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. 

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Will Be”

The first two steps in our planning process were foundational in nature. Use any GPS you want and you’ll discover that without both a starting point and destination GPS is worthless. So is a plan!

Now that you understand the “As is,” or your starting point, and you have a clear picture of your “should be” or destination, you can begin the heavy lifting of developing a plan to reach that destination.

I call step three of the planning process the “will be.” This is where you set goals. For your plan to be viable you’ll need short-term goals, medium-term and long-term goals. Others may disagree but I don’t think there is any perfect answer to what “short term” actually means. For some it might be 6 months and for others it might be 6 minutes. Remember this is YOUR plan. While I encourage you to share it with people you trust for honest feedback, do not be dissuaded from going after something you feel strongly about. 

Keep in mind that while we’re planning for a better 2021 next year is only a stepping stone to future years. Your long-term goals may stretch out 5 or 10 years or even longer. 

Whether something should be classified as a short-term goal or a long-term goal matters far less than your commitment to achieve it. So, while we’re on the commitment subject….

Never set a goal you’re not committed to work towards. If your goal isn’t something you are willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve then it’s not a worthwhile goal. You will develop the actual plan to achieve the goals later in the planning process but if you’re not 100% committed to working for a goal then don’t waste time setting it. 

Which brings us to what goals you should set. Have I mentioned that this is YOUR plan…it’s no one’s business what YOUR goals are. I’d recommend setting goals in many areas of your life. Personal goals, professional, financial, health, spiritual, growth/learning and wherever else YOU want.

Whatever your goals are you will be far more likely to achieve them if they are based on the foundation of your core values. And that’s what makes planning such a challenge for so many people.

Asked to articulate their core values very few people can actually do it. Core Values are those deeply held beliefs that make you who you are. The sad reality is that many people float through life never understanding what makes them who they are. It takes considerable self-reflection to know yourself. It takes a sizable investment of time to understand what your deeply held beliefs are and how you came to hold them so dear. 

And most people simply will not make that investment of time. In fact research shows the average person will invest 400% more time to plan a one week vacation than they will invest to plan the rest of their lives. Goals are actually the plan for the rest of your life. 

This my friends is where the rubber meets the road. If you are unwilling to invest the time to know and understand your core values then you might as well skip the rest of this planning series. It will only be an exercise in frustration. 

If however you are willing to turn off the TV, put down your phone, block out distractions to focus on the life you have then this series can help you. If you’re willing to consider the life you want along with the values that will guide you in your pursuit of that life then this planning process could change your life. 

This is the step of the process where you decide the “will be.” Not what you would like things to be, what they really “will be.” Imagine being able to simply choose the life you want… then skip the imagining part and set goals to choose it. 

Are You in the Three Percent?

Research shows that less than 3% of people write down their goals.  Most people are statistically more likely to spend time organizing exactly what they want from the supermarket than they are working out what they want from life.  Crazy but true.

     

One way, most successful people would say the best way, to get more out of life is to develop meaningful personal and professional goals.  The biggest predictor of success is purposeful direction.  If you don’t have something to aim for in life, the chances are you will end up achieving far less than you would like.  Almost every successful person in the world started with a clearly defined goal and a plan to achieve it.

    

The beauty of setting goals is that they actually help to streamline your life, adding focus and something tangible for you to work towards while shedding unproductive low yield activities.  In some ways goals are like guideposts helping you to move towards a meaningful life, towards something that holds special importance to you.  What that special something is, is a very individual choice.

    

The first step to working out what you want is to establish what is important to you in life.  If for example, you value your friends and family above anything else, then it makes sense to set a life goal of spending as much quality time with them as possible.

 

Consider answering the questions below and start devising goals around the answers you produce:

  • What would you want to achieve if you knew you could not fail?
  • What is the legacy you most want to leave behind?
  • What and who exactly are you when you’re at your absolute best?
  • If today was your last day on earth how would you spend it? Who would you spend it with?

Your answers to these questions will provide you with valuable insights about what is truly important to you in your life and help you jump start your goal setting process.  

