Leaving Life to Chance

Most people would describe themselves as relatively cautious. They say that they are willing to take some risks but there must be something in return. They say any risks that they do take are considered in advance. Most people are “careful,” or so they say. 

But watch them a while and ask a few, and I mean very few, questions and you’ll discover that they are in fact huge risk takers. They make huge gambles all the time. Taking chances that no truly prudent person would ever consider. 

So how would you describe yourself? Are you a person who makes well considered decisions or are you a Willy Nilly type who mostly throws caution to the wind and takes life as it comes. Asked another way…do you control your life or does your life control you?

You are free to disagree with this but I would submit to you that if you do not have written goals for your life along with a fairly detailed plan for how you will achieve those goals then you DO NOT have control over your life. 

If you’re thinking to yourself that you do have goals but they aren’t written down then you may be kidding yourself. You likely have dreams, aspirations, wants, and hopes but you DO NOT have true goals and the control over your life that comes with them. 

Write down those dreams. Write out a detailed plan that includes how much effort you’re willing to invest to make those dreams come true. Write down the date that effort will begin. Write down how many minutes or hours a day you will invest in turning that dream into an actual goal. Write down the month, day, and year you will achieve that goal. 

If you won’t invest the time to even write down the dream then other people and other events are controlling your life. If you don’t have a plan that turns your dream into a goal those other people and the events that they control will frustrate you even more than you realize.

Don’t leave your life to chance. Stop gambling that the life you want will happen as a result of other people’s plan for their lives. Stop hoping that “everything” will somehow magically turn out fine. Write out your goals and invest the time to plan them into reality. You’ll wake up every morning knowing without a doubt that you are the master of your universe. 

Without goals and plans you might as well be buying lottery tickets. Your chances of controlling those ping pong balls are about as good as your chances of controlling your life. 

The Hopelessness of No Goals

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of goals. Goals that my wife and I set decades ago are still being achieved. Things we said would happen in 2021 are indeed happening, almost to the day we said they would years and years ago. Most of what we have and have achieved we owe to the power of setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them. Even though some of the plans spanned decades. 

So when I was invited recently to attend a full-day Goal Setting Seminar my instincts said to decline, especially considering the Seminar was being held on a Saturday. I figured I knew enough. But then I discovered that the day included 9 holes of golf and I was suddenly way more interested. 

I figured if nothing else I’d learn something I could add to the sessions I present on the subject of goal setting and play some golf too. So I signed up. 

The early session was about what you’d expect if you’ve ever taken a class on setting goals. Lots of talk about setting SMART goals and having goals for different parts of your life, career goals, financial goals, personal goals, health goals and the like. 

The second session was a little more unusual; it covered the motivational aspects of having goals and how we can actually lose interest in life without goals. It was okay but it was a little blah blah blah for me. No examples or evidence, only an instructor telling you goals were important. Duh! 

But then the best part of the day…a boxed lunch and off to the golf carts for some fun. The Golf Course was in the community were I live so I was very familiar with it. Something didn’t feel exactly right as we left the conference room and headed outside. It was a Saturday, and normally a busy golfing day. 

We were only playing nine holes. There should have been plenty of tee times available for other golfers. But the place was completely empty other than those of us participating in the seminar. 

I asked what was going on and was told the course was preparing for some renovation work.  We would be the last group playing before it closed for a couple of months. That’s not unusual in the Phoenix area for a course to do major work in the summer, golf actually slows down when the temps reach 100 degrees day after day. While that all turned out to be true it wasn’t the only reason there weren’t other people on the course. We’d discover the other reason soon enough. 

So off we went. My first drive was a little right on a hole that bends to the right, not ideal. I’d have to make a decision to either play back out into the fairway or take a shortcut over the trees to the green. I decided on the shortcut. The shot I hit felt pretty good but I couldn’t see the green so I’d have to wait until I got the the green to see how the shot turned out. I knew I made it over the trees and I knew I went in the general direction of the green so I was pretty hopeful.

As we approached the green I was focused on seeing whether my ball was on the green or not, so focused that I didn’t see what I normally would have. When I got right up by the green I noticed there was no flagstick. For those of you who don’t play golf the flagstick indicates the location of the hole on the green.

