One of my favorite parts of being an Inspirational Keynote speaker is the Q & A at the end of my speech. The unscripted, unrehearsed give and take with the audience is best feedback I can ask for.
There is one question, in particular, that is asked almost every time. I am always happy to hear it because the answer, in my opinion, is so essential to personal success, yet so often misunderstood. The question is always asked with genuine, and maybe innocent, sincerity but it is the naivety with which people expect the answer that makes it so important to me to share my thoughts on the subject.
The question I am so often asked is, "What is the secret to setting and achieving goals?" Simple question but I firmly believe that the expected answer does not exist. There is no definitive, absolute, step by step magic formula that will work every time in pursuit of every goal. Don't get me wrong, you need a plan, and many of my colleagues have well thought out methodologies that you can adopt, but they are not foolproof because you have to bring one essential element to the plan FIRST.
The reason most of us fail to achieve our goals has nothing to do with the methodology. It has everything to do with you, your focus, your desire and, most of all, your knowledge of yourself.
I could never cover all I have to say about this in one blog entry, so let me start here. Don't confuse your wish list with your goals. Your goals must inspire you, they must ignite a burning desire to realize the benefit they will bring. They must touch "your" inner core and be meaningful on your terms. If it truly matters to you, you can make it reality.
If you want to set and achieve goals, the first step is to ask yourself WHY? Why do you want to achieve this goal? Don't focus on WHAT you want until you clearly know why you want it? Why will your life be better if you achieve this? Why will you be happier when this is real? Why does this matter to you, not anybody else, YOU? There may be several WHATs along the path to your WHY. You'll figure out what those are once the WHY is firmly established in your mind.
If you want to make any goal reality, YOUR reason WHY has to be your focus, your obsession. Your reason WHY has to grip you. It must become a fixation that you know, with unwavering confidence, will make a positive difference for your life and most often, not in the conventional way most people will think.
Let me give you an example.
I was a wrestler. Some people claim I was a pretty good wrestler. I did actually win my fair share of matches in my career, at least enough to get noticed. I won several national titles, even some international medals. There were lots of ceremonies, trophies and other accolades as well. I am sure that to someone on the outside looking in, I could very easily be perceived as a glory seeker who loved the spotlight. Now, I can't stand here and tell you that there weren't some good times that went along with winning, like hearing your national anthem played while you stand on the podium with a medal around your neck, but I can tell you that the trophies and medals and the rest would have gotten tired very fast if I didn't have a bigger reason why.
I would constantly hear questions like, "Why do you push yourself so hard?" or "Haven't you won enough?" or "Do you really need another medal?" Rhetorical maybe, but they were only asked because nobody else could really understand my reason why. I couldn't expect them to. But I knew, at the very core of my being, what it was, and it drove me. It made me who I am.
You see, my goal, in the big picture, had nothing to do with winning each and every trophy or medal. I wasn't there for the thrill of victory, although I much preferred that to the agony of defeat. I was there to prove to the sighted world that I belonged. That was where I spent the first 5 years of my life before having to attend a school for the blind. I resented being removed from that world. I had a great childhood, I fit in, I was happy and it was taken away from me when I was required to attend the only School for the Blind in Ontario, over 500 miles away from my home, at the tender age of only 6 years old.
When I found out that I would wrestle against kids who could see, sighted competition, in what I saw as the real world, I saw opportunity and nothing was going to stop me from proving I belonged there. It made all the extra sit ups and pushups and laps bearable. It put everything in perspective, even the trophies and medals. You see, to me they didn't represent awards, they were evidence and hope!
Simply put, my unwavering focus on why I needed to succeed as a wrestler stoked the flame that drove me, relentlessly. It made me who I am today.
So I ask you, WHY do you want to accomplish your goal? How will it change your life? What will it mean once it's reality? What opportunities will it create that don't exist without it? How will that make you feel?
When you think that way, losing 20 pounds, or quitting smoking or buying a new car, or earning a degree or certification or sales level or starting that business or helping your church or paying off your credit card becomes almost an inevitable achievement.
That is not to say that it will be easy. Everything worthwhile will have its challenges but the next time you want to roll your eyes and groan, "Remind me why I'm doing this," make sure you already have your answer!