Skip to main content

What is the Biggest Reward from Goal Setting? It’s Not What You Think


Unleash the Power of Goal Setting
Glen Carrie on Unsplash

My take-away from “How to Get from Where You are to Where You Want to Be” by Jack Canfield.

Principle 7: Unleash the Power of Goal Setting


As a cube dude most of my life, working for one of the largest Multi-National Corporations (MNC), I am a believer that goal setting is the beginning to any worthy achievement.

Of course, there are people, a miniscule percent, who hit the jackpot and overachieve without having a thought about goal setting. The jackpot hit them. They are the outliers.

For most of us, we have to work hard thinking about what we really want and work even harder to get what we really want. Through experience, if you get the former right, it will draw you into the “zone.” If you are able to crystalize what you really want, from the flying asteroids of choices, all seeking attention during your planetary planning session, you will be cuddled in a frequent state of “flow” throughout the journey to what you really want or where you really want to be.

This is the reward before you get your reward. Let me qualify. To enjoy this state, the goals you set must be meaningful to you, must give you a tremendous sense of improvement and must enhance the relationships that are dear to you.

Different people convey the parameters of a worthy goal differently. Andrew Carnegie, as quoted by Canfield for the chapter, called for a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspire your hopes. The keystone characteristic here is the goal being inspirational. If you are inspired to pursue the goal, it will keep your thoughts in focus [of the goal] and it will definitely energize you.

Until you face the first setback. Or when resistance with the capital ‘R’ gatecrash your inspired mind. Steven Pressfield, this generation’s Og Mandino and the original master tamer of resistance with the capital ‘R’ insists, whatever the roadblock, you can only overcome it by pushing on. “Do your work,” he commands. Set your timeline and the timetable to work your goals and stick to both. Don’t try to negotiate with or convince your inner-self it’s worth your sweat, just do the darn work, make it routine, if you want to turn pro. Steven Pressfield’s book, “Turning Pro” will push you back to the workbench without smearing you expletives.

What is the evidence that goal setting works? According to Canfield and numerous other gurus I have read, your brain is a goal-seeking organism. For me, there is a simpler reference.  

All businesses, no, all organizations, non-profits included in the world are set up to achieve goals. They are sustained by being successful in meeting or exceeding their goals. Except they usually call them (Strategic) Objectives. Imagine an organization functioning efficiently without goals.

Yes, there are organizations and companies which folded despite their Strategic Objectives. The ones meeting or exceeding their goals have grown the world economy from $ 1.8 trillion in 1920 to $ 88 trillion in 2019! That is almost a 5000% growth! (Okay, okay. Money is only one dimension. There are other things that affect wellbeing. All indicators should be better until the Pandemic. The Pandemic is a black swan event.)

As with individuals, organizations fail their goals. Like individuals you can be assured that the failure starts at the planning (lack of alignment with capabilities and resources, conflicting intention, weak belief…) or at the execution phase (weak commitment, even weaker discipline, poor processes, shaky systems…).

Unlike organizations, individuals can exist without personal goals. They can focus only on the goals of the organizations they are with or be drawn into working for other people’s goals. Available data shows that 85% of the people are still living despite not having personal goals. Of the 15% with goals, 88% fail to work on them to fruition. It is believed that the miniscule numbers working diligently on their personal goals are taking charge of the scoreboard in life.

I expect outliers in every domain. Unless you are given a lifetime winning pass by the Luck God, experts like Canfield suggest you have a better chance at success if you put serious effort in setting and shooting for your personal goals.

Like Canfield, many self-development gurus believe that if you want the goals bad enough to regularly focus on them, your subconscious mind will lead you to their achievement.

To harness the power of your subconscious mind, the goals must be as measurable and as specific as they can be defined. The “darevil” is in the details. Your brain will accept the challenge when it all makes sense. Clarity. It’s all about being in control for your brain. It can’t handle mush that well.

Unleash the Power of Goal Setting
Egor Myznik on Unsplash

It’s a rare skill to embrace ambiguity. I cherish ambiguous assignments, like, “Go set up the office and people services in China.” To me, it means I am given total control to define the systems, processes and success criteria. You just have to get the buy-ins. With no hard reference, and as long as you are within budget and timeline, the okay is just formality.

Specific and measurable. And one more thing. You have to define your goal with the right approach. You must state your goal in the format that expresses what you want, not what you don’t want.

Much as we love positivity, a negative idea towers above every other words and cast a shadow, blacking out the context in which it was supposed to give meaning.

Like on January 24 when most sports media carried the story that the much watched Liverpool Football Club manager, Jurgen Klopp said,” Don’t worry about us…” The befuddled manager may have sought to assure 1) the owners, 2) himself, 3) his players and 4) the fans. Impact on the first three was not visible but for the fans, the “don’t” became insignificant. Many post their worry on social media. It’s like that when you were the champions of every cup that matters last year, and have been barren for the last five games.

