“Man is by nature a goal striving being…he is not happy unless he is functioning as he was made to function – as a goal striver.” – Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics
We human beings are easily one of the most incredible pieces of creation on this great, green Earth.
We have the ability to grasp objects with our hands and use them how we see fit.
We have the ability to contemplate our existence on this planet and in the larger universe.
We have the ability to strengthen ourselves and engage in self-improvement to assist our evolution.
Most importantly of all, we have the ability to project to the future and shape it to our choosing.
We are not always effective at this…but we have this ability nonetheless.
And it’s an ability that a lot of us take for granted.
Many of us don’t engage in any sort of introspection save for the end of a year or the death of a loved one.
We all want to live in a healthy, happy, and vibrant manner. But how do we do that?
The answer is of course, introspection but a different kind of introspection.
We have to think long term. We need to set goals.
Strategic and proactive goal-setting will enable you to make the money you want to make, drive the car you want to drive, have the job you want to have, etc… In other words – it will prevent you from having a shit life, IF you do it properly.
Setting goals is the greatest power you have.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Jesus, not ANOTHER article on setting goals! This is getting old…”
Hey, I hear ya. But you’ve gotta understand this:
There’s a right and wrong way to set goals.
A lot of people “set goals” the wrong way. To set them the right way, you need to engage in a certain process – a Psycho-Cybernetic process.
This entire article will be based loosely around the system of goal-setting in Maxwell Maltz’s classic Psycho-Cybernetics.
There’s a reason it’s at the top of my list on books to read in your 20s. This book literally took me upside-down and shook me – that’s how impactful on my worldview it is.
At the end of this article, you’ll learn how to set and achieve realistic and compelling goals that stretch you but keep you in your comfort zone at the same time.
This means that you’ll achieve far more in a year than a lot of people do in a life time, as incredible as that sounds.
That sounds super exciting to me…
But first…lets look at some data. I know you’re yawning already, but if you read towards the end of the article – you’ll be vastly rewarded.
If goal-setting was so effective, you would think everyone would have goals. What most people have are “wishes”. Most people do not have written goals.
Things that aren’t written down are dreams with no energy behind them. Think of it like shooting blanks at a gun range.
But here’s the thing: the majority of people who don’t have goals contribute to the goals of the people that do.
You either work for your own goals or you are used to strive for the goals of someone else. Which one is it going to be?
Without any goals, you’re just like a piece of driftwood in the ocean. Useful for the moment, but ultimately useless in the long run.
A great life isn’t created by accident. It’s created by design. The best way to design it is to have a clear blueprint to work off of. The best blueprint you can work off is that of your goals.Architects build a house from a blueprint. You must build your life the same way. Click To Tweet
The main thing that holds you back!
Lotteries are a funny thing. There’s a million losers but only one winner. Or is that person even a winner at all? Chances are, not likely.
A sobering statistic says that 70% of lottery winners go broke within 5 years of winning.
What?!? What’s going on here?
Invisible scripts…as Ramit Sethi likes to call them.
There’s a lot of activity goes on underneath our conscious veneers. Part of this activity is our mental conditioning, our self-image.
Your self-image dictates everything you do in life. It’s also known as your “inner mirror”. You check it out every time before making a decision. WWYD (What would YOU do?).
Your self-image is comprised of hard wired internalized beliefs that create the “I” in “you”. Some people have a shittier self-image than others. A lot of the self-image (unfortunately) is crafted out of self-limiting beliefs that aren’t true at all. If the blueprint you have to work off of is faulty, then don’t expect to make a great house.
This is why many people fail on their goals/dreams/resolutions. This is why there’s all these talkers but few doers. It’s so easy to talk but doing the damn thing is a different story.
If you want to quit smoking but your self image says “I am a smoker”, you will not give it up. I guarantee it. You can talk about quitting smoking, you can think about quitting smoking, you can read about how to quit smoking, but it’s only until you shatter the self-image of being a smoker that you will be able to quit.
If you know smoking is detrimental to your health and you still do it, you need to change your servo-mechanism from “failure” to “success”.
The hidden switch no one will tell you about
Success and failure…for the most part is relative.
What one person considers a success, the other will consider a failure. Especially when it comes to lifestyles. I’m not talking about those relative definitions.
I’m talking about a more “absolute” definition. One where someone would be able to look at someone and say – yeah…that guy’s got it.
It’s not money…It’s not cars…It’s not having a trophy girlfriend…
Success or failure in this context is the ability to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life on your terms.
Whatever that means to you. I’m not going to sit here and say “oh, you need a million dollars – then you’ll be successful!”
