Let’s talk about “goals” for a moment.
Have you ever set a goal for yourself, something that you truly wanted to achieve, but didn’t? Do you know someone or have you ever heard of someone who seems to have an uncanny ability to achieve whatever goals they’ve set? Have you ever wondered how they can do this?
The reason I believe is because the majority of goals are easily stirred and blown over by winds of adversity and trial, and because they are not anchored on something immovable and unshakable within a person. I believe any goal, if firmly anchored in this way, will be achieved.
Boundaries, hindrances, and passages
One of the definitions of ‘goal’ is “an observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe”. Along similar lines are the definitions given by Oxford Dictionaries: “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result” and even “the destination of a journey”.
But ‘goal’ was not always defined in these above figurative senses. The etymology of “goal” suggests that roots of this word can be traced as far back as the 1530s, when it meant “end point of a race”.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word ‘gol’ appeared once in a 14th century poem, with the sense of being a “boundary” or “limit”. The modern word ‘goal’ could also have originated from the Old English “gal”, which means “obstacle” or “barrier”, which is implied by “gælan”, meaning “to hinder”.
According to the same dictionary, the word as defined would make it a variant or figurative use of the Middle English word “gale”, that is, “a way” or “course”. This could also be compared with the Old Norse “geil”, which means “a narrow passage”. Both the sports sense of “goal” (as a place where the ball is put to score) and figurative sense (as an “object of effort”) appear to have originated from the 1540s.
A reading of the etymology of the word ‘goal’ is revealing; surprisingly, it also holds clues as to the true nature of goals, why they are so important in our lives, and why they are often difficult to achieve.
A goal can be understood as the “end point of a race”, which signifies it’s something that we reach after a period of pursuit; it is an end in itself.
But understood as a “limit”, a goal signifies something that represents the outer barrier of what we can achieve in a particular area of life.
Limits or barriers, however, are never static; once they are breached, there is always a new limit or barrier to reach and break. Take for instance the human goal of running a mile in less than 4 minutes. This was thought impossible until British middle-distance runner Roger Bannister did it on May 6, 1954. Less than a year after he did it, another person ran the sub-4 minute mile. Then more people did it. Now it’s no longer even considered unusual and runners are trying to achieve increasingly faster speeds.
As a “hindrance”, a goal is something that we must pass or overcome before we can move on to the next, higher level.
But rather than being a stage that we reach or something that must be overcome, perhaps it is better to think about a goal in the sense of the Middle English “gale”, which is a “way” or, even the Old Norse “geil”, which is a “narrow passage”.
Our goal may be achieved in the process of our pursuit of it; the point of achieving the goal lies not in accomplishing an objective or a target, but in the inner transformation that takes place on the journey toward the goal.
In the next couple of blog posts, we will go through the process of seeking goals and then listing down these goals in a way that will ensure you achieve them faster than you ever thought possible.
Almost every person has goals. But not everyone has them written down. Ask your family and closest friends whether they have goals that are written down on paper or digitally. You might be surprised to find that most of them do not have their goals written down.
In my case, I was surprised to find out of every five people from my immediate circle that I asked, four didn’t have a written list of concrete goals they wanted to achieve or had not written their goals down on paper.
So, I’m assuming that you already know or have your goals and listed them down. But if not, I’ve written this blog to help you come up with your list of goals. If you already have specific and concrete goals and written them down, I encourage you to read it anyway — I’m certain it will help you refine, and give you new insights on the goals you already have.
Four out of five people in our immediate circles do not have a list of goals written down on paper or digitally.
The late American author and teacher Barbara Sher describes a goal as a “basic unit of life design”. I think this is an accurate way of defining what a goal is.
Think about your life now, where you are, which degree you completed, which college or university you attended, the type of job you’re doing or business you’re running, where you live, the kinds of relationships you’re enjoying, and the activities you’re engaging in.
Chances are, you didn’t end up with any of these things or people just because you chanced upon them or they came randomly or by accident. At one point, you thought that you’d like to go to that particular university and study that degree; you thought it would be good to have this kind of job or that kind of business; you imagined how nice it would be to have a relationship with this kind of person or to live in this kind of house or environment. If you’ve thought about any of these things at any point in your life, then you’ve already set goals. And if you’ve accomplished many of your goals, then their sum total is now your present life experience.
Some people, though, find themselves aimlessly drifting from one relationship or job to the next; others are unable to stay in any single place, even though they really want to build their life in one place. It’s perfectly all right if your number one goal in life is to have freedom to move around, experience variety in everything and never be tied down. But if the reason you’re drifting from one relationship, job or place to the next is because you don’t have a goal of where you really want to be, what you really want to do, and who you really want to do it with, then you need to set some goals for yourself.
Still other people are serial goal-setters, but not serial goal-achievers. They set one resolution or goal after another, start on some of them, run out of steam at some point, abandon a goal, move on to the next one, and repeat the whole process all over again.
This is fine if this comes as a natural process of evolution of your goals. I cannot stress this enough — our goals are not meant to be written in stone; they are ever evolving. It’s also great if the reason you drop goals is because you’ve already achieved them or something greater, and have now set even loftier goals. It’s also fine if you dropped a goal midway because you realized that this goal was too small for you or it no longer resonates with where you are in your life.
It’s different though if you set one goal after another but never end up achieving any of them. Achieving a goal generates a tremendous feeling of pride, confidence and accomplishment and galvanizes our energies to go after bigger goals. But dropping a goal, something that we truly want, midway creates the opposite effect — it causes us to lose self-confidence, can make us feel defeated and deflated, and discourages us from pursuing further goals.
If a goal is a basic unit of life design, then you can easily design your dream life by listing down all the individual goals that will collectively comprise your dream life.
But it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to list down every possible unit of our dream life; besides, you can’t predict how your tastes and preferences will change in the future, so it’s not practical to be so specific in some goals at this stage when you’re still trying to identify what your goals are.
If you want to make your dream life real, you must start by choosing the one most important and indispensable unit of that life and commit to achieving that one.
In his book The Success Principles, American author and trainer Jack Canfield calls this the Breakthrough Goal. I’ve had the pleasure of being a student of Jack’s coaching program; it has helped me define and achieve several breakthrough goals. But instead of a breakthrough goal, I will call this your overriding goal — the one goal that overrides all others and that you must accomplish before all other goals can be accomplished; it’s the one goal that must be in your dream life for it to be complete.
A true overriding goal meets several important criteria:
One: a goal is specific and concrete
Two: a goal is time-stamped
Three: a goal needs no justification
Four: a goal is meant to stretch you
Five: a goal is a touchstone
Overriding goal: your one goal that surpasses all other goals and that you must accomplish before all other goals can be accomplished; it’s the one goal that must be in your dream life for it to be complete.
In the the next couple of blog posts, I’ll be taking you through each of these criteria in more detail and then teach you two amazingly effective techniques of how to identify goals that will be truly worthy of who you are, and that are grand enough to get your hurt pumping and your blood racing whenever you think about them. And then, I’ll teach you a proven method of how to immediately start taking action to achieve these big goals. Let’s dare something worthy!