Goal Setting – Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Easier Than You Think
“If you don’t have your own goals, you’ll be doomed to work towards someone else’s.”
Harry S. Truman
Our society is not much different from that of ants’. Build a mound of dirt, dig tunnels, search for food, keep the Queen ant happy, wash, rinse, and repeat.
The world is set up in a way that the worker ants work tirelessly for the benefit of the colony. In this model, the sum of the whole survives, while the individual does what it can to ensure that survival. They understand that the goals of the colony stand above all else and do whatever they can to see their goals succeed.
This, of course, often comes at the sacrifice of the worker’s own well-being and goals.
This system works and works well.
It reminds me of the “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech from Winston Churchill.
“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.
At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation.”
We became motivated and marched off in a desperate attempt to give our own lives meaning. We fought, we died, and we won. Our leaders spent their time goal setting and we spent our time in the achievement of those goals.
Today isn’t much different.
Goal setting and goal achieving.
Employers do it. Spouses do it. Friends do it. Families do it. It happens so much in our day-to-day lives that we don’t even notice it. And that’s the ironic part. It’s done right in front of our eyes. Plain sight. No blindfolds. No masks. All out there for us to see. And we see it. Every bit of it. And we do nothing.
We are but a cog in the wheel of another’s life and like the worker ant, we are just too busy digging tunnels to realize it.
Look around and tell me I’m lying.
We are told that we’re doing a great job and given a “thumbs up”. This is then followed by a pat on the back to further remind us that we have done something that falls in alignment with their goal setting.
And it happens time and time again. The entirety of our existence has depended on a single person rising up to announce that their goals are more important than our own. Not only do we believe them but we help them achieve them.
Over and over again.
Unfortunately, because we work so actively to ensure that their goals are met, the ones that we do in our own goal setting become buried in the same tunnels that we spend our lives digging.
It has and will always be this way. This is how society works. Pile up dirt, dig out tunnels, scavenge for food, bring food back, and do it again until we die. Yes, our existence is a simple one and if it sounds awful, it’s because it is.
Thousands of years of history and we’ve learned nothing. The vast majority live a meager life so that a select few can live a plentiful life.
When will it stop? Are we not tired of living an existence built upon allowed slavery? Can we not rise up and create our own goal setting sessions, then work at achieving the goals that we have set? Must we always be followers of other lives rather than lead our own? Where is it written that we sacrifice all for the good of one?
Steve Jobs said it best at his Commencement Speech at Stanford:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And more important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
How can we break the mold and escape our sworn duty as tunnel diggers?
Understand that there isn’t any one correct way of goal setting.
Up until recently, I believed that they most efficient way to achieve anything from goal setting is to tell our goals to others and be held accountable for them. This, the pressure of accountability, is often enough to keep us on track. Which is why we pay an exorbitant amount of money to coaches, mentors, and advisors.
But what happens when the pressure of achievement becomes so overwhelming that the intention actually does the opposite?
There is a theory popularized by Derek Sivers in his Ted Talk from 2010 that claims the best way to achieve our goals is to keep them to ourselves.
Sivers claims that when we tell others our goals, our minds become tricked into believing that we’ve already achieved them. Yes, as intelligent as our minds are, they can be deceived. This deception leads us down the path of goal failure. And only one thing awaits at the end of goal failure…more tunnel digging.
How do we know which path to follow? Do we tell or not tell our goals to those around us? The answer can be found the same way most answers are found…through trial and error. Unlike bad infomercials, there is no one size fits all.
As we begin to filter through our goals, we will find that some work best through accountability and some just don’t. This is how it has to be. This is after all, how life is. One big ambiguous answer.
Fear not. There is hope in ambiguity. We can alter the probability of successful goal achievement. No matter which path we fall down, the surest way to achieving our goals is through our own hard work, will, and determination. We are the controllers of our own fates.
Remember, Churchill said, “I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able” to achieve anything and everything that we desire to achieve. It’s our solemn duty to put ourselves in the proper position for each particular goal and if for whatever reason that position isn’t proper, we must then make the necessary adjustments to correct it.
And that’s not all
We must set the goals before we even begin. We must aim high to keep us dreaming and aim low to keep us moving. More than this, we cannot be afraid to set goals that challenge ourselves for it’s in the challenge that our character is built. Human history has shown this.
In a very short period of time, we have:
- landed on the moon
- discovered penicillin
- mapped the stars
- unlocked the secret to D.N.A.
- learned to fly
All of these were achieved by those who engaged in goal setting.
Those who achieve are those who desire more than the average person. They don’t fear any potential outcome of their action. They embrace them. Without holding back, they permit themselves to live a life worth living. One that they will look back upon as they take their final breath and be proud of.
If we go to bed at night with the fear of dreaming too large, we will never truly reach our potential. We might as well spend our days digging tunnels.
But what does that mean for you?
I can’t stress this enough. Nothing if you don’t allow it to. Your job, if I can give you one, is to do some goal setting and through trial, error, hard work, determination, and will, you will achieve your goals.
And with one final question, will you rise from the rank of tunnel digger?
Cheers to your success,