Many people imagine great things, yet very few people accomplish their dreams. I have actively worked with this on a personal level, as well as with clients, for almost 30 years. Setting goals is the key to turning dreams into reality. Dreams are similar to wishes: they are things we fantasize about, yet do little to make certain they occur (but we're certainly ecstatic when they do). Goals are those things to which you commit and take action to ensure their attainment. Even though the majority of people acknowledge the power of goal-setting, I am amazed at how few actually set goals on a consistent basis.
Goal-setting is tied into the reticular activating system. Our senses (particularly sight) are constantly flooded with a vast amount of stimuli, yet we are consciously aware of only a fraction of that data. Most of that information is not necessary for our well-being, so it gets screened. In essence, we have programmed directional signalers (or in some cases, blinders) in our brains. Although this may seem like an oversimplification, it's indeed how it functions. For example, recall the last time you decided to get a new car. You finally chose the model and color, and lo and behold, it seemed like everywhere you went, you saw "your car." Now, all of those people didn't just go out and purchase those cars when you did. They were already on the road. You didn't notice them before because it wasn't significant to you. This is the magnificence of goal-setting. By establishing clear goals, you are programming your brain to be aware and notify your conscious mind of the information and opportunities that you desire.
The inability to actualize goals is usually related to unclear goals, lack of commitment, conflict or negative conditioning. Very few people write goals, and those who do, don't always write their goals in a way that easily produces results. Sometimes they write what they think they should want or what their spouse, parent, boss or peers think they should want. Other times they claim to want something, but what they really want is what that "thing" represents. Occasionally, conflicts exist in relation to the achievement of their goals. The attainment of one goal may preclude the fulfillment of another, or the consequences may not be viewed favorably by their immediate family and colleagues. Quite often, people have a preponderance of negative conditioning that they need to overcome.
There are people who write goals that aren't real for them; they "know" that they could never achieve them. They set unrealistic deadlines or have goals that are dependent on other people. Some have page after page of goals, and yet hardly ever accomplish anything. And then other people are so detail-oriented that they lose sight of the big picture.
We have a tendency to get so caught up in the list-making and the things we "ought to do" and "should do" that we don't always take into account the overall picture, and consider what would be the most appropriate action to take. Life isn't about just getting by, making it from day to day. It's about reaching for and attaining our full potential at all levels. Often, we do things out of habit or because it's easy, or because we do it well.
I interviewed nine massage therapists who do set goals. Most spend less than three hours per month on planning, and do it on a weekly (and often daily) basis. Several therapists devote between 10 and 30 minutes daily. Some people learned about goal-setting in workshops or classes, and others through personal development and reading. They use goals to reach their full potential personally and professionally. One of the common traits I noticed is that they recommend setting very small, specific goals. Most of these therapists have very full lives; the more busy they are, the more they set goals. Hmmm. . .
Toni Nelson has been setting goals for the last 20 years. She sets her intentions daily when she arises, and often adds more throughout the day. "I set goals so that I am more focused and clear about what it is I am working toward and what I want out of my life. I set them so that I can be more on purpose in life. I establish goals with clients so that the client becomes an active participant and is involved in the treatment on this level. It gives the treatment time more direction and focus. My life seems to be more on purpose. I have realized many goals and possess much more clarity. I have more time, more energy and less worries. I see myself setting my intention (goals), trusting in a higher power and letting go of the outcome. My life is much more full since I am in present time and working from this place."
When asked about those not certain if it's worth their time, Nelson says: "I would ask them if they have realized their dreams, if they know what their dreams are, and how they expect to get to them. That without this process, you are like a sailboat out on the water without a rudder, you will have lots of things go by in your life, but there isn't any direction. You have to have a rudder otherwise you are just out there sliding across the surface you don't get to the depths, and you might not get to where you want to go. Once I started doing it, it made such an impact on my life that it is part of my life."
Stephanie Ellis uses goal-setting for her practice and everyday life. "I keep my to-do list on my computer, and at the top of it there is also the list of my goals. That way I can quickly check to see whether what I am agreeing to do really fits in with what I am hoping to do. The goal and to-do list is on one level an ever changing document, but at the same time has settled down in to some form of consistency."
