Goals Aren’t Enough

It’s getting close to the time of year when people will start looking ahead to 2017, and part of that process will likely included listing goals for the upcoming year.  It’s an exciting and encouraging activity that I enjoy doing; however, my thoughts about goals shifted slightly this week after listening to Jon Gordon on Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast.

Goals are great because the provide direction for where we’d like to arrive in the future.  Consider the following goals:

  • Earn $X per year
  • Lose 30 pounds
  • Earn a degree
  • Complete a marathon or other significant physical activity
  • Buy a house
  • Pay off a debt

Those are all great goals, and similar to what many people list at the beginning of each year. But here’s where my thinking has changed.  I think that just a list of goals is incomplete and misses the mark, because the list alone says nothing about how these goals will be attained.  What’s missing from the list is our commitment

Consider our list of goals above.   It’s aspirational, for sure, but that’s about it.  Now consider that same list with a corresponding list of actions we’re willing to commit to in order to bring these goals about.

Our revised list might look like the following

My Goal My Commitment
Earn $X per year Study 1 hour per day toward the mastery of a marketable skill that would yield the salary I desire.
Lose 30 pounds Stop eating sugary snacks and fast food and instead opting for healthy whole food alternatives.
Earn a degree Devote 2 hours after work on week nights and 8 hours during the weekends to study and class attendance.
Complete a marathon or other significant physical activity Work with a coach to develop a training and nutrition plan and adhere to it.
Buy a house Save X% of my earnings to apply toward a down payment.
Pay off a debt Stop using credit cards and cut out discretionary spending and instead throw that money toward eliminating debt.

 

Now that’s a much more compelling list!  Not only is it aspirational, it has more “punch” because it describes what we’re willing to commit to in order to achieve the goal.  Without commitment, we’re relegated to just hoping our goals come to pass.

As you’re considering goals for 2017, I encourage you to join me in also listing what you’ll commit to doing in order to achieve each goal.  I think we’ll be amazed by what we can accomplish when we add commitment to the equation.

Answer the Call

Last Saturday, three friends and I completed a hike that has been on my list for a couple of years.

The hike was to remote Golden Lake in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness.  About a mile beyond Golden Lake was a glacial tarn at the base of Broken Top that was the ultimate destination for me.  Ever since I first saw pictures of this tarn I have wanted to experience this beautiful setting for myself.  So last Saturday I finally did!  The beauty of this tarn was greater than I imagined.  It did not disappoint!

Glacial_Tarn

I think it’s important to have a list of goals we’d like to accomplish, whether they’re personal, professional, financial, physical, or any other type.  Life is more interesting when we have goals and take steps to make them happen.  Not only does it make life fun and exciting, it makes our world, as well as us, more interesting in the process.

Do you have any goals or activities you want to accomplish?  If so, take a step today that will move you closer to making it happen.  And once that goal has been achieved, set your sights on your next goal and take action on making it happen as well.

Your life is calling.  Will you answer?

Evidence of Commitment

Is there something you’re currently trying to achieve or change in your life?  Maybe it’s an educational or financial goal, or perhaps you want to improve a key relationship or even your health.  No matter what change you’re looking to make, it will require commitment on our part.

The way a goal achieved or a change is made is by our commitment to consistently act in ways that lead in the direction of our goal.  More simply stated, our commitment to a goal is evidenced by the choices we make.

For example, are you trying to live a healthier lifestyle?  Great!  Your commitment to this goal will be evidenced by the choices you make regarding eating and physical activity.  What kind of choices are you consistently making regarding snacks?  Do you choose fresh fruits or other healthy choices, or do you find yourself regularly opting for Twinkies, Snickers bars, ice cream and soda?  The former shows a level of commitment to the goal.  The latter, however, presents evidence that suggests a wavering or even non-existent level of commitment.

A great question to ask, when we’re about to make a decision is, “Will this choice I’m about to make move me closer toward my goal or further away from it?”  If the answer is “closer”, congratulations!  You are presenting evidence of commitment to your goal.

It’s easy to simply talk about a goal, or to have unfulfilled intentions that don’t lead anywhere significant.  Let’s choose to be different and present mounds of evidence, through the choices we make, that reflect a strong commitment to our goals.  For it is the consistent evidence of commitment that will pave the path to achieving whatever worthy goal we’ve set for ourselves.