What if you don’t give a shit about that?
Understanding this fact, you should know that the line between success and failure is soooooo slight that just a liiiil adjustment will turn you from a “failure” to a “success”.
Based off what I’ve already said, we now know that we’re programmed to act a certain way, we can say with great certainty that our brain has a machine-like quality to it.
This means that it can be “turned on” or “turned off”.
What turns you “on” are clear and challenging goals. What turns you “off” are the absence of them.
Your brain has this incredible ability to work off of that blueprint I mentioned earlier. It will always seek to prove you right in any situation.
Think of your brain like a heat-seeking missile. It goes towards its target without fail. It has a guidance mechanism that helps it “course correct” until it hits its target. It doesn’t travel in a straight line.
The traits of the “failure” mechanism are a lack of clear goals, inability to defer gratification and the tendency to act for short term advantage in spite of long term consequences.
This manifests itself in self-destructive activities, the “what the hell” effect, the tendency to waste time on unimportant things, and overall life frustration/dissatisfaction.
The “failure” mechanism is unfortunately most people’s defaults. Most of us weren’t told the importance of goal setting growing up, so it’s not part of our self-image.
The “success” mechanism is very different.
Your success mechanism operates off of your “why”. If you have a strong “why”, a strong reason to exist… that will kick your success mechanism into high gear.
The traits of the “success” mechanism are…all the good stuff in this article and the rock solid self-discipline to carry them out.
This manifests itself in self-esteem, self-confidence, personal pride, strong boundaries/standards, and a ton of other glowing character traits!
Knowing all this, it’s easy to see why people fail to live a life on their terms. They have no written goals to speak of. There’s no target to hit. As a result, they just “waste ammo”.
Interestingly enough, not hitting a target is similar to the Greek word “hamartia” which loosely translates to “missing the mark” or “to err”. Hamartia is equivalent to to “sin” in the Greek language.
So you are committing a “sin” by failing to set goals. Take that how you will.
how do we not “miss the mark”? Simple.
Change the self-image.
Live! The amazing goal seeking mechanism in 3-D!
The only way to not “miss the mark” is to change your self-image into someone who achieves and executes their goals.
How do you do that? Two ways:
You literally change the operation of the “servo-mechanism” inside of your brain that delivers pinpoint and accurate results based on the self-image.
Your strongest weapon
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
As a human being, you possess the unique ability ability to turn the unseen into the seen. You do this through your imagination.
Imagination allowed for the greatest discoveries and inventions in the human race to come to fruition. Without it, we would still be living in the stone age.
Your thoughts create your life. If you THINK you can do something and imagine yourself doing it, chances are – you can.
It’s been proven that mental practice or rehearsal improves your ability to execute that task in a better manner.
You use visualization combined with imagination to help you produce that end result. You have to think from the end and see the goal already completed before you see it in real life.
Your thoughts, your belief… will allow you to push beyond the inevitable frustration, the dismay, and negativity that will arise when you’re in pursuit of your goal. After you go through all those, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality.
If this sounds like the Law of Attraction to you, it is. There’s a lot of nonsense surrounding this (which is beyond the scope of this article) but trust me – it is very real. It’s just not what many make it out to be.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Don’t just sit there!
One of the best ways to get over the internal “I can’t” that pervades a lot of our thinking is to actually DO the thing that we “can’t”.
When you act, you are telling your “internal servomechanism” you are the type of person who does [blank].
I have a friend that’s really good with women. Like REALLY good.
He has gotten to the point where he doesn’t feel any approach anxiety whatsoever.
His brain will literally not allow him to feel any nervousness when talking to attractive women.
It’s not a part of his self-image. It’s not a part of how he sees the world.
Do you think he was born this way? No. He acted. Even when he was scared. Even when he felt that voice in the back of his head say “no”.
He acted. His internal “servo-mechanism” delivered a result based on the interaction. He decided to act again. He then got positive or negative feedback and he adjusted his behavior based on the feedback.
He is now so finely calibrated that he is able to hit the mark almost every time.
The servo-mechanism works to deliver results. Results come first, everything else is commentary. Your results are dictated by the mental pictures you have stored in your subconscious mind and self-image.
Even if you “fail”, it still acts as an “adjustment” to the success mechanism. The next time you’ll fail a little less. Until you succeed. Negative feedback shouldn’t be seen as a detriment. Use it as emotional content to spur you towards greater action and better calibration towards the goal.
That’s the only way lasting change is possible.
