Tips for Setting Goals
A clinical associate professor of psychiatry, Dr. Ari Kiev, writes, “Observing the lives of people who have mastered adversity, I have noted that they have established goals and sought with all their effort to achieve them. From the moment they decide to concentrate all their energies on a specific objective, they began to surmount the most difficult odds.”
Dr. Kiev continues, “The establishment of a goal is the key to successful living. And the most important step toward achieving an objective is first to define it. I’m sure you have at least 30 minutes a day in which to list your thoughts. At the end of that time, choose from the possible objectives you have listed, the one that seems the most important, and record it separately on a single card. Carry this card with you at all times. Think about this goal every day. Create a concrete mental image of the goal, as if you’ve already accomplished it.”
The doctor points out, “You can determine your special talents or strengths in a number of ways, ranging from psychological tests to an analysis of the unexpressed wishes in your dreams. No method works for everyone. You might start, for example, by clipping and posting newspaper articles that interest you. After 30 days, see if there isn’t some trend suggestive or a deep-seated interest of natural inclination. Keep alert to the slightest indications of any special skills or talents, even when they seem silly or unimportant.
“From this exercise, you should be able to get some sense of potential strengths. Whenever you discover a strength or talent, think of five possible ways to develop it. Write these down on a card as well, and check them periodically to keep them fresh in your mind.”
So take the good advice of psychiatrist Dr. Ari Kiev, and don’t be afraid of failure. As Herodotus wrote, “It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what may happen.”
Uncover Your Primary Goal
If you are like so many millions who don’t know what it is you want sufficiently to name as your primary goal, I recommend you make out a want list.
Take a note pad, go off by yourself, and write down the things you’d really like to have or do very much. One might be a beautiful new home or a trip around the world, a visit to some special country or place. It might be a yearning for a sailboat or motor yacht, or if you’re an avid fisherman, you might want to go salmon fishing in Alaska or trout fishing in New Zealand. It might be a business of your own or a particular position with your company. It might be a certain income that will permit you to live the way you’d like to live. Or, a certain amount of money in good investments or in a savings account. How about a special make of car? Or an addition to your present home?
Just write down everything you can think of that you would really like to see come about in your life. Then when you’ve exhausted your wants, go over the list again and number the items in the order of their importance, and make number one your present goal.
What Is Your Intermediate Goal?
Did you ever see Jack Nicklaus play golf? He was a golfing phenomenon never before seen in the world of golf, winning more major championships and money than any other golfer who ever lived. Yet if you watch him carefully, you can learn more than how to lower your handicap. You can learn a key strategy for success.
Each time Jack got ready to hit the ball, he’d have an intermediate aiming point, just a short distance from the ball. This intermediate aiming point was on line with the route he wanted the ball to travel. He would look down the fairway toward the green, then at the intermediate aiming point, then at the ball. His first task was to get the ball to pass over the intermediate point. If it did that, it would probably land very near the point on the fairway or green he had selected. It was always interesting watching his head and eyes move to the intermediate point, then to the distant point, then back to the intermediate point and back to the ball.
When he was ready, and not a moment before, he would uncork that legendary swing that left the gallery gasping and whooping with admiration and wonder. The ball would compress flat and be off and away on its considerable journey. It was the same with his short irons near the green. He always had an intermediate point with which he could line up his club head and the ball. We need intermediate aiming points, too, before we can successfully reach a substantial distant goal.
To write a book, one must write the first chapter, then the second, then the third, and so on. The book is first in outline form. The chapters are roughly sketched as to subject matter and content. One can get a mental picture of the book in final form with its color dust jacket coming from the printer; that’s the goal. But first, there’s that first chapter, then the second, and so on. Each chapter must be successfully completed as an integral part of the project before the project’s complete.
