Updated: May 17, 2022
What do you want? I always go back to that question!! Anthony Robbins asks that question in his book “Awaken the Giant Within” Not in a rude way, but in a curious helpful way. Like, "where would you like to go?". The question is really what are your goals? Working through that book in my early twenties and referring to it often has helped me achieve what I have until now and will achieve in the future. Goals can be very useful in giving direction to your life. You may say, "I don't know." You may say, "I need motivation." You may think, "I don't know where to start." Everything we want, and each long-term goal, starts with a single act or step in the right direction. You can also ask “what don’t you want?” Fear can be a great motivator as well for making you brave enough to move forward. For example, would you like to wind up having a short life, due to poor health? If the answer is "no", which I hope it is, then the flip side is you would like a longer life in good health. Would you like to be poor and not be able to support yourself and or others? If the answer is "no", which I hope it is, then the flip side is that you would like to make enough money to support yourself and perhaps others. The three steps to creating goals and a plan to achieve them are: 1. Choose pain or pleasure! 2. Choose your direction! 3. Make a plan! 1. Choose Pleasure or Pain To find your motivation, you must choose between pain and pleasure. Seems like an easy choice. You will choose pleasure. Right? Well, what if that pleasure now leads to more pain later. You could have the pleasure of another bowl of ice cream or you could have one more drink before leaving the bar. Now, that gets more complicated. Either of those choices could be pleasurable at the moment and lead to long term pain. Therefore, you must choose. Comfort and discomfort are another way of looking at pleasure and pain. You may get comfortable with a situation and fear the unknown. This fear is anxiety. The unanswered questions cause stress. Either way you look at it, the motivation is available to grow and move in the direction you need to go. Feared things first! That’s one statement you can keep in mind when deciding how to proceed. Sometimes fear is a great motivator. For example, you may be afraid you are going to fail a class. Your possible action item then becomes study for that class. Or, you may be afraid that you won’t have enough money to retire. Then, your possible actions may include determining what you need, saving more or reducing expenses. Physically, you may be afraid of falling as you age. An action item could be, strengthen your legs and bones so that they are strong even as you age.
Since you have an idea about delaying gratification rather than immediate pleasure versus having what you want immediately because it may be worth it, you will need to choose a direction or multiple directions that are likely to bring you the most pleasure.
2. Choose Your Direction If you know what you want that will bring pain and pleasure, great. Try to choose your path based on which decision will bring the most pleasure. It may be a balance between short-term and long-term pleasure with trade offs of short-term and long-term pain. Then, what would you have to do to accomplish those things? How much money will you need? How will you provide yourself with good nutrition. What will you do to have the physical ability to achieve what you want? How will you have great relationships? As I learned at a commencement speech at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute years ago, your path should be considered a stool. That stool represents life. Life equals health plus family plus work plus free-time which represent the legs of the stool. Work is done to produce free-time which is the top of the stool - the icing on the cake. If any leg is too short, the stool is out of balance and may fall. The same goes for life. So, consider all three when deciding your direction. Be aware, if you don’t know what you want, indecisions are like rotaries where you can get stuck going around in circles and looking at all the options while being afraid to choose. You say “I don’t which road to choose.” “I’m afraid to make a wrong decision.” If you are really stuck, the thoughts can you leave you feeling like your options are a bowl of spaghetti that are so tangled there is no way to straighten it out. The rotary, unfortunately, can be something that you are used to – your comfort zone. It has gravitational pull because it is your history and all that you have known.
What you may not be thinking about is that you may chose a road that at least puts more distance between you and the center of the rotary and, therefore, you have grown. Then, if the road is not leading exactly in the right direction, you can take a side road to get to another major road. This could be a lateral move rather than a step back. The worst case is that you go back to the rotary to look at your options again. However, you are going back with the knowledge of where that path would lead.
Understanding the four I’s can help with making decisions. They are impulse, instinct, intuition and intelligence. In Podcast #634 with Rich Roll and Guru Singh , Roll and Guru Singh discuss the differences between the four I’s.
Impulse is something that we do or want to do immediately. The impulse may not be rational but reactionary. It can be very strong but the duration of an impulse is short.
Instinct is something that we know or think we know. Instinct may depend on our environment and is programmed into us. It can guide us rightly or wrongly depending on the situation.
