The Motivation of Goals

Big-picture people – the dreamers and idea-factories among us – can too often abandon their dreams when the energy wanes or when stubborn obstacles refuse to budge. It can seem far easier to abandon the dream and chase after another sexy cloud. Cemeteries are filled with dreamers who died chasing a dream or who gave up altogether.

You and I could both begin naming people we know who never connected with their dreams or made countless resolutions but bailed out of those prematurely. Many people are so consistent at quitting on their aspirations that they stop dreaming or stop making resolutions. Why does this happen? I believe the chief cause is their failure to use goals as a means of motivation.

Once again, I use football as an analogy. If a team’s aspiration is to win the conference title or even the Super Bowl, it would appear unlikely for them to do so if they do not have a winning record for their season. And yet, history tells us that many teams that stumble throughout the season and have quite mediocre stats wind up being major contenders in the post-season playoffs. As I write this, I’m thinking of this year’s Dallas Cowboys team. They have a losing record (6-7) and yet are in the hunt for divisional winner and conference champion. Most sports analysts had washed them off the slate, but now those same analysts are talking of their possibilities.

And why? Well, without getting bogged down in football analytics and personnel strengths, the point I want to make is that the coach and the players keep focusing on what they CAN do off the field in practice and planning … the workday goals that they can control. They know and believe they have the talent, and with some decent “breaks” going their way, they could be contenders even for the big game in February.

It is far too easy to become angry or despairing when one loses, whether it is in sports, business, or relationships. But what a person does at the intersection of aspiration and disappointment reveals whether he or she is a champion in their heart, or a wannabe daydreamer. You can hear it in post-game interviews after a team loses. Champions don’t whine, there is no blame-casting, no excuses, but a rather simple, if not philosophical, statement that they will follow their plans for the next game and trust their preparation, talent, and opportunity to get them a win.

That’s the “magic” of goal-setting. You cannot always determine the outcome of a given opportunity, be it relationships or football games or business, but you CAN determine whether you go back to the gym and follow your training regimen and watch the football videos of your next opponent and put together your game plan and practice it.

When a person wins, goals keep his feet grounded and remind him of the work required to attain winning status. When he loses, goals distract him from the loss and offer a detailed plan to execute to prepare for the next game.

Without goals, there is no means of achieving the strategic outcome that may determine success. Without goals there is a wandering, restless spirit that is filled with nervous energy needing to be vented. Without thorough goals, this venting can often be destructive and hurtful to others.

Goals provide focus. Goals provide action. Goals provide a roadmap. Goals give the stressed mind a way to get out of the mental maze. Goals give the body vent to anger and disappointment in healthy ways.

Full disclosure: There are numerous times that a particularly difficult week or disappointing circumstance squelches my appetite to write my blogs or speak before a crowd. We all have those zones of paralysis where we simply are not motivated to do what needs to be done. And in those moments, my tangible goals and my detailed scheduled planning are what revive me. You see, we can’t always wait until the big rush kicks in to inspire us to work or write or speak or perform. If we are leaders, well then, who leads the leader? If I am a motivational speaker trying to arouse a weary crowd, who motivated me beforehand? Many times, I have had a member of a crowd come to me afterwards telling me how de-motivated they were before the session, how they barely wanted to come, but how happy they were that they did and how much my speech motivated them. I am grateful for their words, but I often tell them that they should purchase the recording and keep it close by to motivate them when I am not in town to inspire them personally. I often wonder if they ask themselves what motivated ME before I walked in to motivate THEM.

What DOES motivate me is my game plan, the actions I CAN take to exercise my mind to get my motivator charged. And my goals are just that. My daily goals are what I CAN control, and they give me the inspiration to tackle or accept the obstacles and setbacks that are inevitable in life.

Often the difference between mediocrity and success is the time spent wandering in confusion and disappointment vs. getting right back to the daily regimen to prepare for the next game.  One despairs and quits; the other despairs and rolls up his sleeves and heads to the gym – and I don’t necessarily mean the literal gym – it could be the office, or the warehouse or the production line or the sales team or the financial bookkeeping or engineering. What goals do you have daily to focus your attention and distract you from both success and failure so that you are not victimized by either? Press on! In our last blog of this series, I’ll address the role of goals in wealth-making. Meet you there.