Imagine for a moment that you are competing against the best archer in the world. He can hit the bull’s eye with one arrow, and then with his next shot, split the first arrow down the middle! Did you know that you could outshoot this archery pro?

“How would I do that?” you say. “I’ve never shot anything but a child’s bow!” The answer is simple. The way you outshoot the master is to blindfold him; and then spin him around a time or two until he loses sight of his target. How could anyone hit a target that they are unable to see? That’s the point – they can’t!

Do you have a target (a goal) to shoot for? This is an important question. Unless you have definite, precise and clearly stated goals that you are committed to achieving, you are not likely to realize the full potential that lies within you. A person without a goal is like a ship without a rudder. They will drift and never make any progress toward an improved future.

Many people without goals end up on the beaches of despair, defeat and despondency. Do people who fail to succeed actually plan to fail? Very few would say failure was intentional. The problem is not that they plan to fail – they just don’t plan anything. If goals are so important, why do only about 3 percent of all Americans commit their goals to paper? There are three basic reasons:

1. They fear that if they set a goal, they may not reach it.
2. They never have been convinced of the value and the power of goals.
3. They don’t know how to set goals.


Let’s examine each of these.

Fear – the great paralyzing emotion
Fear is what stops people in their tracks. Fear keeps them in a comfort zone. Fear causes them to remain stuck, in a rut. One of the primary reasons people fail to set goals is because of fear. There are three kinds of fear. The first is fear of failure. This fear stems from early childhood conditioning when we were taught that failure was a bad thing.

Research shows that goal-oriented people hold the belief that any failure they experience is only temporary. They believe that just because they had a failure or two in the past, this does not mean that they will continue to fail in the future. Top performers never take their failures personally. In their view, having the experience of failure doesn’t mean they are a failure.

The second is fear of change. If you haven’t noticed yet, it seems the only constant nowadays is change. I believe we are living in incredibly wonderful crazy times. Yes, the world is chaotic. Yes, it could mean changes at work, financial insecurity, instability and uncertainty in your life. Yes, it could mean doing things differently and having to learn new skills and gain new knowledge.

However, the fact of the matter is: We need to mentally separate the things that we cannot control and are not responsible for from those things that we can control and are responsible for. These include our attitude, knowledge, preparation and our professionalism. Change can be an exhilarating experience of growth and adventure if we embrace it. A focus on goals enables us to anticipate, adapt and adjust to change. From change comes all opportunity.

The third fear is the fear of rejection. This involves an obsessive concern as to what other people might think. How many times have you held back from setting a goal because you were afraid of what somebody else might think or say? How many dreams have you given up on because someone said, “That’s a dumb idea. That’ll never work! You can’t expect to do that.” How many times have you given in to negative, cynical people just to keep the peace?

Where does the fear of rejection come from? This fear comes from a deep need for approval. You may value other people’s opinions more than you value your own. But consider this: when you conform your behaviors and attitudes to what others may think or feel is best, you lose the opportunity to take control of your own situation and thus, move away from the future that you desire.

The value of goals
People who set goals accomplish more than people who do not. Among the better-known studies that verify this fact was one conducted at Yale in the early 1950s. At that time, researchers surveyed the entire senior class and found only a small percentage (3 percent) of the graduating students had written goals which included the following key attributes:

• Their goals outlined what they planned to achieve and why.
• Their goals itemized the people, situations, knowledge and skills that were necessary for their goals to be achieved.
• Their goals were specific, measurable and they set a date for achievement.
• They had an action plan for reaching their goals.

Twenty years later, researchers revisited the same class and found that in the areas where they could specifically measure achievement (financial and career accomplishment) 97 percent of the net worth of the entire class was controlled by the 3 percent who had written out their goals two decades earlier!

How to set goals
The last reason that people don’t set goals is because they have never been taught how. The following outlines some steps to take as you develop goals.

• Your goals must be built on a solid foundation.

Nothing long lasting can be built unless it rests on a clear knowledge of those things which are most important to you. Goals should be in alignment with your personal mission, i.e. the fundamental things that give your life meaning, purpose and direction.

• Your goals must be for you.

They need to be meaningful and important to you and the important people in your life. Decide what you (not someone else) really want.

• Share your goals with those who can help you to achieve them.

There are two kinds of goals that you need to share with others. “Go-up” goals relate to those areas where you want to do, acquire or achieve something. They may be goals where you desire to share your time and talents, or improve in some skill area. Share these goals with people who will encourage you and help you to achieve them.

“Give-up” goals relate to some habit you are trying to get rid of such as smoking, eating too much, complaining, etc. Share these goals with everybody. When you share your give-up goals with others, they will tend to remind you when you go astray.

• Your goals should make you stretch.

Make them challenging enough to enable you to step out of your comfort zone but not so big that they cause you to panic or not try at all. A big goal will create the excitement necessary for its achievement.

• Your goal must acknowledge your current situation.

Realistically begin from where you are. The most complete map in the world won’t take you anywhere unless you know where you are. You need to have a starting point.

• Your goals must consider any obstacles that stand in the way.

If there was nothing between you and your goal, you would already be there, right? Obstacles are whatever lie between where you are now and where you want to be. After you have listed the obstacles, you can formulate a plan to overcome them.

• Plan on encountering some setbacks.

Occasionally, circumstances arise that are beyond your control. Develop a positive expectancy for winning. When disappointment and discouragement come along, treat every setback, regardless of its severity, as a stepping-stone and not a stumbling block.

• Finally, your goals must be SMART.

Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-limited.

The master-skill of life
Do you want to accomplish more? Do you want to move forward and pursue your dreams? The first step is to set some goals. When you begin the habit of setting goals, something inside of you starts to say, “Let’s go; let’s just do it!” Then, all of sudden, you start to see and do things that you didn’t see or do before. Goal setting is the “master-skill” of life. We have all been created for a purpose. We are here for a reason. That purpose is to live up to our full potential and make a contribution to mankind. Goals enable us to do so. PD

—From Cooperative Resources International website