And it’s much the same with our big goals and how we look at goal achievement. All we can see is it as completed, with ourselves right in the middle of it. There we are; the job’s done. That’s where we want to land. But first there are the intermediate points to successfully complete. And it’s the intermediate points that often prove too much or too difficult or too time-consuming for the person to spend all that time completing and polishing. These are often the core skills, vital to the completion of the final project. Here we find the person who wants to amaze a friend through his skill at the piano but doesn’t want to put in the time and effort to learn to play. This is the person who’s forever looking for shortcuts. He or she daydreams, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of the intermediate goals, ah, that’s too hard or boring or time consuming. Want to write books? How about mastering the language first? Want to get rich in real estate? Study the business first.
The first step of the successful person is commitment. There are no ifs or buts about it. He or she is fully 100 percent committed to the achievement of the goal and willing to take whatever intermediate steps are required. When bridges are burned, there’s no escape route on which to come tiptoeing back when things get rough.
Commitment to all the intermediate goals, 100 percent. When that happens, the goal is as good as accomplished.
Fake It Till You Make It
When I was an announcer/writer at radio station KTAR in Phoenix, Arizona, my goal was to become a network announcer in Chicago or New York, the national headquarters of radio at that time. I listened to the network announcers and practiced reading commercials as they did so that the copy sounded spontaneous and ad-libbed. I studied the delivery of every first-class network announcer in the country, and soon I could sound very much like them. Every commercial I read on the air at KTAR, whether for the local mortuary or sporting goods store, I read as though it were a national commercial for the most world-renowned company.
I gave so much pizazz to the local commercials my announcer friends soon dubbed me “Network” and kidded me – found my efforts ludicrous. They were helping me on my way. “Why do you knock yourself out on those ridiculous commercials?” they’d ask. And I would smile and go about my business.
I would listen every day to those men and women who were at the very top of my field, and no matter how mundane the copy or humble a place of business, when I stepped up to the microphone, I had a picture of the entire country listening to every word I spoke. I gave it my very best – always.
And after 2 1/2 years of KTAR in Phoenix, I felt I was ready for the big time. I told my friends I’d soon quit and head for Chicago. My announcement was met with unbelieving stares and the most vociferous arguments. “There are 450 union card – carrying announcers walking the streets of Chicago trying to get work in the big stations there,” I was told. But my mind was made up, and I bought a one-way ticket to Chicago.
In Chicago I took a room at the old Chicagoan Hotel in the Loop, bought a copy of the Chicago Tribune, and turned on my portable radio. There were two target radio stations. They were the two biggest and the best at the time, WBBM CBS in the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue, and WMAQ NBC in the Merchandise Mart. I tackled WBBM first. I’ll never forget that first day in those beautiful, posh surroundings. The marble floors, the uniformed elevator starters, those fabulous brass and glistening hardwood elevators.
Al Morey was program director at the time. He was most cordial and immediately led me to a large nearby studio for an audition. He gave me a fist full of copy that included some tricky commercials and part of a newscast.
The studio was as impressive as the rest of the place, very large for one thing, with a concert grand piano and sound effects paraphernalia. I walked to the standing microphone and looked into the darkened engineer’s room beyond the slanting glass. There was an old-time engineer, and Al Morey nodded his head and threw me a hand cue, and I began.
After my interview he told me he’d let me know, and the next day I repeated the process at WMAQ. Then I waited. Finally, Al Morey called. I not only had the job, I was under contract for more money than I had dreamed of earning. My 2 1/2 years of doing network commercials for a local radio station had paid off, and I was now a CBS network announcer on a station whose coverage blanketed most of the Midwestern United States, to say nothing of the country’s second largest metropolitan market.
Indeed, I had arrived. I was giddy with a sudden inflation of my self-esteem. I was a passable writer, and I could hold my own with any announcer in the country. I was off and running. My preparation had paid off. Where were all those 450 unemployed union card – carrying announcers?
It’s Not the Destination
In the great Greek poem by Constantine Cavafy titled “Ithaka,” we are reminded that it is the voyage and the adventures on the way that count, not the arrival itself.
