IC E-lesson: The Right Way to Set Goals (if you want to reach them)

I was pretty much suckled on goal setting; I was, no kidding, made to read a book called “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” before I was in 7th grade. I don’t know how many times during my childhood my father quoted that (now-discredited) story about the Yale class of ’53, where the 3% of the class that had set goals accumulated more wealth than the other 97% combined blah blah blah.

So yes, I’m down-to-the-bone familiar with the concept of writing down what you want to accomplish, keeping that list in front of you, envisioning success, and so on. I’ve got lists of goals going back no less than 3 decades in notebooks, planners, diaries, and, of course, electronic media.

But it wasn’t until much more recently that learned how to set goals that I’d actually achieve.

Because interestingly/frustratingly, many of the goals I set 25+ years ago kept re-appearing and re-appearing and re-appearing: get in shape. Lose weight. Stop smoking. Wholesale 100 deals this year. And let’s just say that they weren’t coming back up over and over because I was reaching them—but, of course, because I wasn’t.

I am a FANTASTIC planner and goal setter, but like most people, I often fall down in the mushy, swampy middle part between deciding/planning what I want to do and the actual accomplishment of the thing. If these goals were a matter of working my butt off for a SHORT period of time, I would have been a skinny non-smoking wholesaling machine in 1995. But the fact that a lot of these goals require small, boring efforts over a long period of time always did me in. Like most people, I’m pretty good at big, short-term efforts that yield fairly quick results, but not so good at long-term efforts that mean I have to stay focused on doing (or not doing) something for months or years on end.

And yet, it’s those long-term things that create real change in your life, right? Like lifelong health. Like positive relationships. Like buying and managing those rentals until they’re paid off an bringing in a full time income with part time effort.

Think about it for a moment: what’s the biggest difference between the goal you can set today and reach in a few weeks, albeit with great effort, and the one that you set today but won’t reach for years, no matter how much effort you put in this week?

It’s not so much the instant gratification; it’s not even the timeline, per se. Most of our big goals have positive milestones in between the start and achievement; yeah, you won’t lose 50 pounds this month, but you’ll lose 8. You won’t become a real estate millionaire in what remains of the year, but you can certainly generate $50,000 in cash.

The real difference is that the longer-term goals lose the emotional charge that provides the actual energy to DO the things, right? I mean, without a FEELING to make it enticing, being a real estate millionaire is just a neutral THOUGHT. You can THINK, “Yeah, it would be nice to have all that money”, but without the emotion around the thought, it won’t have much motivating power.

Without the anticipation and excitement about what that much income would mean to your life, and your family’s, it’s hard to understand why you’d put in the effort to get those mailers out right now, when you’re tired after a long day at your real job, and the dirty dishes beckon.

When we first take the time to set long-term goals, we usually feel actual sensations of relief, pleasure,  exhilaration—but while we remember later that we HAD them, we don’t FEEL them anymore unless we revisit them intentionally. And without that altered state to drive us to do what we need to do today, and tomorrow, and the next day, through frustration and fear and boredom, we’re just not able to alter the day to day activities and habits we’re used to enough to make a long-term change in our circumstances.

So how do we keep the emotional charge of our goals front and center?

By writing down the big why along with the goal.

In years past, I always had 2 kinds of goals: the really big ones and the daily ones. So I might have one goal list that said:

  1. Lose 20 pounds and get in shape
    2. Make $500,000 this year by wholesaling 100 houses
    3. Help 10 people become millionaires through the FastTrack program
    4. Finish rehab on my house [another thing that’s been on the list for 10 years…]

And then a daily goal list that said

  1. finish article for COREE newsletter
    2. Return call to seller on Elm
    3. Prepare slide show for talk
    4. Mow lawn

In other words, like most people, I rarely had anything on my daily to do list that really served my “big” goals. I’d set them, then tuck them away and get so caught up in the whirlwind of lawns that needed to be mowed and meetings that needed to be prepared for that another year would pass without much progress on the big goals.

Then, through a variety of sources that deal with vision, productivity and goal setting (Tony Robbins, Shaun McCloskey’s Lifeonaire program, Eben Pagan, First Things First and probably half a dozen more), I learned about the idea of extending that emotional state in which we SET the big goals down to the day to day tasks. So here’s how it works now:

Instead of my old “annual goal list”, I have a series of statements about my vision for my life, which might look something like:

  1. I am in peak physical and mental health
    2. I make more than enough money to live the life of my dreams while being debt free
    3. I am a thought leader in my industry, and help others to reach their financial goals through real estate
    4. I live in the house of my dreams; it is orderly, beautiful, and in great shape

Then EACH MONTH, I set goals FOR my vision items

  1. Lose 5 pounds this month by eating right and working out 5 days per week
    2. Wholesale 10 houses this month
    3. Find, screen, and begin mentoring 2 new fasttrack students
    4. Schedule exterior painting on my house

And then—and here’s the key—I review that list weekly, and decide what I’m going to do THAT WEEK to reach my monthly goals and write down WHY. So my weekly task list now looks something like this:

  1. Lose 2 pounds this week
    1. a. WHY: because my health is the most important thing in my life. To be able to wear cute clothes. Because when the zombie invasion comes, I want to be a survivor.
      b. Massive action plan: shop Monday for fruits and vegetables. Track meals on app, stay within my points. Work out for 40 minutes every day first thing in the mornting
  2. Earn $100,000 this month
    a. WHY: to become debt free. To have the adventures I want to have this year. To pay for house rehab in cash
    b. Massive action plan: wholesale 2.5 houses by creating a new mailing piece for Jenn; get back to the guy with 17 houses for sale and MAKE A DEAL; make sure we are in contact with 5 sellers a day and set up reporting for that
  3. Find 1 new qualified fasttrack student
    a. WHY: because mentoring others is my legacy. Because there’s someone out there who needs me to achieve their goals and doesn’t know it yet.
    b. Massive action plan: mention Fasttrack repeatedly in Inner Circle eletter until someone gets the hint.

And so on.

Yes, I write down the “why” behind every single weekly goal every single week. And this is effective in several ways: first, it brings back the emotion that’s going to drive all the work that has to happen that week.

Second, it allows me to pick out actions for my DAILY task list that really serve me; if I’m just making a list, rather than pulling items from this weekly list, I tend to get caught “in the thick of thin things” and end up doing a lot of things that are OTHER people’s priorities, or urgent but not important. When I work from this list, I become very jealous of my time and absolutely vicious about NOT doing things that don’t serve my big goals

And finally, it’s a whole lot more fun and exciting to start my day with remembering the great life I’m building instead of just staring at an impossibly long and difficult list of things I must do.

If you feel stuck, unable to move your business (or weight or life) in the direction you want, give this a try. I think you’ll find it both effective AND inspiring.

3 Comments on “IC E-lesson: The Right Way to Set Goals (if you want to reach them)

  1. Wow, Vena, you hit the nail on the head. I am going to revise my goals and To-Do lists to include my whys. I can see how much more motivating it can be. Thanks!!

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