Leader Volume 9, Number 11
Through Goal Setting
Tracy runs Brian Tracy International in Solano Beach, Calif.
(phone 858-481-2977; www.briantracy.com).
He is author of The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success (Berrett-Koehler,
San Francisco, CA, 2000).
The ability to
set goals and make plans for their accomplishment is the ďmaster
skillĒ of success. It is the single most important skill that
you can learn and perfect. Goal-setting will do more to help you
achieve the things you want in life than will anything else
youíve been exposed to. Becoming an expert at goal-setting and
goal-achieving is something that you absolutely must do if you
wish to fulfill your potential. Goals enable you to do the work
you want to do, to live where you want to live, to be with the
people you enjoy, and to become the kind of person you want to
become. And there is no limit to the financial rewards you can
obtain. All you have to do is to set a goal for financial success,
make a plan, and then work the plan until you succeed in that
The payoff for
setting goals and making plans is being able to choose the kind of
life you want to live. So why do so few people set goals?
According to the best research, less than 3 percent of Americans
have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite
their goals on a daily basis. So the reasons why people donít
set goals have been of considerable interest to me. Here are four
reasons why people donít set goals.
They are simply
not serious. Whenever I speak with someone who has achieved
something remarkable, I learn that the achievement occurred after
that person decided to ďget serious.Ē Until you become
completely serious and totally determined about your goals,
nothing really happens.
understand the importance of goals. We find that young people who
begin setting goals very early in life invariably come from
families in which the importance of goals is emphasized. The
discussion that takes place around your family dinner table is one
of the most powerful formative influences in your life. If your
parents didnít have goals, didnít talk about goals, didnít
encourage you to set goals, and didnít talk about people outside
the family circle who had goals and were moving toward a higher
level of achievement, then you very likely grew up with the idea
that goals are not even a part of normal existence. This is the
case for most people. And for many years, it was the case for me.
Fear of rejection
is caused by destructive criticism in early childhood and is
manifested, in adulthood, in the fear of criticism by others. Many
people hold back from setting worthwhile goals because they find
that every time they set a goal, somebody steps up and tells them
that they canít achieve it, or that they will lose their money
or waste their time.
Because each of
us is strongly influenced by opinions of others, one of the first
things that you must learn when you begin setting goals is to keep
your goals confidential. Donít tell anyone about them. Often,
itís the fear of criticism that, more than any other single
factor, stops you from goal-setting in the first place. So keep
your goals to yourself, with one exception. Share your goals only
with others who are committed to achieving goals of their own and
who really want you to be successful and achieve your goals as
well. Other than that, donít tell anybody about your goals, so
no one is in a position to criticize you, or to discourage you
from setting your goals.
set goals because they are afraid that they might fail. In fact,
the fear of failure is probably the greatest single obstacle to
success in adult life. It can hold you back more than any other
reason why you fear failure is simply this: You probably donít
understand the role that failure plays in achievement. Failure is
an indispensable prerequisite for success. All great success is
preceded by great failure. If you wish to fulfill your potential,
you have to be willing to risk failure over and over and over,
because there is no way that you can ever accomplish worthwhile
goals until you have fallen on your face so many times that you
have eventually learned the lessons that you need for great
Now, in order to
be successful, you need to focus your mental and physical energy
in a single direction toward a predetermined objective. People who
are especially energetic or talented have a hard time with this.
They are the ones who try to do several things at once and end up
doing nothing well.
well-defined goals enables you to channel your efforts and focus
your energy toward something thatís important to you.
Goal-setting gives you a target and enables you to develop the
self-discipline to continue working toward your target rather than
becoming distracted and going off in other directions.
