Setting Goals for Success

The first of three simple steps to achieve success with any worthwhile goal you desire is to set a goal. This is part of a four part series:

Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.

- Jim Rohn

Goals Matter

I’ve taught many courses over the years. In one University course, students were given enough information that they could take and pass a technical certification exam. I stressed to students each time I taught the course that it was achievable, but they needed to take it shortly after class ended.

Often, I was disappointed to learn that as many as 90 percent of the students simply didn’t take it. When I asked what prevented them from taking the exam, they gave me a whole range of reasons but nothing that was insurmountable.

At some point, I changed my approach. On the first night of the course, I told the students the date when the course ended. After explaining they could successfully pass the exam shortly after the course ended, I asked them to pick a date when they thought they’d have time to take it. Then, as a class, we all went to the registration center in the University and I helped them register to take the exam on the date they picked.

They were able to change the date if they had to, but now they had a real, concrete goal.

Interestingly, the numbers flipped. Instead of only about 10 percent of the students taking and passing the exam, it changed to about 90 percent. People had the date in mind and they made a solid commitment to achieve it.

I used the same procedure for about a year and the results were consistent – about 90 percent of the students that completed the course, also took and passed the exam.

Unfortunately, people in the registration center started complaining about me flooding them with 15 to 20 people on my first night of this class. The University told me I had to stop and students had to register individually on their own. Despite teaching the exact same course and providing a lot of encouragement for the students to register on their own, the number of people taking and passing the exam shortly after the course ended went back down to about 10 percent.

Admittedly, I helped this process along. I encouraged them to set a date and helped them register which solidified their chosen date as a goal.

However, anyone could set a date and register on their own. And actually about 10 percent of the students did so without my help. I still taught the same course and gave the same level of knowledge needed to take and pass the exam. The only difference was when all of the students wrote a date down and registered for the exam, it resulted in 90 percent of the class taking and passing the exam instead of 10 percent.

Try It With an Exam

If you’re studying for an exam, try this. Write down a simple goal statement identifying the exam you’ll pass and the date. For example, if you’re studying for Security+, identify a date within 45 days from today and write down something like this:

I am so happy that I have taken and passed the Security+ exam by _____(the date you set).

Feel free to substitute any other word for “happy” that will express how you’ll feel once you’ve passed.

More Than Just Exams

It’s easy to think that this only applies to taking and passing certification exams. It is actually much more. The truth is that when you take the time to set a goal and write it down, you are much more likely to achieve it.

You can do anything you truly desire if your intentions are clear and focused. Anything. The first step is declaring your intention by setting a goal. If you set goals, you’ll have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want to achieve. On the other hand, if you never identify where you want to go, well, who knows where you’ll end up.

Maybe you want to earn a six figure income in a job you love providing a service to others. Set a goal. Maybe you want to write a book that will be enjoyed by millions. Set a goal. Maybe you want to… Well you get the idea. Just make sure it is a worthwhile goal and is something you desire.

Create Well-Formed Goals

You give yourself the best chance for success if you use well-formed goals. I’ll write more about well-formed goals sometime later, but here some basics.

  • State what you want. Use positive words identifying what you want, not negative words indicating what you don’t want.
  • Set measurable goals. Your goal needs to be specific enough so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.
  • Set believable goals. If you believe in the possibility of achieving your goal, you will put in the time and energy required to achieve it.
  • Write your goals down. The process of writing your goals down helps you to focus and ensure they are clear. They are also easier to remember and measure.

You Don’t Need to Know How

One last thing. You don’t need to know how you’ll achieve a goal to set it. As long as you set a worthwhile goal and it’s something that you desire, you’ll figure out how. As a simple example, suppose Bob decides he wants to earn the CompTIA A+ certification. He won’t necessarily know how to do so. However, once he decides it’s something he wants to achieve, and starts focusing on the goal, ideas to achieve his goal will start to come.

In the next article in this series I’ll talk about listening for inspiration. After setting a goal, ideas to achieve it will start popping into your head. As ideas come, you need to take action. After taking some action, more inspirational ideas will come.