Evidence to the Contrary

MiddleSister

There seems to be a mindset that aging is a bad thing and that the older we get the more we must take on an increasingly sedate and less active lifestyle.  For example, have you ever heard anyone say or imply some derivative of the following…

 “You know, when you turn <insert an age> you start to <insert bullet list of looming ailments and physical limitations that supposedly accompany aforementioned age>.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you turn <insert an age>.  That’s just the way life is.  What can you do about it?”

I reject this line of thinking for the single reason that I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary in the lives of multiple people I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

One of my favorite encounters occurred during a backpacking trip around the Three Sisters mountains in Central Oregon back in 2010.  My buddies and I met with 3 people on the trail riding horses:  An older gentleman, a lady and a guy in his late 20s to early 30s.  The gentleman leaned forward in his saddle with a relaxed yet confident posture as we all exchanged pleasantries.  “So, what are you all up to today?” I asked.  “Well,” the gentleman responded, “today is my 85th birthday.  This is my daughter” he said as he gestured to his right, “and this is my grandson.  We’re camping across the meadow down by…”

I was so blown away by what he said, and what I saw, that I don’t remember a thing he said after that.  This guy was celebrating his 85th birthday on horseback in the back country of the Three Sisters Wilderness, while other people several decades younger have a hard time getting off the sofa without getting gassed!

The one thing I remember most about this man, besides his comment, were his eyes.  It’s hard to describe, but it was as if they sparkled with the flame of life that was obviously burning bright behind them.

I never got his name, but I will never forget him, or the lesson he unintentionally taught me about aging that day.  We’re not required to adopt the mindset that tells us we should slow down or throttle back on what we enjoy doing, simply because we reach a certain age.  We have a choice not only in how we age, but in our attitude toward aging as well.

This 85 year-old-young guy was just one of many people I’ve meet who, through their continued active lives, are calling “BS” on the lie that as we age we need to slow down, do less, and become less.  I agree with them, and call “BS” as well; because through their examples, I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary.

Impose a Deadline

I recently took a position with a new organization that requires a specific professional certification within 6 month of my hire date as a condition of employment.  Failure to obtain this certification within the designated time will result in termination.  Period.

Roger that!

I’ve been in this new position for 4 weeks and have been studying a little every day for the certification exam, and making good progress.  However, in an effort to make sure I’m focused in my study, I imposed a deadline by registering to take the exam on August 18, 2016.

For me, having a deadline causes me to be more focused and purposeful in my study, because I know the test is only a couple of weeks away, and I need to take steps today so I can be ready when August 18th arrives.

It is easy to slack off or lose focus during the pursuit of a goal if we don’t have a very specific target in mind.  Consider the following goals many people have:

  • To get out of debt
  • To lose weight
  • To start a business
  • To write a book

My question to people that state these and other goals to me is, “By when?”

Without a deadline in mind, it’s just a desire or a wish that may or may not ever be started, let alone completed.  If I ask someone the “By when” question and they instantly give me a date, the probability of them being successful is quite high.  They have a hard deadline they are working toward, rather than just a lofty dream.  A deadline provides the motivation, the game clock on the scoreboard, to let you know if you’re on the track toward reaching your goal.

Do you have a goal or objective you’re working on that could use the boost of a deadline?  If so, set yourself a deadline and use it to help you make consistent daily progress in the direction of your goal.

You Are the Force

Let’s start this week’s post with a quick test:

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for the success of your relationships?
    1. Your friends
    2. Your parents
    3. Other people
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for your success at work or in your career?
    1. Your employer
    2. The customers
    3. Shareholders
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is/was ultimately responsible for your success in school?
    1. Your teachers
    2. The school administration
    3. The financial aid office
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. What is the strongest force that will shape the quality of your life?
    1. Circumstances
    2. Fate
    3. Santa Clause
    4. <Insert your name here>

Now check your answers:

  1. 4
  2. 4
  3. 4
  4. 4

How’d you do?  Hopefully your test score revealed a strong understanding that you are the driving force behind any success in life you want to achieve.

Success will rarely come our way if we are of the mindset that other people should, or will, take the initiative for our success.  Success requires effort and a self-starting mindset on our part.  Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for help from others?  By all means, seek the assistance of people who can help! (And depending on your belief, don’t forget to ask for assistance through prayer too!)

What we shouldn’t do is sit back and wait for anyone other than yourselves to make something happen for you.  No one should be more motivated for your own success than you.

 

Light Your Own Fire

Imagine you’re camping and, in an effort to take the chill off and warm yourself up, you decide to build a fire.  You crumple up some paper, collect and arrange wood in the fire pit and then… you never put flame to paper and light the fire.  You’re still cold, and you’d still like to get warm, but you never light your fire.