She also actively cocreates goals with her clients: "They are musicians with various problems, and most come in with an attitude of expecting me to fix their problems, preferably without them having to do too much, and especially allowing them to carry on as before. It's a great shock for them when they realize that this is never the case. My job is not to solve their problems, but to give them the necessary insights and tools to enable them to do the work for themselves. The work in helping clients set their own goals is partly about helping them to become clear about what they really want. At the end of the day it matters not one jot to me what they end up deciding they want to do, but it may well be life-transforming to them. One client gave up playing the violin when she began to appreciate that she had to make a choice between becoming a soloist and having a family life. She is now having a whale of a time as a violin teacher, and after a year of not performing has begun to do some basic orchestral work which she finds enjoyable but without the stress and strains that come with a soloist's work. And even better, she will soon be a mum.
"Another client has recognized that rather than practicing every possible hour, his playing actually improves if he devotes some of the day to more relaxing activities. I suggested a once week massage to him, and he credits this as being the aspect of my treatment of him that has most improved his performance. However, his case is an interesting one because it is only in the last couple of months that he has began to take responsibility for himself. I have seen him for just over a year, and while he went through the motions, you could see that he was not really engaged with the idea of the goals being his. Thank heavens he has seen the light!"
Tracy Brown-Brake is a firm believer in the power of writing down goals. "I have found goal-setting to be an absolute must for me in building my practice. Time and time again I have found that my goals are met when I take the time to write them down and focus on them. For example, my goal is to do one more massage each week than the previous week until I reach my full capacity. I have each week's goal written in my schedule. It isn't a dramatic goal, but it is working phenomenally well for me. Weeks I don't set the goal, my client load is light. Most weeks that I do set the goal, it is met and exceeded."
Carolyn Mudgette took a Stephen Covey time management class when first starting her practice. The class and the appointment book helped her to make many of her goals habit. "I had the flexibility to change what I wanted to do, and with this particular technique of roles and goals, I was able to be balanced between physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. It was very important to me to make a living doing massage, and as a result of all of this 1-1 goal setting, I have a successful private practice. To me, as long as the goal is realistic and measurable, it can be done."
Sue Welfley has been setting goals for more than 30 years. She currently directs a hospital-based massage therapy program, owns her own clinic, codirects FIRST (Florida Immediate Response Stress Team), serves as a member of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, and is completing her bachelor's degree in gerontology at the University of South Florida. "It's been a way of life for me! I can't imagine not setting goals, whether they are short term or long term, to get through life! If I did not know how to set goals and priorities, I don't think I would have been able to accomplish so much in my lifetime!"
Setting goals keeps her focused on what she wants to accomplish. "There isn't a day that goes by without a lot of interruptions, and it's so easy to get off-track and get caught up with working on something that has nothing to do with what I have set as a goal to reach. By setting goals, I have found that I have accomplished a great many things. Once you have reached a goal, the feeling of accomplishment is enough to keep you focused on your next goal. I never totally understood the concept until people started commenting that 'You do so much. I wish I could get that many things done."
"And then there's the comment being made quite often, 'I'm too old to start that now!' Well, I was 46 when I decided to go to college to get a degree in gerontology! That goal should be accomplished in 2001. And then I may decide on a goal of graduate school!"
Whitney Lowe has been setting goals for more than a decade. He is a very self-disciplined person and once he learned about goal-setting, he took to it right away. He sets goals because, "I have found this to be an important part of the planning process as well as the process of measuring my success. When I set goals, it is the first step in giving me direction about how to get where I want to go. Once the goal is established, I can work backwards from there until I have identified all the smaller steps that are necessary in order to accomplish that goal. Unless some of the bigger goals are broken down into these smaller steps, it is very difficult to get started working on them. I feel that I have been able to accomplish some very large tasks, such as getting a book finished and constantly meeting production deadlines for my bi-monthly research newsletter. I have also set goals for myself in relation to my massage practice that are just as important. For example, I have found when I set small goals for studying and reviewing topics of anatomy, kinesiology or pathology, it was much easier to accomplish this study, and I really looked forward to it."
