Did you ever notice how there are hundreds of books that claim they know how to make your dreams come true, and how there are thousands of articles like this one that claim to make your dreams come true. If they all worked, then wouldn’t they all say the same thing? One commonly believed key to success is: we need to create a strategic plan to make our dreams come true. We need to write down our aims, divide them into smaller aims, write down every step we should make, the time they will take. Does this strategy work?
Think of this – a man with a wrecking ball can make a hole in a solid brick wall. A man in a prison with a small steel pin can also make a hole in a wall. It is less about the method and tools you use, and more about your perpetual, repeated, unwavering will. Do you know what the biggest waste of time truly is? It is starting a race and not finishing it.
The Nine Elements Of Goal Setting
Make a salad with just lettuce and cucumber, and you can fill your stomach. Make a salad with lettuce, cucumber, salad cream, cottage cheese, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, celery, spring onions, pickled onions, egg, beetroot and watercress, and you have a nice meal that will fill your stomach. The point is that you can use one goal-setting element and succeed, you can use four and succeed, or you can use nine hundred. The more you add the more pleasant and productive your experience will be.
Here, I offer nine elements of goal setting:
1 – A clearly defined objective
2 – A clearly defined end date
3 – A detailed breakdown of every task
4 – A time budget
5 – A schedule
6 – A contingency plan
7 – Resources and requirements
8 – A reason to succeed
9 – A mental or visual representation of your success
10 – A lack of negative consequences
Some of the elements listed above are probably going to make you furrow your brow, so let us justify them right here. These tips are born from my experience, as well as lessons learned from books written by Napoleon Hill, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Dennis Prager, Judge Judy and Bill Clinton.
A clearly defined objective
A shooter cannot hit a target if he or she doesn’t have a clearly defined target. You are only human, and you need a target if you wish to achieve something. A test needs a grade, a train needs a destination, and your dream needs a target. It must also be a very clearly defined target because that is what makes the difference between a dream and an achievable goal. Make it clear what you want in clearly defined terms.
A clearly defined end date
I will have X by X date. Your clearly defined end date should be something you consider after you have completed your plan. However, there are occasions where your deadline is hoisted upon you. Besides the Bible, the book that has sold the most copies was written by a man called Napoleon Hill. One of his biggest rules was that a plan could only work if a clearly defined deadline was in place. If you were told you were definitely 100% going to live forever, would you feel driven to achieve anything? Would you even bother getting out of bed in the morning?
A detailed breakdown of every task
You need to write down how you intend to complete each task and where you will get your resources. Japanese car makers were so successful in the 90s and 00s because they took apart each car, examined each part, and asked how they could improve it. Breaking down every task allows you to do the same. It allows you to repeat your success, examine your failures, and come up with protocols to help ensure that future tasks are successful.
A time budget
Within your strategic plan, you will need to break down each task and decide how long each one will take. This helps create your schedule, contingency plan and your end date. Learn from your time budgets so you may estimate how long a project will take, and use your time budgets as a standard to figure out if you are ahead of or behind the schedule.
You know how long each task will take; you now need to put them in a schedule that accommodates the time taken for each task. You also need to decide in which order they will be done. Think of your time budgets as single bus routes, and your schedule as a complete bus map.
A contingency plan
Life is unpredictable, and the only way you can plan for the unexpected is to give yourself more wiggle room. Extend your time budgets, allocate more resources than needed, and fully consider all alternatives so that failure cannot occur. Add wiggle room with policies such as adding 15% to all expense predictions and lowering all income predictions by 20%. Plan how you will recover from single-task failures to ensure they will not drag down the entire project.
Resources and requirements
You now want to create a list of the resources that you need to write down how you intend to get them, and you need to detail any further requirement such as qualifications, staff members and so forth. Failing to do so is like failing to consider how much gas you need before taking a long car journey.
A reason to succeed
The goal doesn’t count as a reason. A woman doesn’t work hard to buy an ultra-expensive office chair because she wants the chair. She does it because her current chair hurts her back, because she wants a chair that reclines, or because she likes that new-chair smell. A reason to succeed that extends beyond material gain (or that sits besides it) will help maintain the project workers’ motivation.
A mental or visual representation of your success
A mental image of your end goal, or something visual or physical that you can look at to remind yourself of why you are working so hard. The work of Napoleon Hill is littered with examples of rich and famous people who were well-motivated by their visual representations of success; from the estate agent who looked at her large diamond ring whenever she felt down, to the boxers who dreamed about holding the champion belt in their hands.
A lack of negative consequences
Workable plans have no negative consequences. Contrary to popular belief, a fear of negative consequences is not a good motivator, (try it a few times by setting up terrible consequences of your own doing, they are rarely a motivator). Instead, set contingency plans in place so that if one idea doesn’t work, you have an alternative idea planned and ready to do. Some people work better under pressure, and others do not. If you crack under pressure, then create plans where you always have an alternative route to success.
Last but not least, a mental or visual representation of your success is a sadly underrated element, so here is a little advice that you have never heard before. Your visual/mental representation needs to be your go-to place whenever life kicks you. Let’s say your visual representation is a thermometer image showing how much money you have saved (like the sort of thing you see in church funding drives). The next time you think about something evil that somebody did to you, clear your mind of it and think only of your thermometer image. Force yourself to think of your visual representation and your goal every time life makes you sad. Force your mind to stop wasting time on thoughts that make you sad.