“Act as if it were impossible to fail.”
Dorothea Brande – Wake Up and Live
“Men were born to succeed, not fail.
Henry David Thoreau
About a year ago I created some one-year goals. I haven’t reached most of them. This is not blame or sadness or anger. It is simply a fact. I made some goals. I didn’t reach them. Those are the facts. Most likely, I won’t reach them by the actual day.
In the past, I might have beaten myself up for this. I would have felt bad. I would have felt like a failure. I would have gone through my past with a fine toothcomb and reviewed and relived all the other ways I “failed.” Then I would have given up
But this time something is different. I’m not happy, sad, or angry about not reaching my goals. I’m simply aware of it. I’m also asking myself, “What do you want to do to about it?”
There’s more than one answer to the question, “What do we do when we fail to meet our goals?”
First, we can quit. Perhaps our goals were unrealistic. Perhaps they weren’t what we really wanted. Perhaps they were just too hard. Perhaps we should go back to the lives we once knew. For some, this may be an option. It’s not my job to judge. But quitting won’t work for most goal-oriented people. It won’t work for me.
Second, we can review our goals. Maybe they were ambitious, but still worth keeping. Maybe they just need some adjustment. Maybe they need more time. Maybe we need help. Perhaps we need to complete some steps in between, such as finishing school or getting out of debt.
Third, we can renew our goals. This means we keep them, but we make plans about how to be successful. In my own case, I didn’t create specific and concrete plans around my goals. For example, I wanted to read ten books on finance. I only read six. Had I planned to read a book a month, reaching my goal wouldn’t have been a problem.
Michael Masterson’s book, The Pledge – Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life beautifully details how to create a 7-year plan by creating Goals, Objectives, and Tasks. The Goal is the long-term desire, such as making a million dollars. Objectives are the large tasks we must undertake to reach the goal, such as start a business or get a different job. And Tasks are the things we must do each day and week to reach our objective, such as get a new resume or write a business plan.
This makes my goal my job. Or, more accurately, my second job. Though Masterson talks about 7-year goals, I think each of us needs to determine the amount of time we can reasonably reach our goals. For some it will be longer, for others, it will take less time.
Here are some guidelines, some I wish I had understood and followed this last year, but will implement now:
· Write your goals, objectives, and tasks down with as much detail as possible.
· Review this regularly, perhaps every day.
· Treat the completion of your goals as a job.
· Make yourself accountable to someone.
· Complete something every day.
· Don’t be overly concerned by delays, distractions, or difficulties. Just get through them as quickly as possible.
· Be flexible, but keep your goals in front of you at the same time.
· It is possible that a goal may need to be adjusted or even eliminated. This is not common, but it is possible. But fear or difficulties are not good reasons to eliminate a goal.
· Get a planner or a calendar and document your tasks, objectives, goals and, best of all, your progress.
· Decide how much time per day you will devote to your goal. Do not, in your enthusiasm, overestimate. Do not, in your fear, underestimate.
Had I done these things, I might not have “failed.” But I didn’t fail. I learned. I also accomplished a lot as a writer. I had a lot of personal growth. I learned many new things. And generally, I feel better about myself and my abilities than I ever have. Most of all, despite setbacks and difficulties, I never failed to Get Started and Keep Going. That’s why we don’t fail.