Intuition is the ability to understand something without proof.
Intelligence is the ability to learn and understand information.
To make good choices, you will want to think about if you are making decisions impulsively, with instinct, using your intuition, or using your intelligence. There is a time for each. Impulse may serve you really well when quick decisions are required, such as driving a car when you can use your training and quick reactions when needed. Instinct may serve you well when you detect that a situation may be similar to what you have seen before. You may determine that the situation is either safe or dangerous. Intuition may serve you well by providing some guidance in an unknown circumstance. It may be that you don’t need proof to determine if an action will cause comfort or discomfort. For example, your intuition may tell you that it is best to get onto the opposite side of the road where you can be seen, even though a car may not be coming. Intelligence may serve you well when you have time to think and apply what you have learned or, are trying to learn something new that will bring more pleasure than pain. For example, you may decide to go to college and use your intelligence. This may be for short and mid-term financial pain for longer-term financial pleasure.
Many choices are trade-offs of some level of pain now for some level of pleasure later or some level of pleasure now some level of pain later. There is a sliding scale for so many things in our lives.
If you feel lost and want to figure out what you want. Consider your values. What are values? Below is an extensive list of personal values. Personal Values List
Acceptance Accomplishment Accountability Accuracy
Achievement Adaptability Alertness Altruism
Ambition Amusement Assertiveness Attentive
Awareness Balance Beauty Boldness
Bravery Brilliance Calm Candor
Capable Careful Certainty Challenge
Charity Cleanliness Clear Clever Comfort Commitment Common Sense Communication
Community Compassion Competence Concentration Confidence Connection Consciousness Consistency Contentment Contribution Control Conviction Cooperation Courage Courtesy Creation Creativity Credibility Curiosity Decisive Decisiveness Dedication Dependability Determination Development Devotion Dignity Discipline Discovery Drive Effectiveness Efficiency Empathy Empower Endurance Energy Enjoyment Enthusiasm Equality Ethical Excellence Experience Exploration Expressive Fairness Family Famous Fearless Feelings Ferocious Fidelity Focus Foresight Fortitude Freedom Friendship Fun Generosity Genius Giving Goodness Grace Gratitude Greatness Growth Happiness Hard_work Harmony Health Honesty Honor Hope Humility Humor Imagination Improvement Independence Individuality Innovation Inquisitive Insightful Inspiring Integrity Intelligence Intensity Intuitive Joy Justice
Kindness Knowledge Lawful Leadership
Learning Liberty Logic Love
Loyalty Mastery Maturity Meaning
Moderation Motivation Openness Optimism
Order Organization Originality Passion
Patience Peace Performance Persistence
Playfulness Poise Potential Power
Present Productivity Professionalism Prosperity
Purpose Quality Realistic Reason
Recognition Recreation Reflective Respect
Responsibility Restraint Results-oriented Reverence
Rigor Risk Satisfaction Security
Self-reliance Selfless Sensitivity Serenity
Service Sharing Significance Silence
Simplicity Sincerity Skill Skillfulness
Smart Solitude Spirit Spirituality
Spontaneous Stability Status Stewardship
Strength Structure Success Support
Surprise Sustainability Talent Teamwork
Temperance Thankful Thorough Thoughtful
Timeliness Tolerance Toughness Traditional
Tranquility Transparency Trust Trustworthy
Truth Understanding Uniqueness Unity
Valor Victory Vigor Vision
Vitality Wealth Welcoming Winning
A core-values list might be:
From figuring out some of your core values, you can determine your principles.
A principle is a belief about what is right or wrong. You decide your principles based on your values. For example, you may value family over income. If that were the case, you would have no problem making a decision that allows you to be closer to family rather than travelling a large portion of the year for a career that would increase your salary substantially. Knowing your principles will guide you to the right decisions for you. These principles should be known when creating your goals so that they are not in conflict with each other. If not, decisions such as travelling more for a career could be torturous because there is no guiding principle.
If you are looking for a path to build wealth, the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill describes six steps for achieving financial success.
Fix your mind on exactly how much you want.
Determine what you will give to earn the desired money.
Establish a definite date to possess the desired money
Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not to put this plan into action.
Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read, see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money.
