream you may have, it is important that you scale your dream back until you have a goal you can accomplish or at least begin taking action on today.
Every morning, take out a piece of paper and write down your dream. Every morning scale back your dream until you arrive at an actionable goal you can take today.
Every evening, write down your dream. Every evening, write down what you did to move yourself closer to your dream today.
Every evening take a moment and congratulate yourself, acknowledge your successes (no matter how small they may seem), because a journey can only be completed one step at a time.