The perfect alignment
“The psychologists Ken Sheldon and Tim Kasser have found that people who are mentally healthy and happy have a higher degree of ‘vertical coherence’ among their goals — that is, higher-level (long-term) goals and lower-level (immediate) goals all fit together well so that pursuing one’s short-term goals advances the pursuit of long-term goals”. – Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis
As you start to achieve your goal, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll need to align your entire being to the goal. This means being uncompromisingly focused and dedicated to the goal.
There’s certain things you need to do more of and things to do less of.
Why don’t you see a Fortune 500 CEO gambling in Vegas every weekend? They literally can’t afford it.
What? What do you mean? These people have all the money in the world!!!
They can’t gamble because it detracts from their longer term vision of success for their respective company. It would do nothing to advance their long term goal. It would be a gigantic waste of time, which is truly the only resource we have.
Goals make you raise or change your standards. If you’re in a relationship or a job that isn’t helping you towards the fulfillment of a long term objective, then you know what you need to do.
You would think that this type of self-discipline is restrictive, but in reality it is very liberating. You’re free from the hell of “decision overload” on what to do. If you know where you’re going, you probably already have a good sense of what to do and what not to do.
If you’re trying to be a better programmer, you probably shouldn’t be spending a large majority of your time on learning how to juggle. It can be good as a hobby towards overall life fulfillment, though.
How can I know what goals to set?
Goal-setting is very personal and very individual. BUT, there’s four universal factors that inevitably increase anyone’s quality of life. If you set and achieve goals in these areas, you will experience a dramatic jump in your quality of life.
Think of these as four pillars, not standalone achievements.
Having money is the difference between not being able to pay your utilities and being able to afford a business-class trip to Italy. It’s the difference between being dirt poor at retirement and making even MORE per month in retirement than your day job.
Money is the gateway to having the “good things” in life and not having to stress out about unexpected occurrences.
As I’ve said before, money is very important – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. BUT it in and of itself is not enough to make you happy.
After a certain amount, happiness levels off and you’re no happier than if you made a little more. There’s not much difference between 100,000 and 110,000. Just a little more stress.
It’s easier to take care of a family of four on 110,000 than 100,000 – that’s for sure.
But don’t let me decide what’s a good amount for you to make. That’s dependent on your goal(s). Just know that it’s a BIG factor in your ability to do things.
Without sound health, you might as well throw your goal list in the trash. Health is often overlooked in our fast paced society. Which is….a damn shame.
We treat symptoms instead of underlying causes by just taking a pill. We look for quick fixes.
But there’s no shortcut to vitality. You’re young now which pretty much offers vitality by default…but it won’t always be that way. That’s why we have to start the good habits now.
Health isn’t just physical. There’s more. Here’s the four areas you should be concerned with:
- Emotional health
- Spiritual health
- Mental health
- Physical health
How are you sleeping? How’s your diet? Are you getting enough exercise? What about your social life? Are you engaged in something like meditation or formal religion? Are you reading good books and learning more on a weekly basis?
There’s TONS more questions to ask. But pristine health should be a foremost priority.
This doesn’t just deal with romantic relationships, but the relationships between you and other human beings. It can be your boss, your best friend, your parents, etc…
Life revolves around having mutually fulfilling relationships where both parties are giving equally to and taking equally from them.
Having good relationships with others involves clear and direct communication. Without it, you can forget about any type of harmony arising from your day-to-day relationships.
Everyone has the right to work at something they enjoy with people they enjoy working with.
You will spend 1/3 of your life at work, so you better make sure it’s something you like doing in an environment you like doing it.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Most people fucking HATE their jobs.
This can be because of a variety of different reasons but it all stems from lacking clarity in what they want out of the job in the first place. Are you looking for it to be a source of career fulfillment for you or seeing it as just a stepping stone in the bigger picture?
Yes, the management may suck. Yes, your coworkers may suck. But YOU are still deciding to work at your job. YOU are deciding to see it as something negative. See it as something that you can use to build a learning experience on.
Check out my guide on how to get more fulfillment out of the job you already have now through deep work!
The bigger picture
So when constructing your overall big picture of your goals, you’ll want to consider these four areas.
How much money do you want to have for saving, investing, disposable income, etc?
What health metrics do you want to achieve? How many pounds do you want to weigh? What blood pressure do you want?
Do you want a large circle of friends or a smaller, tighter knit group? What about your romantic relationships?
What do you need to do achieve your ideal job? Can you switch roles within your current company? Or do you need to switch?
Think of all of your day-to-day goals as little things that lead you up towards the fulfillment of your higher level goals. If you keep doing what you’re doing today, where will you be in six months? A year?