Here are five
keys that will help you to reach your goals more effectively. Each
of these keys starts with one of the letters in the word
ďgoals.Ē Whenever you find yourself getting off the track,
simply repeat the word ďgoals,Ē and think about how each
letter stands for a key that just might apply to your current
only difference between a successful person and a failure is that
the successful person has the courage to get started, to do
something, to begin moving toward the accomplishment of a specific
For example, when
I was younger, I realized that because of my limited education, I
was stuck in a low-paying job. I began reading the want ads and
decided that I wanted to work in advertising, especially as a
copywriter. I went to an advertising agency and applied for the
job of writing advertisements. The head of the agency was very
polite, but he told me that I was unskilled and totally unsuited
for the position. He thanked me for coming in and wished me luck.
Now I was back on
the street, but I had a goal. I wanted to be an advertising
copywriter. I immediately took the first step, which was to learn
more about how to write copy, so that I would not be turned down
in the future because of a lack of ability. I went to the local
library and checked out books on the subject of advertising and
copywriting. Over the next 12 months, I read every book in the
library on the subject. Meanwhile, I read magazines and newspapers
and thought about how I could improve their advertising. I wrote
sample advertisements and began taking them to advertising
After 12 months,
two of the largest advertising agencies offered me a job as a
copywriter, and I accepted one of those offers. My income doubled.
I had worked at other jobs in the meantime. But I had never lost
sight of my goal, and I had kept on doing the things that I needed
to do to put myself in a position to eventually achieve my goal.
You, too, may
have a long-range goal. In order to achieve it, you need to sit
down and make a list of all the steps you will have to take to get
from where you are to where you want to be. Then begin with the
first and most obvious thing that you can do on that list.
Complete it, and then start on number two. Donít worry about the
long term. Just concentrate on the obvious first step that you can
take. Surprisingly enough, everything else will take care of
do not wait for opportunities to turn their goals into reality;
rather, they make their
opportunities, because they are perfectly clear about the kind of
life they wish to create. Once you have taken the time to decide
exactly what you want, you will experience an endless flow of
opportunities that will help move you in that direction.
For example, a
young woman worked for me as an executive secretary. At the same
time, she had a goal to be a successful real-estate agent and
investor. So while she worked for me, she regularly took night
courses to get her real-estate-agentís license and also to learn
how to buy and sell real estate profitably. Over the course of a
year, she and her husband bought, fixed up and sold three houses.
They made more money from their real-estate transactions than they
did from their jobs. At the end of the year, she got her
My secretary did
not wait for an opportunity to come to her. She set a goal, made a
plan and went to work to prepare herself for the opportunity when
hesitate to set high, challenging goals because they lack the
ability necessary to turn those goals into reality. But remember
that we all lacked knowledge and experience when we started out in
our careers or fields of expertise. Do you remember when you
started your first job? You probably felt a little clumsy,
inadequate and unsure about how to do it well. As you progressed
and got more experience, you became more and more confident, and
in many cases, you did an excellent job without even thinking much
Since you gain
the ability necessary for high achievement through knowledge and
experience, if you increase the speed at which you acquire both of
those, you increase the speed at which you move ahead.
simply the ability to get results. And you begin to get results
when you accept full responsibility for yourself, for your job and
for the outputs required in your position.
leadership when you refuse to make excuses or blame anyone or
anything for the problems you are having. The acceptance of the
responsibility of leadership enables you to move ahead and take
action. When you are not satisfied with your job or income, and
you sit down and make a written plan to change it, and then take
action on that plan, without waiting for anyoneís approval or
permission, you are behaving like a leader.
Between you and
every goal, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the
goal, the bigger the obstacles. Your decision to be, have and do
something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties and
challenges that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your
greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than
anyone else. When you look around you, you will see that all
achievement is the triumph of persistence. You will see men and
women everywhere who are struggling with and overcoming
adversities in order to accomplish something that is important to
them. And so can you.
So these are the
words and phrases to remember in setting and achieving goals: The
first is get to it! Get started; take the first action at hand.
The second is opportunity. Begin to prepare yourself now so that
you will be ready for the opportunities that will inevitably
arise. The third is ability. Resolve to learn what you need to
know to live the kind of life you want to live. The fourth word is
leadership. Take charge of your time and your life, and accept
responsibility for your results. And, finally, stay with it. If
you stay with it long enough, nothing can stop you from finally