The comment bordered on sarcasm to self when, after five barren engagements, your team was whacked out of the Football Association Cup consequently. But seriously, the form of soccer players is more unpredictable than the vagary of weather. It just does not seem right when they call themselves professional soccer players with some of them being paid the prices of a small factory weekly. What if they were performing this shakily as musicians, like as if they were the Philharmonic Orchestra. You’ll go to the concert not knowing if you will be blessed with a masterful performance or endure an ear buster evening.

Enough of the shaky soccer players. Let’s get back to the goal at hand of learning from Jack Canfield about setting goals. “I will lose 10 pounds” is not as powerful as “I will weigh 135 pounds by 5 pm on June 30,” says Canfield. Sounds good. For weight management, I feel it is better to set a cap for the rest of your life than a target at a single point in time. It’s better if your weight is capped at 135 pounds from 5 pm on June 30.

Many thought leaders on goal setting agree that goals without deadline are dreams.  I agree with Canfield that goals that are not specific or measurable are just ideas. As in, “I would like to won a nice home” versus “I will own a 4000-square- foot house on the ocean on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California, by noon April 30, 2007.” Of course, you can change it to 2027.

You are encouraged to include every possible detail such as the vivid colors, location, landscaping, furniture, artwork, sound system and floor plan. Get pictures and create a vision board to help your subconscious mind, “get the picture.” When you get your goal pinned down to minute details, you will build the confidence of its achievability. When you are not held back by any lack of clarity, you will be focused only on moving forward.

At work, we are encouraged to go for the BHAGs. Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. According to James Collins and Jerry Porras who first suggested it in their bestselling “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” a BHAG is a long term goal that changes the very nature of a business existence. On the personal level, you are encouraged to set stretch goals that, while striving on the journey towards their achievement, you will build a better self.

Another big idea from Principle 7 is the concept of the breakthrough goal. Some authors call it the keystone goal. It is a quantum goal that takes care of your incremental goals. It’s the goal that changes everything.

Assuming you want to be recognized as a thought leader, a professional speaker and a life coach on “resilience with the capital ‘r’.” Setting a goal to write a best seller on resilience with the capital ‘r’ and achieving it would position you favorably to accomplish all the other goals without having to work on them individually.

Unleash the Power of Goal Setting
Annie Spratt on Unsplash

One of Canfield’s examples is the stay- at- home mom who would reach her financial and lifestyle goals by earning $1000 a month from network marketing.

Another big idea in this chapter is creating structural tension in your brain. This is done through reading your written goals three times a day with passion and enthusiasm. Then visualize as if you have achieved the goal. Savor how your success feels. Repeat until it feels real. Take time to enjoy the exhilaration.

It seems that your brain will work to close the gap between the current reality and the ideal state you visualized. This process is the structural tension created. This exercise will strengthen your motivation, stimulate your creativity, and make you more aware of the resources around you that will help you achieve your goals.

Always keep your goals in front of you. Dan O’ Brien wanted to be an Olympic champ. He carried his written goal with him. He achieved his goal in the 1966 Olympics in Atlanta by winning gold for the decathlon. Jim Carrey carried his $10-million-dollar goal everywhere. He decided that he would reach it in 1995. True enough, in 1994 he had several hit movies and by the end of 1994, he had earned 10 million dollars.

Canfield and his Chicken Soup partner Mark Victor Hansen carried a card in their wallet with their most important [mutual] goal. In 1994, they targeted to sell 1.5 million copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul. They sold 1.3 million copies by the targeted date.

I am in the camp of not pulverizing yourself with a lot of demands. While I stand for goal setting, I am a strong believer of giving yourself breathing space, some time to smell the flowers. Crushing yourself while trying to go up may not be the textbook thing to do.

But, if you are a modern day superman, you would not be happy going goal by goal. You’d probably take the serial goal setting path as the legendary Lou Holtz. After suffering failures, the Notre Dame icon went on overdrive. He set 107 lifetime goals, many of them lofty such as dinner at the White House, meeting the pope, leading his team to the national championship and shooting the hole in one at the greens. He has achieved most of them.

Jack Canfield had 101 goals on his bucket list. It is called the bucket list because it is the list of things you would want to achieve before you “kick the bucket.” Canfield has reached 58 in 14 years. Well and good if you are up to it, and if you are able to get up strongly from the misses.

I have been listening to every podcast that Steven Pressfield has been on for many nights. I am touched by his sincerity and generosity. What draws me to this endeavor are his thoughts and ideas. He reminds me of Og Mandino who helped me make the best years of my life.

One of his thoughts that he is asked to explain all over is the fact that whenever you want to get to better there is a natural force within that rises up to deter you. He calls the negative force in your brain, “resistance with the capital R.” And it comes in many forms like procrastinating (postponing what you need to do), overthinking, fears and other perceived blocks to your moving forward with your project.

