virgin islands scene

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
-- James Joyce


Friday, December 1, 1995

Resolution Time

New Years Day is exactly one month away.

The New Year is traditionally the time when we look back on the past year at our accomplishments (or lack thereof) and look forward to the coming year with grandiose plans. So many people make “New Year’s Resolutions” that it is indeed a cliche.

Resolutions are a step in the right direction. However, what really drives us forward is a set of clear, precise written goals. The human mind is a goal-seeking machine, and it works with marvelous efficiency and effectiveness. And in order to take advantage of this power you need to tell your mind exactly what you want it to do for you.

New Year’s Resolutions notwithstanding, most people spend far more time planning their purchase of a VCR than they do planning their lives. That’s a real shame, because if you have no clear direction in your life, that is exactly where you will get -- nowhere. Clear, specific written goals really do work.

All of us have some idea of what we want -- more money, more love, a bigger house, more freedom. However, to empower our minds to create results for us, we need to be much more specific.

In 1953, researchers interviewed the graduating seniors at Yale University and asked them if they had a set of written goals for their lives. Less than 3% of the Yale graduates had such a list. Twenty years later, in 1973, a follow-up study was done. The 3% that had the written goals when they graduated from Yale in 1953, were worth more than all the other 97% of the class members combined. Isn’t that a truly compelling reason to sit down right now and formulate your own written goals?

Here’s an exercise designed to give you an early jump on the new year. It comes from Anthony Robbins, and is paraphrased here along with some additional comments. It is a truly effective exercise that works well for me. It will take some time and effort, and perhaps some soul searching. I hope you will find it as useful as I have.

Sit and write your dreams down on paper. Spend at least 10-15 minutes putting in writing the things you want to have and be and do and feel, the places you want to go, the people you want to have in your life. Put down everything that you want to be a part of your life. Dust off your dreams and put them down on paper. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get everything and don’t put any limitations on it. Just sit down and do it.

Once you have your list, look at each item and estimate when you expect to reach that outcome. In a month, 6 months, a year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? Write your estimate next to each goal. Don’t think about it for a long time, do it quickly. Some people are too heavily weighted on immediate goals. Some are wishing for things far, far into the future. If your goals are all short term, you need to try and start to develop a longer term outlook. If most of your goals are long term, you will need to develop some more intermediate steps that will get you to those long term outcomes. It is important to have short term, medium term and long term goals. Remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Next, pick out the five most important goals for you in the coming year. These should be the things that you are most excited about, things that you can really see yourself getting committed to. You’re looking for things that can produce passion in yourself, that will drive you to use your resources to their fullest. Then, for each one, write a paragraph on why you want to achieve it. Convince yourself of the reasons why you want it. Because if you can find enough reasons to do something, you can get yourself to do anything. To be totally committed to your goals, you must clearly understand why you want to achieve them.

Make a list of the most important resources you have at your disposal to achieve your goals. Your strengths, skills, education, time, financial resources, friends -- everything you already have going for you, the tools to accomplish what you want.

Then think about the kind of person you will have to become in order to achieve the outcomes you desire. The very best way to do this is to find someone who has already achieved what you want, and model that person. Examine the attitudes, beliefs, character traits, disciplines and behaviors you will need to have in order to accomplish each of your desired outcomes. Put this in writing. Then review what you have written and ask yourself if this is the kind of person you would like to be. If it is, then you have goals that will truly lead to happiness in the long run. Just knowing that will go a long way toward motivating you every day.

Next, write a few paragraphs on the things that prevent you from having what you want right now. You have created limitations for yourself, and the best way to overcome them is first to know exactly what they are. Think about it. What has been holding you back? Are you a poor planner, or did you make big plans and then didn’t take action on them? Have you tried to do too many things at one time? Are you paralyzed by a fear of failure? Be honest with yourself and really try to understand what limitations have been holding you back.

Finally, put together a plan of action. Determine precisely what it is you need to do every day in order to get where you want to be. Start with your ultimate outcome and work backwards, step by step. Find something that you can do today and every day until your desired outcome is reached.

You now have a clear concept of where you want to go in both the short term and long term. You have defined your reasons for wanting to get there. You understand what has held you back in the past, and you know exactly what you need to do every day to reach the outcomes you desire. Remember to review your goal and your plan at least once a day, reminding yourself of where you want to go and what you have to do.

A month from now, when everyone else is lamenting that they didn’t get anything accomplished in 1995, you’ll already be well on your way to a New Year that takes you exactly where you want to go.

— Ralph Marston

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Copyright ©1995 Ralph S. Marston, Jr. All Rights Reserved. The Daily Motivator is provided for your personal, non-commercial use only. Other than personal sharing, please do not re-distribute without permission.