John Addison: 3 Realities of Powerful Goals

UPDATED: December 26, 2016
PUBLISHED: December 26, 2016

I’ve got a reality check for you: There is a fundamental difference between a goal and a list of resolutions.

I am not a believer in a year-end list of goals. I mean, let’s be honest. All you’re doing is writing down a list of things that you won’t do. I don’t think anything is accomplished by making marks on a piece of paper. That list of resolutions might make you feel all warm and fuzzy about your future, but it’s no guarantee that next year will look any different than this year.

In my experience, there are three realities of powerful, achievable goals.

Related: To Be Successful, You’ve Got to Create Successful Habits

1. A goal is not the same thing as a resolution.

A real goal is when you decide you’re going to get something done no matter what. The word “decide” ends in -cide, like homicide and suicide. You really decide to make a change when you’ve reached the death of all other alternatives. I believe a true goal, not a list goal, is incredibly powerful. But that means that you’ve got to make a fundamental decision that not getting it done is not an option. You’ve got to make it happen.

2. There is only one real way to accomplish a goal.

You must do three things: apply relentless effort, call upon your deepest reserves of energy, and acquire the ability to change course and direction to get to where you want to be. No matter what happens, you have to adapt and keep going. When a door closes, you’ve got to find a window.

In life, getting from point A to point B is never a straight line. It’s never going to go the way you hope it does or plan for it to go. The cleanliness of theory is no match for the mess of reality. Things happen in life and business that throw you off course, that make your goal seem unreachable, but you have to make it happen. You’ve got to figure out a way.

3. You’re either tough enough to reach your goals or you’re not.

My experience in life is that it will give you what you will accept. The other side of that truth is that life will also give you what you’re willing to fight for. Are you one of the people willing to fight hard enough for what you want?

Related: Are You Willing to Do Whatever It Takes?

When I was co-CEO of a financial services company and we were in a long fight for the IPO, people didn’t always like what I had to say. I had to be tough. But they knew I was going to be a battering ram, that I was going to be relentless to get us to the right place. When it comes to goals, that’s how you have to be: tough enough to see it through to the end.

Here in the United States, we recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The generation of people who fought in World War II is going away every day. I truly believe they were the greatest generation, and here’s why: They were children of the Depression. The Great Recession we had is baby food compared to what they went though as young people. Unemployment was almost 30 percent. The world collapsed around them, and most of them were raised in complete, abject poverty. Right when they were becoming young adults, the world went into a world war that they had to fight both at home and abroad. Then they came home and built the American economy and the prosperity that we still experience today. They were tough. They were relentless. They were unwilling to fail no matter what.

Life is hard. Reaching your goal isn’t easy. Everybody would do something great in 2017 if it were easy. Well, guess what? It isn’t. Some people win, some people lose. Some people get it done. Some people don’t. Those are the facts.

If you look at what you want to accomplish next year, I hate to break it to you, but a list isn’t going to get it done. A goal is something that you’re going to relentlessly pursue until it’s reached. You’ve got to decide. What’s your decision going to be?

Related: 5 Qualities You Need to Reach Your Biggest Goals

John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose,aWall Street Journal and USA Todaybest-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.