Studies tell us that only 3% of people in the USA set goals, and they are among the wealthiest people in the nation! Worldwide the percentage is probably lower. Why so low? There are several reasons, but the one that concerns me the most is lack of know-how. When we ask people why they don't set goals they often say, "I don't know how."
Isn't that remarkable? We send children to school for 12 years in America before they graduate from high school. Many of them go on to trade schools, colleges and universities. We teach them many important disciplines including history, economics, literature, science, and so forth, but we miss one critically important skill: goal setting. We award them their degrees, pat them on their backs, and send them into the world full of wisdom, but ill-prepared, almost always, to design and pursue the lives they really want.
And all that's required to change this deficiency is a single semester, even half a semester, devoted to teaching goal setting. It doesn't seem likely that we're going to change the American educational system any time soon, or the world's educational system, but that's not going to stop me from teaching you how to set goals.
The letters and phone calls that I receive are social proof that our goal setting programs work. I know that goal setting will help you change your life for the better, it will help you get what you really want from life. And when you do, that's reason for all of us to celebrate! Whether you're already a goal setter, you used to set goals and quit, or you've never set goals, this lesson will help you build a better life.
Step 1. Dream! Let your imagination run wild while you fill up a blank sheet of paper with everything you want to be, do or have. Many adults have lost their ability to dream and that's unfortunate. By dreaming you instill hope for your future, and with hope there's possibility. So your assignment this week is to dream. During this next week devote at least two private sessions to dreaming. I want you to create a Dream List filled with ideas. Your list should include at least 25 dreams about what you want to be, do or have.
Step 2. After you complete your list, wait 24 to 48 hours and read each item on your list and answer the question: Why? If you can't verbalize in one sentence why you want to be, do or have this dream, then it's not a dream and it won' become a goal. Cross it off your list.
Step 3: Ask the following five questions of every dream on the Dream List you created last week.
1. Is it really MY goal?
2. Is it morally right and fair to everyone concerned?
3. Is it consistent with my other goals?
4. Can I emotionally commit myself to finish this goal?
5. Can I "see" myself reaching this goal?
You must answer "yes" to all five questions for each goal, or cross that goal off your list.
Here are some points to ponder: Is it really MY goal or is it a goal someone else wants me to pursue? Is it the right thing to do? Will achieving this goal distract from achieving other goals? Goals are often difficult to achieve. Are you sure you can make the commitment to pursue this goal and see it through? If you can't "see" yourself reaching this goal, you probably won't.
Take time during this week to think about the questions above and answer them. Once you're finished, your Dream List will probably be a bit shorter than when you started out. That's okay because you're now closer to identifying the goals that you really will pursue and can achieve.
Step 4: Ask the following seven questions of every dream that remains on your Dream List (or goals list).
Will reaching this goal . . .
1. make me happier?
2. make me healthier?
3. make me more prosperous?
4. win me more friends?
5. give me peace of mind?
6. make me more secure?
7. improve my relationships with others?
If you can't answer "Yes" to at least one of these questions for each goal, eliminate that goal from your list. Be sure to consider your family when you answer these questions. And do not confuse pleasure with happiness!
Here we go with Step 5: After asking the questions posted in Step 4 you will have eliminated some of your goals. Actually, they were not goals, just thoughts or desires at this point, so you're better off without them.
Separate your remaining list of goals into one of three categories: Short-range (one month or less to achieve this goal), Intermediate (one month to one year to achieve this goal), or Long-range (one year or more to achieve this goal).
This step will help you quickly determine whether or not you have a balanced perspective between what needs to be done now, versus your dreams for the future.
Remember: Some goals must be BIG to make you stretch and grow to your full potential. Some goals must be long-range to keep you on track and greatly reduce the possibility of short-range frustrations. Some goals must be small and daily to keep you disciplined. Some goals must be ongoing. Some goals (i.e., weight loss, sales success, education, etc.) may require analysis and consultation to determine where you are before you can set the goals. Most goals should be specific. A "nice home" is not as good as a "3,000 square-foot, Tudor- style home with four bedrooms, three full baths, and two living spaces."
Here we go with the final step: After specifically identifying your goals, write them down! It is important that you have a written list of your specific goals. Then you will begin to do the daily, weekly action steps that will take you closer to achieving that goal. Be selective. You may not be able to work on all of your goals at one time! Don,t over do it. If you only have time to complete one or two goals for the remainder of this year, don't apologize. Do a little bit more than you think you can, but do not overextend your time to the point that you don't complete any of your goals. Do not get frustrated by the process! Work the system and it will work for you. I can fill a book with the number of letters that I receive about the effectiveness of this simple goal-setting program. Trust the system.
Once you have identified your goals and plotted the activities that you intend to do to fulfill your goals, pat yourself on the back! You have just spent more time planning your future than most of your friends, relatives or associates will ever invest! Good for you.
Zig Ziglar is known as America's motivator. He is the author of 29 books and numerous audio and video recordings. He brings his message of hope to thousands on the stages at the Get Motivated Seminars.