Sounds silly, right?  Yet how often do we do the same thing when we have a goal or a dream we want to pursue, we know the first (or next) step we should take, yet lack the motivation to get started?  In a sense, we fail to light our own fire.

Motivation is the fire that moves us to get started and stay committed to our goal.  This “fire” can look like, but is not limited to, a desire to:

  • Life a healthy lifestyle
  • Achieve an educational goal
  • Start a business
  • Be debt free
  • Travel

What’s important about the fire of motivation is that it has to come from us, not others.  We are the ones who must light our own fires and motivate ourselves to take action.  If we’re relying on others to motivate us before we take action, I would have to wonder if we really want the goal or dream we’ve laid out for ourselves as much as we may say we do.

If you’ve got a goal, but have been waiting for motivation to come from somewhere other than yourself before you get started, decide today to light your own fire.  Determine why achieving this goal is important to you, focus on that, and move boldly toward the goal before you.

Independence Day

This Monday July 4th the United States will celebrate Independence Day, when this country’s founders declared their independence from British rule.  Independence Day was a significant event for this country, as it marked a change in direction from the way things had been toward a new direction the world had never seen.

As I think about this holiday, I can’t help think about the things in our own life that we can declare independence from.  These may include:

  • Unhealthy habits
  • Negative environments
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Toxic relationships
  • Societal pressures
  • The status quo

The founders of the United States could have decided that things were really “not that bad” or “good enough as they were” and gone with the flow.  Instead, they had a vision of something better and chose to declare their independence from British rule.

What’s encouraging is that we have the same capacity to choose independence for ourselves.

Where in your life would you benefit from declaring independence?  Determine what that area is and take action to become independent and begin changing the course of your life for the better.

Seeing Beauty

My wife and I recently made a visit to Crater Lake National Park.  Although we had been there several times before, (we’re fortunate to live relatively close to this gem) I was once again captivated by the overwhelming beauty of this natural treasure.

Crater Lake

A video playing at the park’s Visitor Center described how the natural beauty of Crater Lake that we see today is the result of a very violent volcanic past.  A severe eruption of Mt. Mazama left the area looking like a “moonscape”, as described by the park video.  However, years of wind and weather have transformed the once barren site to the beautiful lake we see today.

The beauty of the lake is unmistakable.  It got me thinking that there are people who are a lot like Crater Lake.  Not that they have “off-the-charts” physical beauty, but rather they have beauty that comes from a decision to choose a positive response to a significant “eruption” in their own life experience.  For example, they choose to:

  • Be victorious versus defeated.
  • Focus on what they are grateful for versus what they’ve lost.
  • Encourage others facing the same or similar experience.
  • Live their life with purpose regardless of past circumstances.

These, and similar choices, to past “eruptions” in life make for a beautiful person.

Seeing physical beauty in nature, like Crater Lake, is easy.  However, seeing beauty as a result of people’s difficult life experience is not always as obvious.

As we’re interacting with others, let’s remember that we’re often not aware of what they have experienced in life.  And, if you’re ever blessed to have someone share their past “eruption” with you and how they have chosen a positive path forward… stand in awe at the beauty before you.

Shared Experiences

On Wednesday June 15, 2016 I left an organization I was with for almost 19 years to pursue a new and exciting opportunity.  In the days prior, as I was reminiscing about my time there, my thoughts were not primarily centered on accomplishments and successes, but rather on the people I’d worked with and the memories we’d made.

While I was going around saying my good-byes to friends and colleagues I noticed that they too were recounting shared experiences.  I couldn’t help realize that the shared experiences we have with others are what people remember.  Whether the experience was good or bad, the fact that it was shared in pursuit of a common goal seemed binding and provided a sense of team, connection and togetherness.  I like that because it shows that I didn’t go through my 19 years there unnoticed, and that I had an impact on the people I worked with, as they also did on me.

Shared experiences not only bind and connect people in the context of the workplace.  Have you ever sat around with a friends or family members recalling events of the past with laughter, gratitude, frustration, or even disbelief that you all made it through?  Often, it’s these kinds of conversations that we have with friends or family we haven’t seen in a while as a way to reset the relationship and begin reconnecting.

As we bump along with others in our day-to-day existence let’s make sure we’re mindful of the shared experiences we’re creating and when the time comes, remind others of the experiences we’ve shared with them and what they meant to you in that experience.