Barbara Laky is another long-time goal-setter. "I attended several motivational seminars with my brother in the late 1970's and early 1980's, when we started up a small business. Speakers such as Zig Ziglar and Mark Victor Hansen were very instrumental in helping me to realize the importance of goal-setting. I started out by setting small goals, things that could easily be attained with the right amount of time, concentration and energy. When a particular goal was reached, I would give myself a reward. I'd buy myself new shoes, or clothing, or something nice for the house. Recently, I bought an Isuzu Rodeo, a car I have been dreaming about for two years. I'm proud of my accomplishment, and will always be grateful to those who helped instill the importance of goal setting in my day-to-day life."
Tim Hulbert is an avid goal-setter. He is involved in many projects and credits his goal-setting routine for helping him to manage his time and create results. His major suggestion for making goal-setting work is; "Create the space. There has to be space for what you want, not partial but a full slot."
Dawn Jordan came to goal setting via her meditation practice. "By doing the inner science of transformation, spiritual work, it led me to understand what it means to live a conscious life. And that each one of us is responsible for our lives. I call it radical responsibility. Response-ability. The ability to respond to the creative forces at work constructing life as we know it. In my efforts to understand and alleviate my existential pain and marshal these creative forces in my favor, I realized I had to let go of old social and religious beliefs that were sabotaging me. I spent about 10 years in constant questioning of everything I thought and believed to see if I could find what was really me underneath all these ideas that had come from my parents, teachers, priests and the society in general. Once I had cleared out all the garbage, the real me began to show up. I finally began to have direct access to the creative forces in life, and, to my astonishment, I realized that all I had to do to marshal them in my direction was to set my intention. To set goals and the magic of the universe would move in my favor."
Like Carolyn Mudgette, she also uses Covey's day planners. "Even though I don't fully use it the way he intends it to be used, I still get great results from the goals I've set. Whatever I decide to do has always happened. Setting goals is the second step to manifesting the life I want to live and all the goodies I want to be a part of it. Setting goals also forces me to take time and reflect upon my life instead of just barreling through daily activities propelled by other people's agendas. A life unreflected upon is not worth living. And I don't get the life I want to live if I don't set the parameters myself. In the end we are all responsible for creating the lives we have. Most people don't know what they want from their lives until they take some time to think about it. This is the hardest step: knowing what I want. Then when I know what I want, I set the goals for getting there and carry through on them. I always get what I want when I follow this path."
Jordan has accomplished many of her goals. "Setting goals keeps my life on track so I am doing what I love, living the life I want for myself and have time for everyone and everything in my life without feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. It helps me make sure my daily activities are aligned with my values, and helps me keep first things first as, Steven Covey would say. I get more of what I really want and less of what is not helpful to me. In the 15 years I have been practicing manifesting and goal setting, I have gotten the homes to live in I wanted, the office space I wanted, the car I wanted, the education I wanted, the opportunities to write and publish I've wanted, the invitations to lecture I've wanted, the money I think I deserve for my work, and the great friends and colleagues to share both the money and the ideas with. I have a husband who is a great partner to me and a daughter who is the greatest guru in my life because she constantly forces me to be a conscious mother. I travel anywhere my heart takes me."
Anyone can set goals. In some instances, the simple act of writing down your goals may be all the planning you need to do, given that you actually do them. Goal-setting takes time, but the time is well-invested. The clarity you acquire and the organization created always saves you at least the amount of time spent in actual planning. Planning helps renew enthusiasm, especially if a goal is a tough one to accomplish. Whenever you reduce a goal to its component parts, the small steps toward reaching it are less overwhelming and more possible. You gain confidence with each little step forward.
The following books are recommended by the interviewees:
S M A R T E R
Goals are very specific things, events or experiences that have a definite completion, and you are able to objectively know when you've achieved them. What is crucial is the way you actually state your goals, and the individual steps necessary to accomplish them.
Be sure to keep your goals S M A R T E R:
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