Then I discovered why there was no flagstick. It was because there was no hole. It was absolutely the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had. I hit balls on the range like I usually do. I studied my yardage, carefully selected my clubs and hit the best shot I could, all with the goal in mind of making par or better on the hole. 

But there was no hole. The would be no par, no birdie, not even a bogey. I would have been mad except I figured out almost instantly what was going on. The evidence that was missing from the second session was now staring me in the face. The goal of golf is to get the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes possible. With no hole for the ball to go into the rest of the game becomes pointless in a hurry. 

The roaming instructor showed up and told us to go ahead and pick up the ball and move to the next hole, maybe there would be a hole on that green…or maybe there wouldn’t. 

I couldn’t win at this game of golf, I couldn’t lose. I couldn’t measure my results against other rounds I’d played in the past. I couldn’t measure myself against the other players. I lost interest in the game before I got to the second green. It was no fun at all. And when I did get to the green there was no damn hole again. The roaming instructor said “maybe next time.”

It was hopeless. It was pointless. 

It was also the best example of what a life devoid of goals must be like. I suppose if you’ve never had real goals you wouldn’t know what you’re missing. If I’d never played golf I might not have known there was supposed to be a hole in the green. 

But I did indeed learn something that day. I learned a life without goals can get hopeless even quicker than I thought. I was disappointed, frustrated, confused, even mad when I reached a place where I should have been able to accomplish a goal. The only reason I couldn’t was because a goal didn’t exist. 

Are you disappointed, confused, even mad at the end of a day? Do you wonder what the point is of going to work day after day for a mere paycheck? Could it be that you don’t have clearly definable goals you’re working towards each day? 

Setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them will make everything in your life more meaningful. Goals give you purpose. Goals provide you with motivation, even on very difficult days. Goals become the roadmap to success, in your career, in your relationships, in every part of your life. 

Don’t go one more day without knowing exactly what you want out of life and exactly how you’re going to get it. Invest time to set goals and invest more to build a solid plan to achieve them. 

It will truly change your life. 

Do You Have Time for Goals?

In my last post I wrote about understanding the difference between being busy and being productive. I said that if you didn’t do at least one thing to get closer to a goal each day then you were not productive…not matter how busy you may have felt.

What that means of course is that if you don’t have goals then you can’t be productive. When I say “goals” I mean real goals. Concrete ones, written down with deadlines and plans for achievement.

It’s great to dream and say things like “someday I’ll do this” or “one day I’m doing to.” Except that someday and one day do not appear on a calendar. There is a minor league baseball team in town and the beer vendors all wear shirts that say “free beer tomorrow.” The problem is when tomorrow comes the free beer is still tomorrow.

That’s how it is with unwritten goals as well. The day you’re finally going to pursue them never arrives.

Specificity is key to successfully achieving goals. The more wiggle room you allow yourself the more likely it will be that you wiggle out of them.

Real goals are measurable. “I’m going to lose some weight” is not a goal. It is at best a wish. To make it a goal you must put some weight (pardon the pun) behind it. “I’m going to lose 2 pounds a week for the next 10 weeks” is a goal.

Real goals are actually attainable. There are several reasons that “I’m going to be the first man on the moon” is not an attainable goal. Well, maybe more than several, but the point is if your goal is so far-fetched that you have no chance of achieving it then it is more likely to leave you unmotivated. Plus, ALL the time you spent going after it is a complete waste.

Real goals are realistic. “I’m going to lose those 20 pounds this week” is a wee bit unlikely to happen. In fact it ain’t going to happen so it’s not even a good dream. Real goals must be completely within your control. Setting a goal to have your bosses job in a year is not realistic because too many factors are beyond your control.

First, your bosses job must open up. Second, your company must be looking at internal candidates, the list could go on and on.

A real goal would be one that says “over the course of the next year I’m going to do this, this, this and this in order to be the best possible candidate should my bosses position ever open up.

If all the “this, and this and this are within your control then you have a real goal and a much better chance of achieving it. The time you invest will be well worth the effort…even if you never do get your bosses job.

Real goals need a starting date. Writing down what time on that date you will start is even better. They need a FIRM date by which they will be achieved. The time of day on that date is equally important.

The most successful people have a good cross section of goals. Some are professional goals and some are personal. Their goals align with their values. They have financial goals, family goals, educational goals, career goals, spiritual goals, health goals and goals in any area of their lives they choose to focus on.