In my training as an engineer, I learned some tools that can help you make decisions and lead to success. You can use a factor ranking matrix and a decision matrix to untangle competing goals or options. I have used factor ranking and decision matrix to choose between jobs, help me with relationship issues when I could not figure out what to do, choose between different communities to live, and choose which house to by. You can use these too. An example is below.
This ranking matrix shows, that when you have five ranking factors and need to determine which is more relevant, Factor 5 comes out the most important when compared against the other four. And, Factor 1 comes out the least favorable. The comparison can be simple. For example, if factor 2 in the row is better than factor 1 in the column it gets a 1, if not it gets 0.50 for a tie and 0 for being inferior. From this information, you can come up with a weight for the factors on a scale of zero to one. Then, you can use those factors for comparing options to each other using a decision matrix.
The decision matrix above scores the options. Here Option 2 comes out the best and option 3 comes out the least favorable. There are different ways to lay these out. I have also used the Eisenhower Decision Matrix often which is shown below for sorting out priorities.
You can use this Eisenhower Decision Matrix to help filter tasks into four zones. The goal is to take care of urgent and important items in Zone 1 first. Then, not urgent but import items in zone 2. This should be where you can work towards goals without the pressure of urgency. Urgent and not important, zone 3, items come up when something seems urgent but really is not important to you. Lastly, not urgent and not important are items that can take time but should be minimized when you are trying to be productive and work on important items. The book Super Thinking describes Zone 1 requiring management, Zone 2 requiring focus, Zone 3 requiring triage, Zone 4 to be avoided.
Once you have a good idea of what you want to do and what direction you need to head. Make a plan!
3. Make a Plan
Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Your plan must include all these elements. If your goal is to be happy, Earl Nightingale defines happiness as “the pursuit of a worthy goal.” You must pursue your worthy goals.
The Harvard Business Review illustrates a tool called the Life Wheel. The idea is that you mark on the scale in each slice of the wheel where you feel you stand in area of your life. Then, you connect the dots so that they create a life map. This can provide guidance on where you might want to improve the balance of your life. Marks too close to the center mean they could need more attention or there may be a slice that gets too much focus.
You must break down your goals into steps that you can track and measure progress. You must understand the meaning so that you know why you desire the outcome of the goal. Give yourself a deadline so that you don’t procrastinate and lose opportunities. Find someone, a mentor or teacher, that is doing what you want to do and do the same. Or, read about how to execute your plan so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a speech, says the number one thing you need to do is “Think Big.” And, Stephen Schwartzman in his book, “What it Takes,” says “It’s just as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.” If you aim high and you wind up lower, at least you did the best you could. If you aim low and wind up lower, you may be in trouble.
Focus on your plan!! If you chase two rabbits at the same time, you will not catch either. The book “Super Thinking” describes this like fighting two-front wars. It divides your attention. Focus on a task or project until completion. Then, you can move on.
Don’t be afraid to fail! Failure is a great teacher. Thomas Edison tried over and over again to create the light bulb. The Wright brothers created many planes and attempted to fly. Each attempt led them in the direction of figuring out a solution. Also, if your goal is to win, remember winning often takes the right team, the right pit crew, and the right management. Michael Jordan, considered to be, arguably, the greatest basketball player of all time, won six out of fifteen seasons. Tom Brady, still playing today, has six super bowl wins out of twenty-one seasons. This means Michael Jordan and Tom Brady each lost the majority of the time. However, they were the best because they won more than any others. The same with the Wright Brothers and Thomas Edison. All of them needed to be part of winning teams to be able to have those accomplishments. They did not win or accomplish in isolation. You must try to choose or create winning teams if winning is important to you. Always remember that your happiness should depend on you alone. You cannot control all situations or other people. Make sure you define winning by your contribution and keep your expectations limited to what you expect from yourself.
I hope this helps you create goals that bring you from surviving to thriving. Each goal is like a mountain to be climbed one step at a time. Choose your mountain, choose your direction and make your plan.
Products that may help you.
Harvard Business Review
“Understanding Intuition over Impulse,” Rich Roll and Guru Singh, The Rich Roll Podcast, episode 634
“Awaken the Giant Within,” Anthony Robbins
The Practical Mindset Podcast, Jess Miller
“Super Thinking”, The Big Book of Mental Models, Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
“Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill