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Personal Goals- Where Do You Go From Here?
By Rich Meiss • Friday, February 8, 2008

The People Puzzle Series Vlll: Puzzle Piece #6
In this series of articles we have been learning about the many factors that help us understand more about ourselves – our smarts, our natural talents, our values and attitudes, and our behavioral style. We have learned that who we are today is largely the result of past influences and programming, plus the collective decisions we have made about our lives. And who we will be in the future will largely be determined by the new information we learn and apply and the decisions we make for our future. Remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it.
So now we come to the conclusion of our journey – although in many ways it is just the beginning – by looking at our life’s expectations and setting some goals. What is it that we really want out of life? What kind of career do we want? How much money would we like to make? What kind of life experiences do we want for ourselves and our family? What do we want to be, do and have? These are the questions we will consider in this chapter.
Before we begin to set goals, let’s reflect again on the power of expectations, a subject we touched on in the attitudes article. Researchers are just beginning to discover the power that faith, imagination and expectations hold over each of our lives. Parents who understand this power usually rear their children with high expectations. Families like the Kennedy’s, Bush’s and Rockefellers convince their children that they will grow up to be governors, senators, presidents, or the heads of major corporations or philanthropic organizations. And most often they do. If a child is not performing up to expectations, they hire private tutors or coaches, or send them off to Ivy League colleges to sharpen their minds and develop their skills and contacts. Few things are left to chance, and the high expectations are often met.
In less prosperous families there are usually fewer opportunities to achieve because of limited finances. However, with a good sense of self, lots of imagination and determination, and a few breaks along the way, many people have become top performers in their fields even though starting out with limited means. Many examples of this abound in our world today. One such example is that of Colin Powell. Raised in a poor section of New York City, Powell nevertheless had a support system of extended family that believed in him and held him accountable for his actions. He did well in school, eventually joining the military and rising to the position of five-star general. Of course most Americans will remember him for his outstanding leadership in the Gulf War and as Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration.
Today we are learning more about the power of expectations and attitudes to heal us more quickly and even keep us from dying. Doctors Carl and Stephanie Simonton in Texas, for example, have shown a direct link between attitudes and expectations and cancer. A positive set of attitudes decreases the odds against developing cancer and can even cause remission and healing among those who do develop the disease. Doctors have long been fascinated with the study of medical practitioners who work for months and years in the midst of epidemics, but who do not contract the diseases they are treating. The apparent reason is that those people who feel good about themselves and the services they are performing have much stronger physical defenses against disease. The values, attitudes and expectations you hold about yourself, others, and life in general can make all the difference even in life-or-death situations.
While many of our attitudes and expectations are learned as a result of our early programming, each of us also has a choice in how we manage our life. If we want control over our destiny, we need to look intently at the choices we have made and the ones we are making. Choosing to live life with aware choices is the first step toward living a more successful life. And this choice begins by developing and setting goals. Dr Maxwell Maltz, the author of the best-seller Psycho-Cybernetics, said that “everyone has a built-in goal striving mechanism. It operates as a success mechanism – or a failure mechanism – depending on whether we feed it success goals or failure goals.” So let’s set some success goals.
How to Set Goals
Let’s begin our goal setting process by considering how balanced our life is. Think about the balance that you have in your Be Goals (mental, physical, family/social, and spiritual), Do Goals (career and community) and Have Goals (financial and material). Most people who are first exposed to the concept of goal setting write down things that they want to do or things they want to have. And while these are important aspects of goal setting, I suggest that you start with goals of what you want to BE. 
We learn about Jesus as a person from the Bible, Luke 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” This suggests that He was growing mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. That is a good goal setting model to follow. Then once we have determined our BE goals, we can work on our DO goals. What do I want to do in my job or career? What do I want to do in my community, or in my religious organization? Finally, we can list our HAVE goals. What do I want to have, both financially and materially?
Think of the entire goal setting process as a series of three concentric circles. The BE goals are in the inside circle, the DO goals are in the second circle, and the HAVE goals are in the outside circle.