Jack Canfield reminds us that the capital R also infects attempts to achieve your goal. He labels it in three categories: considerations (which I call overthinking)- that if I want to achieve this, I have to struggle with this, or if I do this I will have to face this and other limitations; the usual fears-of failures, embarrassment, rejections; roadblocks, which are external challenges to overcome. There are always options and work- arounds in the free world. It may take time and effort. Whatever happens, you will prevail, if you do the work. Ask Steven Pressfield.

Canfield strikes a chord with me when he says considerations, fears and roadblocks are supposed to appear. “If they don’t, it means you haven’t set a goal that’s big enough to stretch you and grow you. It means there is no potential for self- development.” Steven Pressfield speaks of resistance with the capital R in the same tone. He says “Resistance” arises when you want to do something that will raise you to a higher level or get you to better. Following this line of thought, if “Resistance” (considerations, fears and roadblocks) is not stopping you, then, what you want to do will not get you to a higher level or get you to better.

Canfield and Hansen sold 1.3 million copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul versus the 1.5 million goal they set. Success or failure? For me, undoubtedly, it is success. Because it is not so just the numbers that matters.

If you just look at just the numbers for most successful goals, you are only appreciating material gains. Much more important, behind the material gains are the developmental gains. The journey towards lofty goals will shape you to be a better person, you will learn new skills, feel new feels and accumulate new super powers. Lofty goals are challenges. Take it from me, every challenge opens a path to mastery. Canfield is right. Material things can be taken away but not the mastery you have built within. There are many business icons, such as Larry Ellison who have lost it all and built bigger. Because they have the mastery vaulted within to do it successfully again.

Unleash the Power of Goal Setting
Alexander Milo on Unsplash

Canfield closes Principle 7 by urging you to take the recommended steps to build and benefit from your goals. Be clear of where you want to head, take the first step and the subsequent steps everyday towards the direction. As he says, “If I head north out of Santa Barbara and take five steps a day, eventually I have to end up in San Francisco.” Once you get to where you wanted to go, you will enjoy what the place has to offer. And much more within.

I have reached my goal of writing this article. I hope you have enjoyed this 2500-word journey as much as I have. More importantly, I hope you have picked up something beneficial. If you like this article, do me a favor. Share it with your friends. Thank you.

Popular posts from this blog

How to Survive a Difficult Work Environment

  If not verbatim, this is as close to what I heard from Mark Schaefer, a top-notch marketing guru and an innovative giant in his field, “Where there can be corruption, there will be corruption.” Mark tells it like it is. There are more people who choose to be politically correct than being honest, holding preciously to “let’s not rock the boat” pseudo-wisdom until they taste the contaminated water. There is nothing wrong thinking that people are good. It’s dangerous to believe it despite the red flags. I agree with Mark. Fully. Where there can be corruption, there will be corruption. Jose told me he cornered one of his better bosses, Tony near the staircase after an announcement of new measures to arrest corruption. This was a month after a series of investigations and a spate of resignations. “I told Tony that I disagreed with more PowerPoints, more rules. They only provide the covers, guidelines for the crooks to avoid detection,” Jose recalled. “I mean how fool-proof is

How to use Self-Affirmation to Overcome a Self-Defeating Image

  Karsten Winegaert on Unsplash   Mike Tyson. After him, I lost interest in boxing. A pugilist who was as infamous for his bite as he was famous for his fight, Mike Tyson was the meanest dude. The baddest man on the planet. The other infamous dental mental was Luis Suarez, who was a phenomenal knock out specialist with the Liverpool Football Club. Since moving to Spain, perhaps there are better meal deals there, he has stopped sinking his teeth into raw human flesh. His right foot is causing most of the pain. To opposing teams. Mike Tyson. When he was too good to ignore, they say the power of his punch was equivalent to half a metric ton. Taking a punch from Tyson was like having a Grand Piano land on your face. More than the power, he was feared for his speed and positioning. But, if the continuum from research to successful application is a clean straight line, you, even if you are Average Joe, can whup Tyson. If you did your job well, you don’t have to face the music. If yo

Gurus Show the Way But Success Takes Work

  Antoinne Julien on Unsplash I don’t want to antagonize the self-help gods. There are enough of them and their fans around to shut me out with infinite wisdom and echoes of such. And, I think they are, fundamentally, good for society. With “People Tweak” as the site brand, I can’t really be too far off. From dabbling in self-help. But should self-help products come with a warning? Fundamentally, self-help gurus are good for the human race. The race to success. Whatever that means to whoever chasing the whatever. How more motivational can it be than having a person who had won the race, with gold medals straining his neck, urging you on, wearing the designer outfit you salivate over, cruising next to you in a cabriolet. To be affirmation specific, he is wearing a dark blue Hugo Boss, driving a red Porsche 911 cabriolet. (Right hand up; I don’t pretend to be intimate with a Hugo Boss or a Porsche. The only Boss I had was a Japan made spectacle frame. No Hugo, just Boss. The brand w