Set and accomplish goals

write-your-goals copyAn article in the March 24, 1972 issue of Life magazine featured John Goddard who, at age 15, wrote down 127 goals which he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime.

Included in his goals were: climb Mounts Kilimanjaro, Ararat, Fuji, McKinley (and thirteen others); visit every country in the world; learn to fly an airplane; retrace the travels of March Polo and Alexander the Great; visit the North and South Poles, Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal (and other exotic areas); become an Eagle Scout; dive in a submarine; play flute and violin; publish an article in National Geographic magazine; learn French, Spanish and Arabic; milk a poisonous snake; read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica; and other goals, similar in variety and scope.

By age 47, Goddard had accomplished 103 of these goals and was in the process of completing several others. Goddard was neither wealthy nor gifted when he began his amazing saga of adventure and accomplishment. He was just a young boy who believed all things were possible and that he could accomplish his goals.

I wonder how many of those experiences he would have had if he had not formally expressed them as goals.

Goal setting is good.

Goals clarify intent and focus resources. If we don’t commit to concrete goals we may drift through life, accomplishing little.

Here are some guidelines for goal setting:

  • Set goals for all major areas of life: financial, relational, physical, professional, spiritual, social, and intellectual.
  • Write down your goals. It’s not sufficient to have them only in your mind, transcribe them into your journal or computer. It’s the best way to codify your thoughts.
  • Review your progress, often. If you don’t revisit your goals regularly, they will fall off the radar screen.
  • Don’t bludgeon yourself if you don’t accomplish every goal. Partially completed goals can be very fulfilling because sometimes the journey is just as rewarding as arriving at the final destination.

What happens if you don’t set and pursue goals? You will most likely not reach your potential and you will underutilize your gifts and squander your resources. If you aim at nothing, you will hit it. Or, as Wayne Gretzky said, “You’ll miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”

“Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be” is a cute song to sing but a lousy philosophy on which to build your life. Decide now that you are going to be a planner and that you will set and accomplish meaningful goals.


What? – Goal-setting is advantageous; it makes us more focused and productive.
So what? – Make goal-setting a part of your life.
Now what? – Like Goddard, make a list of things you want to accomplish in life. Through the years, you can edit the list, discarding some and adding others, but do keep a list.

Leaders – Does your organization have goals? Are they measurable? Do you have a public “scoreboard” that is constantly updated?

Travel extensively

globeOne sees the world more clearly if one looks at it from an angle. — Henry Thoreau

When we travel, we see things “from an angle,” and the further we travel from home, the more severe the angle.

For instance, if you live in Dallas, Texas, and you travel to Houston, Texas, you’ll see things differently, but not by much. Visit New York City, and you’ll experience a significant change in culture. Cross the Atlantic Ocean to Paris, and you’ll be more challenged. Travel to India, and you’ll think you’re on a different planet.

Mary and I have traveled to 46 countries, most of them multiple times. We try to visit one new country each year. This summer we’re going to the United Arab Emirates to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

We have fond memories of traveling abroad. I remember enjoying a picnic lunch of cheese, bread, and wine on a Swiss hillside while watching a farmer cut grass with a sickle. When visiting the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, we gained access to a room full of famous paintings that are usually off-limits to the public because they are disputed assets related to unresolved war reparations from World War II. We had lunch in a cafe in Marakesh, Morocco, that was blown up by terrorist the following month. I have seen the destitute in New Delhi and the well-to-do, out-of-touch in Paris. I was in a bus wreck on the road between Tbilisi and Kabaleti. A four-hour meal shared with friends in Palermo is a memory that still gives me pause.

According to travel guru, Rick Steves, 80 percent of Americans do not hold a passport. How sad.

Travel takes time and money, but it’s worth the investment. You’ll be stretched and challenged and you’ll learn more about the world in which you live. St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Here’s a link to a stout argument in favor of travel.


What? – Travel is beneficial.
So what? – Prioritize travel for you and your family.
Now what? – Book a trip.