If you don’t have formal, real goals then let me ask you this: why do you do what you do?

Do you get up each day and go to work in order to make money to divide up between your creditors with the hope there’s some left over for you? Do you seem to have more bad days than good days? Are you frequently frustrated with what life is repaying you for your efforts? Do you constantly have this feeling that there’s more to life than you’re experiencing?

If you answered yes to even some of those questions then it is likely that you are more busy than you are productive. You’re using your 1440 minutes each day with little to show for it.

You CAN have all you want from life and have time left over to discover even more amazing parts of life. The key to unlocking all that is productively investing your time to pursue real goals.

Stop spending time on things that offer you little return. Invest your time in the pursuit of goals and have the life you truly want to have. 

Do You Ever Wonder Where You are Going?

I wish I could say I’m surprised by how often I come across people who seem to be drifting through life. But I am not. 

 

The sad reality is that most people, the vast majority in fact, drift through life on a day-by-day basis taking what comes their way. They accept what happens and very often settle for less than they want or deserve. 

 

I suppose there could be many reasons that happens to people but one of the big ones, likely the very biggest one, is that they don’t have goals. True goals. Goals that are written out along with a plan on how they intend to achieve them. 

 

Direction in life comes directly from your goals. No goals means no direction. 

 

I understand why so many people lack true goals. It’s requires serious effort to first determine your core values and then set goals around them. Your core values are those values that you will not compromise on, regardless of the circumstances. Those core values guide every decision in your life. Beliefs can change over time, core values do not. 

 

Determining your core values does not happen overnight. It requires both reflection and introspection. The dividends of truly knowing your core values however are substantial. Your core values are who you are deep inside and once you know that, every decision becomes easier to make.

 

Once you’ve set goals around your core values you need to develop a plan, a workable, actionable plan, to achieve them. 

 

That plan must include the date AND time you will begin. I can’t tell you the number of great plans I’ve seen people create through the years and I can’t begin to tell you the number of those plans that were never implemented. You will not finish, you will never finish, what you do not begin. The pressure of a “start date” will push you to begin.

 

Remember, someday does not appear on a calendar.

 

The plan must also include a completion date. When will you accomplish each individual goal, do not leave yourself wiggle room by setting a date range. Nail it down with an exact date. You don’t want to almost accomplish your goals, you want total success.

 

Carve out time EVERY DAY on your calendar to work specifically towards achieving a goal. Success in achieving your goals will not happen by itself, YOU must make it happen. 

 

Do not allow yourself to get stuck where you are. Do not allow yourself to settle for less than you desire. Do not allow others to set your goals for you. And oh by the way, if you’re married the fastest way to being a better couple is to be a better you. Don’t forget to set some personal development goals along the way.


Goals are the beacon of light that can guide you through life’s never ending challenges. But for the light to shine you must have those goals in place. Set goals today and all your tomorrows will be better because you did.

Goals are Intended to be Flexible

Did you set goals for 2017? I sure hope so because your chances for a successful 2017 increased ten-fold if you invested time in a serious goal setting process as the year began.

     

But once your goals are set you’re not done. Goals are meant to be flexible, changing as your circumstances change. That means you must review your goals on a regular basis, adjusting some, adding others and maybe even discarding those that no longer fit.

     

Only 25% of 2017 is left to accomplish the goals that you set forth earlier in the year. Now is a great time to conduct a review of your goals. 

 

What’s working and maybe even more importantly, what’s not. Has what’s important to you changed to the point that your goals need to change to stay in sync? Do your goals still seem realistic and obtainable? Are you on pace to achieve the things you hoped for when you set these goals? Are your priorities the same today as they were when you first wrote your goals?

     

These are all questions you should seriously consider asking yourself; even if the year is not going as planned, it’s not too late to make whatever adjustments are required in order to achieve the success you envisioned for 2017. 


Flex your goals for success! That’s how successful people achieve their goals.

When Goals Matter – Part Four

I remember asking one of my mentors many years ago what I needed to do in order to be successful. His answer, as usual, what short and to the point. He said you must have balance in your life. 

 

It was his opinion that you could be the most successful business person in the world but if your family hated you then you were not truly a success. He believed that an unbalanced obsession in any one part of your life kept you from complete success. 

 

I believe he was 100% correct in his assessment.