After determining how balanced your life is, begin to set some goals for the rest of your life. Think about how you can have SMART goals. Your goals should be:
            S – Specific
            M – Measurable
            A – Attainable, with stretch
            R – Real to you
            T – Time related
Make the goal specific so the mind can relate to it. (Not “I want to make a lot of money” but “I will earn $___________ this year”.) Make it measurable. Determine how you will know when you have reached your goal. Make it attainable, with stretch. Psychologist and Author Denis Waitley advises us to set our goals “just out of reach, but not out of sight”. Make the goal real for you. Make sure it is your goal, not your parent’s, your spouse’s, or your boss’s goal. And have a specific time frame in mind for attaining it.
First Step: Set Specific Goals.
 Begin your goal setting by focusing on who you are and what it is that you really want out of life. Too often we look at all the reasons why we can’t accomplish something, or at all the barriers in the way. A few years ago while at Circus World in Florida, I learned an important aspect of setting goals. I took part in what they called “participation circus”, where audience members became part of the act. I got to walk the tightrope. For safety reasons, they strapped me to a harness that was attached to a rope. Even if I fell, I would not be in any danger.
Yet despite being strapped in, it was scary to be up high on a thin wire. My body was not very steady, and the wire was flexible and moved easily under my feet. One of the first instructions I received was to concentrate on where I was going to end up rather than to look at my feet or the wire. And while it was difficult to do that at first, I found that as I concentrated on the end result I made good progress, and when I looked down I would tend to wobble and fall. The lesson was an important one. To achieve your goal, you need to focus on where you want to go. Avoid thinking about the obstacles, because “obstacles are the fearful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
Third Step: Take Action
Begin to list the “how to’s” to accomplish your goals. Sometimes you will find that you know the action steps to pursue to accomplish your goal, and at other times they will be unknown. When you know the action steps for accomplishment, begin to implement them. You will break your goals down into sub-goals, list the activities it will take to achieve the goals, and then begin taking action on the activities. This will move you down the path to achievement.
The more difficult goals to reach will be those where you do not know the action steps for accomplishment. This is where you will allow your creative brain to take over. Set the goal, stay focused on its accomplishment, and begin to take action on ideas that you receive from your creative imagination. The brain will start to give you strategies. The greatest example of how this works was President Kennedy’s bold goal set in 1960 “to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.” It is estimated that only about 15% of the knowledge needed to accomplish this goal was known at the time the goal was set. But the bold goal, set with a firm belief and a timetable to make it happen, was accomplished in 9 years through the collective efforts of an inspired team.
Senator Smathers of Florida reported visiting the space center before deciding whether or not to vote for dollars to fund this bold goal. He was inspired to vote ‘yes’ by a janitor, who when asked what he was doing said: “I’m doing my part to put a man on the moon!”
After setting your goal for which you don’t yet know the action steps for accomplishment, begin to build the belief that you can accomplish the goal. Affirm the goal daily, and ask your brain for ideas on how to accomplish the goal. Then go about doing the things that you need to do to make your life productive and successful. Your brain will go to work on the problem, and at some unexpected moment you will have that “AHA” experience.
 A simple example of how this works is when you see someone you know in a room full of people. You avoid them initially because you can’t recall their name. You tell your brain to find the name for you, and then you go about meeting and talking with others. Suddenly, perhaps in the middle of a conversation with another person, your mind spits out “Bob Jackson”. The brain has given you the answer to your goal of finding the name.
Try this sometime to see how well it works, and then apply this idea to the accomplishment of goals for which the actions to achieve are not immediately apparent.
Second Step: Reinforce Your Belief in Your Goal
Once you have set your specific goals, you are ready to build the belief that you can accomplish them. This is an important step because to paraphrase an old saying: “A brain convinced against its will is of the same opinion still.”   Each of us carries around a set of beliefs about ourselves and our abilities. And until we can convince this belief set that we ARE capable of achieving something, we will be unable to do it.
Researchers have given this “belief set” a variety of names, including our self image, our robot, or our thermostat. Using the analogy of a thermostat helps me understand how this works. Set the temperature to a certain level and the thermostat works to move the temperature to that “set point”. When a window gets opened or the stove is on and the temperature goes up or down, the appropriate action is taken to move the temperature back to its “set point”. Each of us has a mental thermostat as well. We set that thermostat at a certain level in line with our beliefs. Then when we over-perform or under-perform, our mental thermostat brings us back to our set level. To move to a higher level of performance, we must reset our mental thermostat.
