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This formula is time tested and proven by some of the most successful people who ever lived. It isn’t original, in fact, it is ancient. It’s been published in various forms hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the last 4000 years. If you already know it, read it again – repetition is key to personal growth. You can read volumes of productivity and self-help books if you wish, but these seven simple steps are the foundation of all personal change and all personal achievement.

1. Decide exactly what you want. Make it a goal.

Did you know most people never do this? If you ask the average person what they want from life, they can’t tell you anything specific. You can’t have everything, so you need to make a decision. If you don’t, others will make the decision for you. Don’t hunker down and wait for life to come to you.

Engage life and decide what you want to do with it!

Be specific. Don’t say…

  • I want to be “happy and rich”

It’s too vague. “Happy and rich” isn’t a destination or a goal. It’s too abstract and subjective. Instead say…

  • I want to lose 40 lbs and save $100,000 in cash

But it doesn’t have to be about health or money. Your goal could be anything specific. It could be…

Now that’s specific!

Be realistic. What does realistic mean? It means something different to each one of us. For me, becoming an NHL All-Star isn’t realistic. I don’t have the natural talent and I’m too old. But for you it could be realistic. Only you know for sure. The best way to know if your goal is realistic is to ask yourself “Do I really believe this is possible for me?” If you can honestly say yes, then it is realistic. I’m not talking about delusional thinking here. I’m talking about BELIEVING NOT WISHING you can accomplish your goal. Don’t lie to yourself.

2. Decide what you are willing to give to reach your goal.

Deciding on a specific goal is only the first step. Next, you need to give value in return. You can’t get something for nothing, even stealing requires some effort.

Examples:

  • If you want to lose 40lbs, you might need to spend more time in the gym and spend more money on healthy foods.
  • If you want to save $100,000, you may need to give more attention to the people you serve in business, your customers or your employer. You may need to spend time acquiring specialized knowledge so you can give more value to your customers.
  • If you want to build a 300 HP, 225 MPH, V-8, P-51 replica kit plane, you may need to volunteer your time and services to help someone else build a kit plane first, that way you can learn the specialized skills required.

Often it isn’t only what you need to give, it is also what you need to give up.

Examples:

  • If you want to lose 40lbs, you may need to give up soda pop, sweets, and lazy evenings on the couch.
  • If you want to save $100,000, you may need to give up expensive vacations, a big house, or a new car.
  • If you want to build a 300 HP, 225 MPH, V-8, P-51 replica kit plane, you
    may need to give up watching football and NASCAR on the weekend.

Once you know what you need to give (and give up), be willing to make the sacrifice. Everything has an opportunity cost.

3. Develop a plan.

Planning is essential to reaching your goal. Goal setting without planning is like trying to reach a destination without directions – you’ll end up someplace you didn’t intend to be. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t need to be the most efficient (although it helps), but it does need to layout specific actions and steps toward your destination. Your plan also needs to be flexible. You will meet unexpected obstacles along your journey, you will find flaws in your plan, so you will need to alter your plan.

4. Set a date you plan to reach your goal.

Someone once said goals are dreams with a deadline. That’s partially true. But I don’t like the word ‘deadline’, I like ‘target date’ instead. It’s flexible. A target date makes your goal and plan real. Leaving your goals open ended leaves no sense of urgency for action. Open ended goals are rarely achieved.

You need a target date, but things do change. I’ve worked in software for over 10 years and I’ve rarely hit a target perfectly. Sometimes they move in but more often they move out. Expecting to hit your date every time is like expecting to put every golf shot in the hole. You need to aim for the hole, but you’ll rarely hit it, so when you miss, you asses the distance to the hole – the obstacles and hazards, shoot again, and repeat until you sink the shot. Do not quit simply because you didn’t meet your first date, reorganize, set a new date, and keep going.

5. Put steps 1 – 4 in writing.

It is essential to write everything down. Writing them down shows commitment. Don’t use a computer. I prefer to write my goals by hand with a pen and paper and carry them everywhere I go. It has more psychological power when you see your goals in your own handwriting. Hand written goals have an almost magical property. When I reflect back I realize the 90% of the goals I have written down I have achieved.

6. Read your written statement aloud at least twice a day.

People have a hard time with this one. I did too. As a kid, I watched Al Franken as Stuart Smalley stand in front of the mirror and say, “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” To me reading goals aloud always felt a little… well… weird.

When you make a mistake, have you ever blurted out, “I’m so stupid” or when frustrated, “this is never going to work?” That’s called negative self-talk, and most of us do it habitually. And unlike positive self-talk, negative self-talk is socially acceptable. For some of us, negative self-talk is all we say about ourselves out loud.

If you have the same hang ups I had, you need to get over it. You need to learn to talk about your goals and your dreams aloud, both when other people are present and when you are alone. If you still can’t talk about your goals with yourself, get a personal coach, have regular meetings, and go over your goals aloud.

Why is this important?

Reading your goals aloud several times daily will program your subconscious mind to act on your goals and plans. When you make a habit of reading your goals aloud daily it becomes nearly impossible to procrastinate. Your subconscious mind will begin handing you new ideas and fine details and it will nag you when you’re lazy, if you you follow this step habitually.

7. Take action toward your goals every day.

Persistent action is critical. Every day make a habit of taking action. Dreams are not realized sitting around imagining the future, dreams are realized by taking planned calculated action. Massive action yields massive results, tiny action yields tiny results, no action yields no results.

Remember you don’t have to get it right, you just need to get going!