Leaders – Encourage your team members to travel extensively. If possible, plan opportunities for team members to travel on company time using company resources.

Anticipate and reflect

Experiences aren’t truly yours until you think about them, analyze them, examine them, question them, reflect on them, and finally understand them. — Warren Bennis

My favorite word in the English language is initiate; nothing ever gets done until someone acts. My second favorite word is reflect. Wonderful things happen when we take the time to think deeply about important ideas and experiences.

Reflection is at its best when it is preceded by anticipation and experience. Here’s how the three terms can complement each other.

  • Anticipate — before you experience something, think about what you are about to do. Why are you doing it? What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Experience — experience life: read a book, visit a museum, have lunch with a friend, make a sales call, build a deck, interview for a job.
  • Reflect — after you experience something, contemplate on what happened. What did you learn? What should be the follow-up? Reflection helps make sense of experiences.

The 10/60/30 formula

In all life-experiences, allocate a certain percentage of time to these three elements: anticipate (perhaps 10%), experience (perhaps 60%), and reflect (perhaps 30%). The percentages can be adjusted for different activities.

For instance:

  • Reading a book—spend a few minutes anticipating what you hope to learn from the book, read the book, and then reflect on what you have learned. This formula might be 5/60/35.
  • A business appointment—think about what you hope to accomplish in the meeting, have the meeting, and then reflect on what transpired and the next steps of action. These percentages might be 15/65/20.
  • Vacation—research where you’re going, bon voyage, and at the end of each day reflect on what happened. These percentages might be 10/70/20.

The best reflection involves dialogue with others in which we help each other make sense of life.

Learning will be greatly enhanced when you devote even a small amount of time to both anticipation and reflection.

What? – Reflection is an essential element of learning, especially if it is linked to anticipation and experience.
So what? – The discipline of reflection will enhance your life.
Now what? – Using the 10/60/30 formula, integrate reflection into your daily life.

Leaders – Make reflection an integral part of all action. Analyze everything.


alexs-lemonade-stand-8ec1c4e50e90f858_mediumNothing happens until something moves. Einstein

My favorite word in the English language is initiate and its noun form, initiative.

Life favors those who take initiative.

Most people live passive lives; others are aggressive. Aggressive is better.

This may be the single most critical difference between leaders and followers. Leaders initiate; they are proactive. They have an agenda. I’ve even noticed that good leaders walk fast, literally; they know their destination and want to get there quickly.

Kirkpatrick and Locke agree: “Effective leaders are proactive. They make choices and take action that leads to change instead of just reacting to events or waiting for things to happen; that is, they show a high level of initiative. Instead of sitting idly by or waiting for fate to smile upon them, leaders need to challenge the process.”

When teaching the Lead Well workshop, I ask delegates to consider the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer merely reflects the temperature of a room; a thermostat has the ability to change the temperature. Leaders are like thermostats; they visualize a better environment and take the initiative to make necessary changes.

Often, initiative must be paired with courage because you will inevitably pursue things that you have never done before, and that can be intimidating. Also, when others follow your initiatives, you’ll sense a responsibility toward their effort and well-being, and that also takes courage.

Initiative is a bias-to-action; a frustration with passivity. It likes movement.

“I would not sit waiting for some vague tomorrow, nor for something to happen. One could wait a lifetime, and find nothing at the end of the waiting. I would begin here, I would make something happen.” Louis L’Amour, Sackett’s Land Summary


What? – Initiative is good.
So what? – Initiative will give you an advantage in life; a lack of initiative will stymie your progress.
Now what? – Analyze your life in this area. Do you take initiative? If not, why not? Identify several projects you will start or goals you will pursue.

Leaders – It’s important that leaders create an environment in which team members are encouraged to take initiative and are supported when they do, even when the initiative fails. Sanction inactivity, not failure. Micromanaging will stifle initiative; you must give good employees the freedom to make decisions and pursue plans.