There are at least three good ways to reset our mental thermostat: 1) Use positive affirmations, or self-talk, 2) Use positive mental images and real pictures, 3) Surround yourself with a positive support system and environment. In the article on Attitudes we discussed the importance of positive self-talk and gave a variety of examples of how to make this work for you. Remember the three P’s of self-talk: keep it personal, positive, and in the present tense. “I weigh a slim, trim 165 pounds” is much more powerful than “I need to lose 15 pounds”. As you repeat the positive self-talk over and over again each day you will begin to move your “belief set” higher and accomplish your goals.
Using positive mental images and/or real pictures also helps to reinforce our belief. Many high achievers use the process of “visualization” to accomplish their goals. We spoke earlier of Stevie Cauthen winning the Triple Crown in his imagination nine years before he ever accomplished it in real life. Golfing great Jack Nicklaus says he never hits a golf shot before first imagining where he wants it to go. Bill Gates imagined a “computer on every desk in America” long before Microsoft dominated the software market. These winners vividly imagined their end results and visualized them into reality. I know the process works also, based on my earlier story about imagining myself becoming a speaker and trainer and having that become a reality.
A good way to reinforce our belief is to cut pictures out of magazines and make a “success poster” of goal accomplishment. In a goal setting seminar I experienced early in my career, we cut out pictures of people, ideas and things we wanted to be, do or have and pasted them on a poster. I remember my first poster having pictures of well-known speakers and influencers on it – people whom I wished to emulate in my career. You may know some of these names: Art Linkletter, Bob Conklin, Rich DeVos, Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones, Norman Vincent Peale, Cavett Robert, Robert Schuller and Zig Ziglar were on my original poster. Even today as I write the words to this article I can look up and see my current ‘goal poster’ with pictures reminding me of what I want to accomplish.
Finally, to build belief we need to surround ourselves with positive people and an environment that is conducive to our success. The old saying is really true: “You can’t soar with the eagles if you hang around with turkeys!” This is not to say that people are turkeys, but sometimes we need to carefully choose our companions and the environments we hang out in. Associate with others who have accplished what you want to do. Avoid those people who tend to only complain about life and drag you down with their negative attitudes. Choose environments where you are challenged to learn and grow. Choose to watch positive and inspirational television and read some good books. All of these ideas will assist you in building the belief you need to reach your goals.
Fourth Step: Continue to Learn
Once you have set your goals, reinforced your beliefs and begun to take action, you may need to learn additional skills and knowledge to reach your goals. This is the part of the process that many goal setting systems fail to mention or do not emphasize. Sometimes we think that goals are accomplished almost magically, and yet there is a very scientific system of achievement involved. And part of that system is to develop the needed skills and knowledge.
What skills will you need to reach your goals? Do you need to learn how to use a computer, how to sell, how to perform surgery, or how to coach and manage people? Maybe certain habits will be required to be successful? And what habits will need to be broken or replaced? Habits such as good time management, the persistence to complete a task, and being courteous to others are important to success in life. Finally, what knowledge will you need to acquire to make your goals happen? 
As our society becomes more and more complex, specialized knowledge is often needed to achieve certain goals. By developing your skills and knowledge, you are moving further along the road to goal accomplishment.
Once you have completed these steps of the goal-achievement system it is necessary to continually check up on how you are doing. Take action on as many known strategies as possible. As you do so, look for ways to improve. Review your goals often, preferably daily. Be open to revising your goals. Sometimes you will find your goals to be in conflict with your values and you need to revise them to be more aligned with who you really are. And hopefully you will find that occasionally you achieve a goal, and then you need to celebrate its success and move on to set another goal. The system will continue to work for you year after year as you enjoy more and more success!
There are few things in life that are more satisfying than determining what is most important to you, writing those things down in the form of goals, and then accomplishing them. Enjoy the process of setting your goals and achieving them!
The Personal Goal Planner ($12.00) will help you determine and accomplish your goals.  Free shipping if you mention this article when placing your order for the survey.
© Copyright 2008. Meiss Education Institute. All rights reserved.
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