1-on-1: How to Set a Goal and Achieve It

Jim Cathcart, Cynthia Kersey and Brian Tracy weigh in on how to achieve your goals.
September 3, 2009

The Experts Up Close

Jim Cathcart is a professional speaker and founder of the Cathcart Institute Inc. His top-selling books include Relationship Selling and The Acorn Principle.

Brian Tracy is a top management consultant and author of more than 45 books, including the best-selling Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible.

Cynthia Kersey is the best-selling author of Unstoppable: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You, as well as a performance and productivity coach.  

Q: Why set goals?

Brian Tracy: All successful people are intensely goal-oriented. They know what they want and they are focused single-mindedly on achieving it, every single day. Your ability to set goals is the master skill of success. Goals unlock your positive mind and release ideas and energy for goal attainment. Without goals, you simply drift and flow on the currents of life. With goals, you fl y like an arrow, straight and true to your target.

One of the rules for success is this: It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from; all that matters is where you’re going. And where you are going is solely determined by you and your thoughts. Clear goals increase confidence, develop your competence and boost your levels of motivation.

Cynthia Kersey: One of my favorite quotes is by Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Setting goals provides us with a way to create our future today by focusing our attention and daily action steps toward what we really want and then making them a reality. Setting goals works.  

Q: Why do I keep setting goals and failing to see them through to fruition?

Brian Tracy: Most people give up before they even make the first try. And the reason they give up is because of all the obstacles, difficulties, problems and roadblocks that immediately appear as soon as they decide to do something they have never done before. The fact is that successful people fail far more often than unsuccessful people. Successful people try more things, fall down, pick themselves up and try again—over and over before they finally win.

The two major obstacles to achievement are fear and self-doubt. The fear of failure, poverty, loss, embarrassment or rejection holds most people back from trying in the first place. Small fears overwhelm them and, like a bucket of water on a small fi re, extinguish their desire completely.

The second mental obstacle, closely aligned to fear, is self-doubt. We doubt our own abilities. We compare ourselves unfavorably to others and think that others are somehow better, smarter and more competent than we are. We think, I’m not good enough. We feel inadequate and inferior to the challenges of achieving the great goals that we so want to accomplish. If there is anything good about doubt and fear, it is that they are learned emotions. And whatever has been learned can be unlearned through practice and repetition.  

Q: Is there anything I should think about before sitting down to write my goals?

Cynthia Kersey: Before sitting down to actually write your list of goals, I encourage you to first take a moment to discover something deeper—your purpose. What gives your life meaning and gives you personal satisfaction? What are the unique gifts and insights that you can contribute to your world? Your purpose will fuel your efforts and give you the drive to continue in the pursuit of your goals, no matter the challenges.

Start by writing How I Want to Be Remembered. List the qualities, deeds and characteristics for which you would like to be remembered by your friends, spouse, children, co-workers, the community, and even the world. If you have special relationships with other people or groups, such as a church or synagogue, club or team, include them on the list, too. You will begin to uncover your true values and the sources of meaning in your life. Being clear about your purpose may be your single most important accomplishment.  

Q: OK, I have a goal list, now what?

Jim Cathcart: Figure out which items matter more than all of the rest. Ask yourself, “If I got this one, wouldn’t all of the others come along for the ride?” Often, when we achieve our one big goal, we get a whole truckload of other goals as part of the process. Don’t worry about achieving all of them, just make sure you achieve the few that you really care about. The others will come.

Brian Tracy: Plan.

Make a list of everything that you can think of that you will have to do to achieve your goal. Organize your list by priority. Organize your list by sequence. What must be done before something else is done? Determine how much time and money it will take to achieve your goal or complete your task. Revisit and revise your plan accordingly.  

Q: What advice do you have for helping me stick with my goals throughout an entire year?

Jim Cathcart: Manage your mindset. Surround yourself with people and things that keep you focused. Take charge of whom you spend the most time with. Manage your workspace and home settings so that you are reminded of your goals and your commitments. Form habits that lead to your becoming the person you’ll need to be. When you form the habit of starting your productivity earlier in the day, associating with more positive people, managing the news and information you feed your mind, controlling the language you use— especially the ways in which you describe yourself—you will find it easier to succeed. Become the person who would achieve your goals and who would deserve them.

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