This seems to be a most difficult truth to understand. This is not to say that a person’s goal in life is unimportant. On the contrary, it’s vital. For without a goal, a distant destination, we would not be on the trip at all. Instead we’d run around in circles, endlessly following the shoreline around our tiny island. Every person needs a great and distant goal toward which to strive. But in traveling toward it, he should try to keep in mind that the fabled land he seeks has shores much like the one he left behind and that its purpose is not so much a resting place but, rather, the reason for the trip.
Where a person goes is not nearly as important as how he gets there. That a house is built is not all that important. It is the manner in which it is built that makes it great, average, or poor. That we live is not nearly as important as the manner in which we live.
Misunderstanding this often keeps people in a state of unhappiness and anxiety. They forget to enjoy the trip. They forget what they’re really looking for, or what they should be looking for: the discovery of themselves. This is the island toward which everyone should journey. It’s a difficult journey, beset, like the travels of Ulysses, with many dangers and hardships. But it gives real meaning to life, and there are many rich rewards to be found along the way – all kinds of serendipitous benefits.
It means asking the questions that are hard to answer: Where am I going? Why am I going there? What do I really want, and why do I want it? Am I gradually realizing my potential? Am I discovering my best talents and abilities and using them to their fullest? Am I living fully extended in my one chance at life on earth? Am I really living? Who am I?
These are the questions everyone must ask himself and answer. As Emerson said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
Whatever you’re looking for must first be found within you, whether it be peace, happiness, riches, or great accomplishments. Everything we do outwardly is only an expression of what we are inwardly. To ask for anything else is as absurd as looking for apples on an oak tree.
So the person who knows what he wants, knows what he must become, and he then fixes his attention on the preparation and development of himself. As he grows toward the ideal he holds in his mind, he finds interest, zest, and joy on the journey.
He looks forward to tomorrow, but he also enjoys today, for it is the tomorrow he looked forward to yesterday. He knows that if he cannot find meaning and value in his present, he will very likely be missing it in his future. Today is the future of five years ago. Are you enjoying it as much as you thought you would? Have you progressed to the point you wanted then to reach?
The Cure for Procrastination
Have you ever noticed that the longer you look at something you should be doing, the more difficult it seems to appear? That the longer you put off something you should do, the more difficult it is to get started?
A good deal of frustration and unhappiness could be avoided if people would just do what they know they should do.
The great newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane once wrote, “Don’t exaggerate your own importance, your own size, or your own miseries. You are an ant in a human anthill. Be a working ant – not a ridiculous insect pitying yourself.” Strong language, maybe, but there’s a lot of sense in it.
A person carrying a heavy weight is all right as long as he keeps moving. The minute he stops, puts the weight on the ground, and sits down to rest, the weight seems to become heavier; the distance to be traveled, greater; and the work, just that much more unpleasant.
Sometimes it must seem to everyone that things have piled up so high that there’s just no way of digging out. But there is. Pick the thing that’s most important to do, and simply begin doing it. Just by digging in, you’ll feel better, and you’ll find that it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it would be. Keep at it, and before long, that pile of things to do that seemed so overwhelming is behind you – finished.
What overwhelms us is not the work itself. It’s thinking how hard it’s going to be. It’s seeing it get larger every day. It’s putting if off and hoping that somehow, through some miracle, it will disappear.
The Chinese have a saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. And that step accomplishes two things. First, it automatically shortens the distance we still have to travel, and, second, and just as important, it makes us feel better, more hopeful – it strengthens our faith. If a person will just keep putting one foot in front of the other, he will be taken into new and exciting places, see new and interesting things, and think thoughts that never would have come to him if he’d remained at the starting point. Then the journey is finished. He wonders how or why he could ever have sat so long and worried and stewed about the time and trouble it would involve to do what he knew he should do.
If you’ll think back, you’ll remember that you’ve always been happiest, most contented, after having finished a difficult project or faced up to a responsibility you were worried about. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and the joy that will come with its accomplishment makes it more than worthwhile.
Work never killed anyone. It’s worry that does the damage. And the worry would disappear if we’d just settle down and do the work.
As Calvin Coolidge put it, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work. Work is not a curse; it is the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilization.”