Maxwell Maltz, who wrote the great classic Psycho-Cybernetics, says that we humans are goal-setting creatures. As infants, our goals are to be fed, cuddled, have our nappies changed, and be provided with a variety of stimulus. As toddlers we want our parents’ attention / love / approval; we want that packet of biscuits in the supermarket; we want more dessert than vegies…
Then it becomes important to us to win our footy match (score goals!) or the art competition, pass our exams, or take that girl out to the school dance… As adults we want to land the job of our dreams, travel to South America or buy that particular car; we want a life partner, a house, financial abundance…
Basically, we humans are ‘wanters’. And so we should be. Wanting is a sign of life – more than that, it’s a sign that you want to grow. And growth is what life on this planet is all about.
Look around you. Everything is growing, expanding, developing. It was designed that way. Whether you are a plant, an animal or a human, life is going to deliver opportunities to you to make sure that you grow. Sometimes they’ll be challenging and uncomfortable, but that’s on purpose because growth occurs on the edge of our comfort zone. When we’re sitting inside our comfort zone there’s no real growth happening; when we’re outside it, uncomfortable, that’s when there’s true opportunity for growth.
The Science of Getting Rich is another great classic. It was written by Wallace B Wattles, who says: “The purpose of nature is the advancement and development of life. Every individual should have all that can contribute to the power, elegance, beauty and richness of life.” “A person’s right to life means his right to have the free and unrestricted use of all the things which may be necessary to his fullest mental, spiritual and physical unfolding.”
So ‘want away’! But don’t want in vain. If you want to achieve your wants, you’ll want to apply some simple principles. And that’s what this article is about.
There are lots of different ideas about goal-setting – how to word a goal, whether to apply a time frame, how often to write it or read it… The right way is the way that works for you, but before you pull out your Notebook, just take a moment to consider this. Dr John Demartini is an inspiring teacher and author who has some pretty interesting stuff to say about goals. He believes that most people set ‘fantasy goals’ and set themselves up for disappointment because they focus only on the pleasurable aspects of their goal and delude themselves about its – cue spooky music – other side…
You see, every goal has its price. If you want to win a race or do well in a test, you have to train or study. If you want to host a wonderful party, you'll have lots to do - send out the invitations, cook, clean, decorate, arrange the music...
Often we forget about the price and just think about the bright side of what want. We decide we would like to get 100% on an exam or live in the country or write a best-seller because we are just dwelling on the lovely aspects of our goal.
Writing The Mastery Club and having it win an international award and receive recognition from around the world is a dream come true for me - but alongside the positives have been lots of work, lessons, frustration, and other drawbacks.
Make sure you are clear about the price you will have to pay to achieve your goal. Being able to see both the positive and negative sides means you are making a balanced decision when you set your goal. It’s wise to embrace both the pain/price and pleasure of your goal, and then achieving the goal becomes a journey that evolves you, that causes you to grow.
(Which is what it’s all about, remember?)
Also be sure that you are setting a goal that you truly want. Don’t be swayed into adopting the goals that the people around you have for you, and don’t covet the goals of distant heroes. Your job is to go after the thing that makes your heart sing, that inspires you. It’s much easier to stay motivated and committed to a goal that is truly important to you and aligned with your values, than to a goal that you think you ‘should’ achieve.
How big should your goal be? Big enough to inspire you and challenge you, not so big that it daunts you so much that you never begin. Set goals that are achievable within a time frame, like swimming x laps in y time, or reading half an hour every day from an uplifting book, or speaking to three new people every day with the intention of leaving them smiling at the end of the conversation… But also think about your life purpose. Maybe you feel that your mission is to inspire people to live healthy lives by the way you live yours. Missions shouldn’t be locked into time frames; they are supposed to be very big and inspiring.
A smart thing is to take your really big goals and break them down into smaller chunks. Track backwards from the awesome outcome to the simple step you can take today. If you want to be a famous actress, first you’ll have to be in a famous play or movie. If you want to be in a famous movie you’ll have to be considered good enough an actor to given the part. If you want to be considered good enough you’ll have to have studied acting or had some experience – and you’ll probably need to be on an agent’s list. To get some experience (and get on that list) you’ll have to apply for courses, join amateur theatre companies… Today’s step might be pulling out the phone and making a few enquiries.
Most people recommend expressing a goal in positive language – “I am winning/healthy/achieving honours…” rather than negative – “I am losing weight/not shy any more…” It’s also a good idea to formulate your goal in the present tense, as if it’s happening right now, rather than in the future tense. Every time you say “I will be fitter” you are affirming that it will happen – some time in the distant future. It’s important to directionalise your brain towards the experience you want to create by using language that is stated in the positive and in present tense. Did you know that your brain can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined? How handy is that! Just keep your eye on your outcome and sooner or later it will eventuate.
Whoah! Did I say that? Let me toss a curly one in here: not all of your goals will eventuate. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. If the goal is really important to you, keep faith in it, take your feedback, adjust, and hang in there, and it probably will eventuate. But sometimes they don’t. No big deal. Take a moment to check in: is this goal really for the highest good of all concerned?
I believe that we always get what we need, but we don’t always get what we want. Doesn’t mean you stop wanting – that’s natural, remember? But sometimes things don’t happen in the order or timing that we want. I happen to believe that there is a divine order to life in this cosmos, and when something doesn’t happen as I want it to, I stop and ask some questions. We are presented with challenges and delays and obstacles so that we’ll go inside ourselves, reflect, become resourceful and develop our character. (After all, if things were left to us, all we’d choose would be ice cream and holidays, and where would the growth be in that?)
Ralph Marston says “The value of an ambitious goal is not measured by what it will bring to you. The worth of a goal is measured by what it will make of you in the process of following and attaining it… What matters is not how realistic or practice a l your objective may be, but how much it compels you to push beyond your limitations.”
Here’s my last little tip: write your goals down. There’s a pretty famous study about goal-setting that was conducted at Harvard in which they found that only 3% of graduates of an MBA program actually had written goals and plans, but ten years later that 3% were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of graduates all together. Money isn’t everything, but that little point about the importance of writing your goals down seems like a tip worth knowing, doesn’t it?
So, you ‘wanters’, get clear about what you want and go for it!
PS If you want help along the way, read personal development books, listen to CDs, attend seminars, and find yourself a mentor. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve quoted quite a few people in this article – that’s because I’ve spent my life reading, listening to CDs, attending seminars, and gathering mentors. And that’s because I’m committed to growing and achieving my goals. It’s a blast when they’re realised!
© Liliane Grace 2008
Liliane Grace is a Melbourne-based freelance writer and speaker, and author of the award-winning book for youth, The Mastery Club – See the Invisible, Hear the Silent, Do the Impossible. www.themasteryclub.com.au She is also the mother of three gorgeous teenagers!