 

So I recommend setting goals in six key areas of your life. Those areas are family and home, financial and career, spiritual and ethical, mental and educational, social and cultural and physical and mental. (For those of you who think that’s 12 areas I’m okay with that too but the pairings actually go together)

 

I think you’ll find that having goals in each of those areas can help you achieve them all. You may not always be motivated to head out to work but when you realize that you’re actually working for your family it tends to make it easier. Perhaps you’re really kung ho about getting that promotion at work but when you also have a goal to have a thriving social network you may be more likely to pull yourself away from that desk. That means you have some balance in your life. 

 

Before we go any further let’s make one thing perfectly clear; when I say social network I’m talking about the old fashioned kind, you know, the kind where you interact with actual humans, face-to-face. Talking to them…with your voice. No amount of social media followers or friends will ever replace human contact and never kid yourself that it will.

 

Now, back to goals.

 

Once you’ve determined where to set goals you’re pretty much ready to start writing them down. I like the SMART method of setting goals, you’ve likely heard of it many times. Make certain your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed

 

It’s a great method for setting goals, it has just one problem….it seldom works. It’s not really that SMART goals fail because they are not smart, they fail because most people don’t seem to understand the definition of specific. They end up with MART goals and that doesn’t even sound smart. 

 

So, in the fifth and final post of this series we’re going deep on specificity. You’ll end up with goals that represent your roadmap, a detailed roadmap, to success.

 

Until then consider this… I’ve always heard it said that there are only two things certain in life, those being death and taxes. I’d like to add this to the certainties of life: if you’re willing to be stopped in the pursuit of your goals there will always be someone or something to stop you. 


The more specific you are in setting your goals the harder it is for someone else to get in your way. You’re looking at a substantial investment of time in order to be specific when setting true goals but it’s an investment with a guaranteed return because it’s an investment in yourself. 

When Goals Matter – Part Three

Hopefully since my last post you’ve been considering those activities you do with some regularity that provide you with no return on your time investment. Your odds of accomplishing anything new go way up when you’re prepared to give up something old to get it. I guess maybe that’s what “they” mean when they say life is full of trade-offs.

 

If you’re indeed serious about stopping something in order to start something new you’ll need to set a stop goal with as much specificity and accountability as any other goal. We’ll talk about those goal setting characteristics in our next post but the key thing to remember is that a stop goal is indeed a goal and the same rules apply if you plan on achieving it. Old habits die hard and unless you’re very intentional about killing them they tend to linger on indefinitely.

 

There is no magic to the number of goals you have but keep in mind if you’re focusing on 21 different things you actually have no focus at all. Prioritizing your goals in order to focus is a key to actually achieving them. It’s also perfectly okay, in fact it’s good practice, to occasionally adjust and rethink your goals.

 

If you’re serious about goal setting then it’s vital that you be honest with yourself. If you have a goal to be debt-free in 3 years then don’t try to convince yourself that you can go three years and never spurge on something. Build the occasional spurge into your goals, discipline is important in achieving goals but so is realism. Being overly aggressive when setting goals causes frustration and frustration is a short path to failure.

 

Your formal goal-setting process begins by determining your vision and your mission. You should write out an actual vision and mission statement to guide you through your goal-setting and your life. Your vision statement is a description of where you are going in life and what it will look like when you get there. Make it fun, make it appealing and make it truthful. This is YOUR vision, don’t be talked out of it by someone who wants to run your life. It’s hard enough to achieve your own goals; you’ll find it nearly impossible and totally unfulfilling trying to achieve someone else’s. 

 

Once you have your vision statement you’re ready to develop your mission statement. This is a statement that sums up the direction you want your life to take in the future. That direction should be leading you directly to your vision. Once developed your mission will become the driving force behind your goals, both personal and professional. 

 

Goals always matter but when you’re on a mission you’ll find that goals really really matter.

 

By the way, if you’re still wondering about those stop goals then a mission statement can really come in handy. If you’re doing something too frequently that doesn’t help you accomplish your mission then you may want to set a stop goal around it. That allows you to focus more energy on the things that do help you accomplish your mission.


In my next post I’ll discuss the areas of your life you may want to consider setting goals and exactly what a true goal looks like. Until then start thinking about your vision and mission. Understanding, with great specificity, where you want to go in life is absolutely essential if you truly hope to get there.