March Forward #4: The Goal Standard

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Spring doesn’t blast away winter in a day. Yet each morning, we see the signs developing: birdcalls filling the air, grass piercing the snow, flowers about to burst open.

So it is with us. Each day defines us and advances us, incrementally, toward achievement. We are what we repeatedly do. Once we have hit upon our needs and desires, we need to articulate them into goals to help kindle motivation and replenish reserve. These goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic—though still challenging—and then pursued with the certainty of success. Toggling between the big picture and the daily calendar represent both sides of the success equation.

Write it down. If it’s not written down, it won’t happen. There’s something powerful, even magical, about the act of committing to something in writing—“putting it out there” before one’s eyes and the eyes of the universe.  It’s a way to up the ante and turn wishes into goals and ultimately affirmations. Writing a “base” (practical) goal and then a “stretch” (aspirational) goal is a worthy idea, with benchmarks set for both scenarios. Each success builds momentum for the next, and each request can get bigger and bigger.

Visualize it. Buy an assortment of glossy magazines and take a pair of scissors to the pages. Cutting out pictures of travel destinations, dream cars, lovely sofas and tailored suits is another way of bringing vivid immediacy to one’s goal. Having one’s aspirations “mapped” in tangible form will help achieve them. After all, a picture is worth one thousand words.

Change your self-talk. Not only every day, but literally every second, opportunities for self-talk manifest: the thoughts and images that pop into one’s head. It is in everyone’s control how to steer that self-talk: into bright light, or into dark shadow. We knew a struggling financial planner who called 350 prospects on his first day on the job, with nothing to show for it. His voice was hoarse; his neck was stiff.  Yet when he walked into the break room, he told a sympathetic colleague he was proud—of the fact he made it through the morning. Energized by the positive spin he’d created, he returned to his desk that afternoon and secured five appointments. Not only had he made it through the afternoon; he was on track to break the firm’s weekly record.

Affirm your “why.” That night, the planner went home and asked his wife to take his children to Sears for a portrait that he could place on his desk next to his phone. Twenty years later, the picture remains a visual reminder of his core beliefs, and a powerful force to channel his self-talk into the right direction.

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