A secret little trick for achieving big goals
“What’s the greatest source of dissatisfaction, frustration, or stress in your life right now?”
I once asked my subscribers this question, and this is one of the answers I received:
“The gap. There is such a massive gap between what I know and what I do, what my vision of the future is and where I am today, and I have an impossible time translating the vision into a daily regimen that gives any hope the vision can be achieved.”
For those with a similar challenge, here are three keys for turning your vision into reality:
1. Set specific, measurable goals and write them down.
All life progress starts with a vision. Once the vision is in place, it must be translated into specific, measurable goals, which answer the critical questions:
- What are you trying to make happen?
- How will you measure success?
These goals must be written down, placed prominently, and read out loud daily.
In 1979 the Harvard MBA program performed a study in which graduate students were asked “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”
- 84 percent of students had no goals at all
- 13 percent had goals but they weren’t in writing
- Only 3 percent had written goals and plans
Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the result was stunning.
The 13 percent of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84 percent who had no goals.
The 3 percent who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined!
A vision without written goals is but a dream. Starry-eyed dreams do come true, but only through wide-eyed, practical plans.
2. Leverage “goal-getters” to make daily progress toward your goals.
The secret trick for achieving goals that few people know and even fewer apply is “goal-getters.” This trick was taught to me by my mentor, Oliver DeMille.
Goal-getters are the little daily things you do to make progress toward your goal. They are the things that, if you do them consistently and persistently, will naturally and inevitably result in the achievement of the goal.
Suppose have a goal to lose twenty pounds. It’s good to post that goal in a conspicuous place where you see it all the time, but more important is to focus on the things you need to do to accomplish that goal. This could include creating and sticking to a nutrition plan, exercising for a certain time period each day, and so on.
The idea is to spend less time, focus, and energy on the goals themselves, and more on goal-getters.
Setting goal-getters starts with a weekly planning session. I typically do mine on Sunday evenings, sometimes on Monday morning.
Whatever works for you, at the beginning of each week, sit down and plan and write down your goal-getters.
Your goal-getters for the week are what you need to accomplish this week to progress toward your goals.
I write down goal-getters for each role in my life. My roles, among others, include husband, father, writer, and coach. I have specific goal-getters that I write down for each of those roles — all of which are attached to visions and goals for each of these roles.
The weekly timeline is important. It’s a pattern that was established for us with the creation of the world, when God labored six days and then rested on the seventh day.
Vision creation, yearly resolutions, and daily scheduling are important. But weekly planning for goal-getters is the real magic of marching step by step toward your goals. That’s what keeps you on track and keeps you digging in the trenches through every obstacle.
Finally, you must hold yourself accountable at the end of each week. The first part of my weekly planning session is reviewing the previous week to see how I did. I write down which goal-getters I achieved and which ones I didn’t.
Goal-Getters in Action
The power of goal-getters is illustrated by a story from Chad Hymas, who became paralyzed by a tractor accident and decided to become a public speaker.
To launch his speaking career, he set a goal to break a world record by pushing a wheelchair 513 miles from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. He started his journey on July 27th, 2002.
At the beginning, he measured his progress by the day. His goal was to complete the journey within ten days, so his daily goal was fifty-three miles.
By day four he was utterly exhausted and ready to give up. He didn’t think he had six days left in him.
His dad kept him going by urging, “Don’t think about six more days. Just do one more day.”
This kept him going two more days. But then he hit the southern Utah desert, where the asphalt was 122 degrees and covered in an inch-thick layer of crickets.
It became too hot to travel during the day, so he began sleeping during the day and pushing at night.
On the ninth day he pushed for two hours. His body stopped working. He was ready to give up again.
This time, his wife encouraged him: “How about trying just one hour tomorrow? If you can’t make it, we can go home.”
One day at a time became one hour at a time. The next morning he got up and started pushing.
The only thing that kept him going was to count mile markers. He made it one hour and then collapsed.
He was ready to quit again. His dad stepped in again and said, “Son, don’t give up. Break down the goal even more. Instead of mile markers, count the yellow stripes in the middle of the road.”
The next day, he counted 728 stripes.
He wrote in his book, Doing What Must Be Done,
“Every time I felt like giving up on this journey through the desert, I would break my goal into smaller increments — one day at a time, one hour at a time, one mile at a time — and now one yellow stripe at a time. In order to survive and succeed, I have to focus on the simple task at hand and do it. Keep in the goal in mind, yes; but keep my eye on the task at hand…
“After going literally as far as I could go, dividing and subdividing my goal into smaller and smaller steps until there is nothing left — in me — Providence steps in. Aching shoulders, blistered and bandaged hands don’t matter anymore. Providence is pushing me to get in Guinness.
“I coast into Las Vegas on three wheels and a prayer.”
As Chad proved, the habit of breaking your goals into daily and weekly goal-getters is indispensable for anyone who wants to accomplish anything important.
3. Have a ten-year time horizon.
Last but not least, it’s critical that you have a ten-year time horizon. Yearly resolutions are the furthest most people think, but as Oliver DeMille once told me,
“People far overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, and far underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.”
I look back on the last ten years of his life and realize he’s right.
And so will you — if you religiously adhere to the discipline of goal-getters.