Why do we set goals? What’s the real benefit of writing down your goals and going after them anyway?
Have you ever felt worried that if you do set goals and then don’t achieve them that’ll make you feel bad? Don’t worry, it’s a common experience.
First, let’s talk about goals themselves. In a study at Yale University in the 1950’s, a class was asked “Who here wrote down your goals this year?” It turned out only 3% of the class had written down their goals. As a case study they studied that class for the next twenty years to see what the effect would be, and at the end of the twenty years they found that the 3% that wrote down their goals were worth more financially than the rest of the class (97%) combined. Wow! The 3% that actually wrote down their goals were so much more financially successful! How is that?
Well, as Confucius says, “The person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.” If you don’t know where you’re going in life, how are you supposed to get there? Makes sense, right?
I speak all over the world, doing around 100 presentations a year and I regularly ask the audience “How many people wrote down their goals this year?” And guess what? About 3% of each audience consistently raises their hands. So not much has changed since the 1950’s – the majority of people don’t have any goals.
I regularly hear people say “Just because I haven’t written down my goals it doesn’t mean I don’t have any goals.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s exactly what it does mean. If you haven’t written down your goals, then you haven’t taken the first step towards your goals. Even if the goals are floating around in your head, it’s just the same as having no goals. If you’re not going to take step number 1 then why would you think that you’re going to take any of the other steps to achieve your goals? If you don’t do step number 1 then there are no other steps.
So let’s go through this process now so you can see how beneficial it is to have goals and write them down. This is going to do amazing things for your life.
You see, we all start at a place in life called BIRTH, and we wind up at a place called…DESTINY. Not death! (death is not the end, it’s only the beginning of the next chapter). As we’re going through life, we set these things called goals along the journey. Why? To give us direction.
In his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra says “We are in the field of infinite possibilities”. What does he mean by that? He means that from wherever you are in any direction, the full 360 degrees around you, you’ll see that infinity is from right where you’re standing and goes off in any direction. So basically you are right in the centre of your universe, and you have the possibility to go in any direction and do anything you set your mind to. Yet if you don’t take any step, you stand there and stagnate. You stagnate because the whole universe is evolving and if you’re not evolving, then you’re dissolving. There is only growth or decay. If you’re not moving in one direction, then by default you’re moving in the other. Nothing stays the same.
So the reason why we set goals is because goals give our life direction. Goals get us in motion. Now here’s where it gets really awesome. As we work towards goals, we need to take actions and each action sets off a ripple effect. It’s like throwing a pebble into a pond where the pebble creates the first ripple, and then that first ripple creates the second ripple, and then the ripples expand as they move outward from the original ripple. This is also known as the processional effect. It comes down to the Newton’s Law of Relativity: every action creates an opposite and equal reaction.
We can have two kinds of ripples. – positive ripples or negative ripples. These are feedback from the actions you’re taking. If you take positive action, you’ll get positive feedback. Negative action attracts negative feedback, and if we get negative feedback then we just need to change the actions we’re taking. Again, it’s the goal that got us to start taking the actions, and it’s the actions that starts producing the results. As you sow, so shall you reap. Whatever you plant is what you’ll grow.
For example, if you take one apple seed and you plant and nurture it, it grows into an apple tree (not just one more apple). That apple tree can have many fruits on it, and each fruit can have a number of seeds in it. If you took all that fruit with all their seeds from that one tree, that started from that original first seed, you can create an entire orchard.
So as you see, the growth that happens in the ripple effect is bigger than the goal itself. It’s never about the goal it’s always about the growth. For example, who did you become going after your GDGs? What skills did you learn? What strategies did you have to put into action? What networking or relationships did you build along the way? As you see you expand yourself in the way you think, the way you operate, your wisdom, your whole life experience…by going after your goals.
If you’re going to set goals, make them Grand Dream Goals (GDGs). GDGs are the goals that give you the most amount of joy to experience or the most amount of benefit. If you’re going to go for goals then you might as well go for grand, right?
We’re all going to die at the same time in life – when you’ve just achieved one goal and you’re on the way to the next goal. Somewhere in between these two points life’s going to come to an end. Do you want to die after just having achieved a small, adquate goal, on your way to the next small, adequate goal? Or do you want to end your journey after a GDG on your way to the next GDG? The last one sounds better, right?
And if you’re worried about failing at achieving the actual goal, think about the growth along the way. Think about all the new people you’ll get to meet, the new opportunities that will present themselves, the new networking connections – all the things that will happen that are a ripple effect of taking the action of setting the goal. It’s huge! Even if you fail at the specific goal, the growth far way outweighs the specific goals. As I said, it’s never about the goal, it’s always about the growth.
So get yourself into action NOW. Get in motion and take immediate action. Write down some GDGs for yourself that really inspire you. Tell yourself “I don’t know how I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do it anyway.” That frees you of having to have all the answers before you even get started. Be consistent with the action towards your GDGs every day and it will blow your mind what you can produce in life!