You’d better plan your life, or someone else will.
Before discussing how to reach goals, let’s take the time for a definition:
A goal is a personally motivating vision of what you’re committed to achieving or doing, to contribute to your well-being and the well-being of others.
If you have not yet worked through Part 1 of this book, I strongly recommend you stop here and complete that section before you start this one. Part 1 and its lessons about your calling are important, because it’s hard to know where you’re going and what you want if you’re not in touch with who you are: your talents, your values, your beliefs, and your dreams and vision. Self-awareness helps to uncover that.
But after you have discovered your visions and dreams, you need to put a plan in place to pursue those dreams. Dreams without goals are just dreams, and ultimately, they lead to disappointment.
When I think about setting goals, I think about both what I will get and who I will become because of the lessons I learn in the process. The pursuit of goals helps you to refine your character, build toughness and durability, and sharpen your focus. That’s why goals are so important: They help you to become a better person.
Having goals is one of the ways to take responsibility for your life and keep you focused. Your goals can help you decide what you will do and what you will not do. Instead of waiting for someone to save you or give you something, your goals will be something to wake up and chase on a daily basis. Whether it’s big or small, your goal is YOURS. Don’t allow anyone to tell you what to want. Take the time get really clear on WHAT you want and WHY.
The WHY is your major motivating force. More important than any goal is the motivation behind the goal. That’s what gets you moving when you encounter difficulty and uncertainty. You’ll need to dig deep to determine the results you want in your life and the reasons for those results.
It’s important to note that, while goals can make your life more meaningful, they are not the meaning of life. If you get to the point where not reaching your goals feels like the equivalent to death, then your goal setting has become unhealthy and you need to take a step back to get some perspective. If not reaching your goals causes you to become hurtful, manipulative, physically sick, or emotionally broken, your goals have shifted from being healthy to toxic, and the toxic effect will be felt by other people around you. If this happens, it’s possible that you have lost sight of who you are and why you’re chasing your goals. Go back to Part 1 and review the exercises to get a clearer picture of your true direction.
Unless you're tempted to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. An example for me is writing a book. It’s new and challenging, and it pushes me to be better. I think everyone should have personally motivating reasons for why they want to achieve their goals. When you have a strong WHY for your goals, you can handle any HOW.
Four things keep my WHY sharp. I call them the “Four Fs.” On any given day, one may be stronger than the other:
“Your life is God’s gift to you. Who you become is your gift to God.” My faith in God is an organizing principle in my life. When I reflect on this quote, I’m moved out of gratitude to make my life matter and to inspire others to do the same.
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children. Proverbs 13:22 (NIV). One of my mentors would always say that great people leave something better than they found it. I interpret that statement to mean that I will make the legacy of my family better. To do that, I have to become better as a person, as a man, and as a leader. I set goals to continue the healthy traditions and break the negative cycles of my family concerning finances, relationships, emotional health, and spirituality.
Learning African-American and Haitian history continues to have a profound effect on me, as a Black man in America. Every time I watch movies like 12 Years a Slave, Amistad, Selma, Mandela, Malcolm X, Birth of a Nation—or TV shows like Underground or Roots—I’m reminded of what my heroes have endured to achieve freedom for themselves and their families. Their inspiration moves me to sustain and build on what they’ve achieved.
I heard someone say that they have one thing to prove: that they can live their life without fear. I’m going to take that goal and make it mine. I want to live my life without—
· Fear of criticism
· Fear of failure
· Fear of truth
· Fear of responsibility
· And most importantly, the fear of death. If something really matters to me, I must be willing to die for it.
Your funeral might be the only time in your life when everyone will say nice things about you and reflect on all the great things you’ve been and done. In all likelihood, you’ll be lying on your back and well-dressed while looking up; the preacher will be looking down, and everyone will be looking at you. At this time, you’ll be able to say one of two things: I wish I had done (blank) or I’m glad I did (blank). I encourage you to live your life in such a way that you can say, “I’m glad I did.”
Take some time to write out your major motivating force in life. What is your WHY? This exercise takes time, and answers might not come to you right away. Continue to ask yourself these questions. Know that your WHYs can be unlimited, and that some will be more important than others at any point in time.