 

Put yourself in in that 3% and you’ll have a chance to make 2018, and all your years to come, the very best years of your life! 

 

 

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 Two

I should probably warn you right up front that the process of setting truly achievable goals is serious work. It requires some heavy thinking and a substantial commitment of time. If you’re not at a point in your life where you want to have a measure of control over every aspect of it then maybe this post isn’t for you.

 

If however you want to be the driver of your life then read on, I’m talking to you.

 

A solid goal-setting process begins with the investment of some serious time considering what is important in your life. That might sound easy but here’s the deal, what is important in your life isn’t what you say it is, it is what you show it is.

 

For instance, you might say that losing weight and maintaining a good physical condition is an important goal for you. But if I followed you around for a week would I be able to “see” that in you. I’d have my doubts if I followed you up to the snack counter at the movies for your third popcorn refill. 

 

It’s so much easier to say what’s important than it is to show what’s important. Other people see what is truly important in your life, often before you do. Before you set a single goal you need to understand that it’s your actions that really reflect what’s important in your life. So don’t “think” about what’s important in your life, “watch” yourself and “see” what’s actually important in your life. Better yet, ask your mentor or a close friend what they think is important in your life. That could be a huge eye-opener for you.

 

Once you understand what is important in your life then you’re almost ready to set some true goals.

 

I say almost because there is one other absolutely vital step in the goal setting process that most people completely overlook.

 

Before you can set a true goal you MUST set one or more “stop goals.” These are the things you’ll stop doing in order to start doing something else. Achieving most goals means doing something that you’re not currently doing. That means you’ll take on something new, something which requires some sort of time investment. 

 

Most people set this goal without any consideration of where the time will come from. Unless you’re one of the rare people who sits around wondering how you can burn a few more hours before bedtime, you’re day (and night) is already too busy. Setting a goal which requires more time without the time to achieve it is merely setting a fools goal. 

 

If you have no time to invest in achieving a goal then the goal will not be achieved. Period.

 

One of the biggest, if not the biggest mistake people make in goal setting is not starting by setting stop goals. 

 

So, in my next post we’ll start the goal setting process by discussing stopping those time consuming, low return activities that all of us do without even thinking about them. They are often mindless little things but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly expensive in terms of the time it takes to do them.


Until then start noticing how you use your time and ask yourself what you’re doing that really pays no return. If you could stop doing it without anyone, including yourself, really noticing then maybe you should just stop doing it. Think about it! 

Are You Truly Productive?

imageAre you truly productive? That’s a question you may want to ask yourself with some regularity. We… you, me and everybody else has the uncanny ability to trick ourselves into believing that we are incredibly productive when in fact we’re merely busy.

Busy and productive are two entirely different things!

Busy is about doing stuff. Productive is about doing stuff for a purpose. Busy is about looking like your accomplishing something. Productive is about actually accomplishing it. Busy is about wondering what happened to the hours in your day. Productive is about knowing exactly how you used your time.

Busy people hope for a productive day. Productive people plan a productive day.

Their plan is based on their goals and objectives. They determine what they will do and when they will do it based on priorities that come straight out of their goals. They strive to be doing the most productive thing possible at any given time.

Here’s they most amazing thing about highly productive people: they have more free time to do as they please. They earn this free time by not wasting time being busy. They simply get more done than very busy people.

The key is effective goal setting. Once you invest the time required to have meaningful goals in specific areas of your life you’re halfway to being productive. To finish the job you must develop a detailed plan around how you will achieve each goal.

Specificity is vital here. If you allow wiggle room you’ll use it to fall into old, busy looking habits.

Share your goals with someone to whom you truly matter, someone who will hold you accountable to your plan. This is where a coach or mentor can really make a difference. People who have a coach or mentor are generally more productive and more successful. That is not a coincidence. Coaches and mentors make a major difference in the lives of those they work with.

So don’t be so busy you never stop to ask yourself if what you’re doing is actually productive. That little gut check can be the difference between getting something accomplished and wondering why you can’t.