The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Personality
One of the best chapters in Psycho-Cybernetics is when Maxwell Maltz describes the personality that achieves remarkable success. He does it with a nifty little acronym:
Things always seem to go right for these people. They have tons of friends. They have great life experiences. They get that job. They have that significant other that everyone fawns over. Even if they encounter adversity, they overcome it – like a deer gracefully jumping over a log.
Unfortunately, this ability is “jammed” in some of us. We become inhibited – which stops the unique us from coming out and blossoming in full view. This “jams” the computer that control the “success” vs. “failure” mechanism and switches to to the “failure” side indefinitely. “Shyness” isn’t a birth trait. There are no “shy” babies.
This is the type of person that everyone wants to have on their team, that everyone wants to do business with, that people want in their inner circle.
If you’re not this person, you can easily become him with the development and construction of a goal-oriented self-image.
Wrapping it all together (with a nice bow)
This was definitely a lot to take in. Let’s break it down:
- Your brain operates most effectively when it has written and clear objectives with which to strive for. Your energy levels and happiness rise as a result.
- Most people do not have goals. By crafting clear and written goals, you are at an advantage.
- Your self-image will determine if you even set goals in the first place. To change your self-image, you must imagine yourself as a different person and act as a different person.
- Your brain has a “success” or “failure” mechanism. The “failure” mechanism is most people’s defaults. It only switches to “success” when it has a goal or set of goals it’s striving for.
- True happiness comes when you align your living towards the attainment of that goal and make your little efforts cascade into big ones.
- Goal setting is very personal but the biggest four areas that will “put a dent” in your life are: money, health, relationships, and work. You should have big, positive goals in all of these four areas. That will also challenge you as a result.
- There’s a certain personality type that usually attains success. They’re contained in the word itself – (S)ense of Direction, (U)nderstanding, (C)ourage, (C)harity, (E)steem, (S)elf-Confidence, (S)elf-Acceptance. These people end up being remarkably successful.
What?!?! Why didn’t they tell me this in school???
At this point, you may be wondering why you didn’t learn this in school. You may have come across these concepts before and hissed and burned at the fact that you wasted your time learning so much useless bullshit.
I’ve been there, but this malcontent is not needed my friend.
There’s a variety of reasons, conspiracies, etc… Out there but in my personal view, there is only one real reason why this stuff isn’t really taught at a wide scale: ignorance.
Many teachers and educators don’t know about this stuff. Shit, many of them don’t even know it exists.
You may have had a teacher in school who taught you about some intangible bullshit about “setting goals” and “believing”… but most won’t go in depth like this.
They just don’t know…
The real function of the school system is to create the labor force of tomorrow. Stuff like this is just side commentary compared to that.
Add to the fact that most adults don’t even read books or engage in self-development, you can see where the disaster comes in.
I can guarantee you that if we had a society where children were taught the importance of goal setting and self-image creation at a early age, we would have VASTLY less problems than we do now.
So don’t feel jaded… they just don’t know.
We are all ignorant of something before someone “shows us the light”. I sure as hell was ignorant about this stuff growing up. I didn’t learn about some guy named “Maxwell Maltz” in 1st period history class.
You’re going to go out into the world and encounter a ton of people who don’t buy into this philosophy, especially of goal-setting.
Then you’re going to say…”well, if these people are going through with life, it must not be all that great to set goals and engage in all this self-development“.
But no. You’ve gotta take that thought out of your mind and say “YES. It is worth it.”
Most people are just in the dark. Think of it like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. You’ve been given a blessing through learning about this stuff.
You’ve been given a blessing to better yourself and live a life that you want to live through design instead of accident.
Millions of people have walked this earth and passed on without ever knowing about how to achieve their true potential. If that isn’t something to light a fire under your ass, I don’t know WHAT is.
That’s it. No “rocket science”, no “schemes”, no having to “hype yourself up. Just a quick and easy philosophy that’s easy to follow. It may take a while to internalize…but once you’ve gotten this down – once you’ve achieved this….what you can accomplish is almost unlimited.
The world is open to you. There are very little things that can stop you from achieving your goals. The question you want to ask yourself is: do you have the self-discipline to follow through?
And then you’ll realize after a while that…everyone can achieve their greatest goals if they want them badly enough and strive for them long enough.
I hope this guide helped you think about your goals in a new manner and shed some light on the discipline and art of effective goal setting.
I want to hear from you now. What goals are you going to set effective and awesome goals in 2017 and beyond? Let me know in the comments!