Monday, August 31, 2009

The Magic of Goal-Setting!

Imagine a game of football with a slight twist. It’s Manchester United versus Chelsea. There’s Giggs and Rooney, Lampard and Drogba. But there are no goal posts. What would happen?

The players would dribble and pass - but not know what to do after that. They wouldn’t know which direction to kick the ball. The defenders would have nothing to defend. And while Ronaldo would probably still swerve that free kick, he would have no target to hit. Soon, the players would probably lose the motivation to sweat it out and strive harder. There would be no winners, no result, no game.

Sounds silly, right?

Perhaps, but that’s just the way many of us lead our lives. We have no clear goals. Having written down goals can be the first and most significant step you can take towards achieving success in life.

The story goes that a group of psychologists did a study in 1953 on the graduating class at the Harvard Business School. They asked the students if they had written down goals for themselves. Only 3% of the class had written down goals.

Twenty years later, they tracked down that batch of students to see how they were doing. And here’s what they found. The net worth of the 3% of the class that had written down goals was more than the net worth of rest of the batch. That is the power of having written down goals! Goals give purpose to life. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

Here then is a five step plan to help you set goals and get you started on your journey to success:

Step 1: Decide what you want. Set balanced goals. Make sure you cover all areas of your life – your career, relationships, wealth, health, and your interests.

Step 2: Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific-Measurable-Actionable-Realistic-Time bound). So if you want to lose weight, don’t just say “I want to weigh less”. (That’s a wish, not a goal.) Say I will shed 5 kilos and weigh 60 kg by July 31st. That’s SMART.

Step 3: Write them down. Just the act of putting your goals down on paper, will increase your commitment to achieving those goals. A goal that’s only in your mind is no goal at all.

Step 4: Commit to doing whatever it takes. One American billionaire had a simple two-step formula for success: Determine what exactly you want. And be willing to pay the price. Many of us have goals (losing weight, for instance) but are unwilling to pay the price (say no to that cheesecake!). And remember, when it comes to achieving your goals, you cannot pay through your credit card. You must pay in advance. Often, you will hear someone say ‘Once I get promoted, I will stay late and work harder’. No, that won’t do. If you want to get promoted, start by putting in the extra effort. You cannot reap first and sow later.

Step 5: Take action. What does it take to achieve those goals? That old Chinese proverb still holds true. ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Take that first step, today.

There was a devout man, who prayed to God that he should win the jackpot. He prayed regularly, but someone else always seemed to win the weekly lottery. He prayed harder, urging the Gods to reward his devotion. But the Gods did not seem to be listening.

Disappointed and angered at his lack of success, he looked heavenwards and yelled “How come I am not winning the lottery? I’ve been praying regularly. That’s unfair!” Suddenly there was lightning and thunder. And then a voice from above said “For God’s sake, will you please go buy a lottery ticket first?”

Make a beginning. Today. Don’t go to bed tonight until you have written down your goals. And then take that first step. Do one thing – any one thing – that will take you closer to your goals.
Remember, to win the lottery, you’ve got to buy that ticket first!

(This appeared in the May issue of Careers 360. Check out Better still, buy a copy!)