The Necessity of Goal Setting
The word “goals” seems to be a main dish served up at the start of each New Year. It is a staple of the celebration, like the crystal ball falling in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and the obligatory looking back at the previous year’s’ headlines by every news outlet. Traditions such as these, along with the making or remaking of New Year’s resolutions, may be necessary components to feel that one has fully celebrated the holiday season, and while I am not much for making resolutions, I am a student of setting goals and carefully pursuing them.
In this four-blog series on goals, I would like to address the following topics: 1) The necessity of goal-setting; 2) The problems of goal-setting; 3) The motivation behind goal-setting; and 4) The role of goals in wealth-building. Let’s get started with the first of these, The Necessity of Goal-Setting. I have four thoughts about the importance of goal-setting I want to share with you.
Don’t leave home without a roadmap
Goals help us chart a path to an unknown but desired destination. I am an entrepreneur, one of those risk-taking individuals who seems to thrive on dreaming something big and making that dream become a tangible entity that I hope will produce positive cash flow. I can’t imagine doing that without setting goals. Goals to me are like a roadmap: essential when one has never travelled the road before. We don’t need a map to drive to work, or the store or to our families’ houses, but we definitely need a map (or GPS system) to get to destinations we’ve never been to before and especially those that are a long distance from where we are presently. Many of the roads that we need to travel are new and unknown, and their names are foreign to us. We don’t have the luxury of knowing the landmarks that locals all rely on to show them the way (turn left at the giant oak tree with a bench under it).
The same is true for financial goals, health goals or any kind of personal challenge. There are perhaps many of you reading this who dream very vividly of where you would like to be in life, either now or in your future. Perhaps your dreams include exotic vacation destinations or a luxury vacation house or a cabin on a lake. Perhaps your dreams are of helping your grandkids with college tuition, or you dream of helping to clean the environment or operate a rescue operation for abused children, women, or pets. Whatever YOUR dreams entail, you will not and cannot attain them without a well-designed roadmap of how to achieve them. That map consists of goals – specific actions that achieve measurable progress. There are those who dream and nothing more, and then there are those who dream and plan and set realistic but challenging goals to march them to their destiny. One is a day dreamer; the other is a dream-doer.
Your dreams consist of real places, objects, missions that you have probably never possessed before. They have been unknown to you; so, you must set out a clear path you can follow if you want to successfully arrive where at your destination.
Make your resources work for you
Goals help us make the best of our resources, ensuring we are both efficient and effective. In 1911, Roald Amundsen of Norway and Robert Scott of England were in a race to see who would be the first man to reach the South Pole. Amundsen reached the Pole on December 14, 1911, and then returned with all his men safe and alive. Scott reached the Pole on January 17, 1912. On his return, he and all of his men died. Studying the two men and their preparation and execution of plans shows the superior goal-setting wisdom of Amundsen. He told his men they would travel 20 miles every day, regardless of weather or conditions. Some days they could have traveled much further but chose to stop at this point and regroup. Other days it was a brutal push to make the 20 miles, but by doing so they reached the Pole with sufficient resources to return safely. Scott, on the other hand, would travel 50 miles one day and then be holed up due to weather for the next several days. His food ran out and he and his men died of hunger, exhaustion, and exposure.
Goals are not simply a laundry list of items you want or need; they are a carefully measured set of decisions of what it will take to reach your objective.
Measure and enjoy your progress
Goals give us a measurement of progress, and this encourages us or provokes us to do more. They are goads to challenge us in our accomplishments, they are attainable steps we can climb to reach the top, they are incentives and they can reward us. Anytime you reach a goal, you find an inner satisfaction – a pleasure, a joy, a burst in confidence – that propels you forward. Goals give us that pat on the back and the affirmation that we are worthy of the achievement.
For me, I do not like to have what I did not earn or am not worthy of achieving. The striving and the pushing along with the planning and effort are all what make the achievement sweet. An NFL team that beats a high school team would feel unfulfilled. It not only is a hollow victory, but it actually hurts us to win so unworthily. On the other hand, when that team plays against the number one team with its superior athletes and superstars and beats them; well, that makes victory mighty sweet. They EARNED their victory. They were found worthy of the victory. Goals help us know we have achieved by effort and labor and planning, not by luck or chance or by gift.
Pave the way
Finally, goals pave the way for others coming behind us to follow in our steps and find the success they too hunger for. As I march through this life, I want to leave behind me a well-defined path that the next generation can follow. I believe this poem by Dromgoole says it very well:
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him,
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
I need goals to get me where I believe I must be. I also need goals to leave a bridge for those behind me to follow.
We’ll tackle the problem of goals and goal-setting in our next blog. See you there.