Goal Setting That Makes a Difference by Scott DePaolo

From Issue 113

Last issue we learned about the power of why and how knowing your why can help you accomplish big things in life. This month we will learn about the second most important tool for getting things done: goal setting. They say a person without a goal is like a ship without a rudder. If you get out of port, it is luck; if you get to your destination, it is a miracle. A ship adrift is at the mercy of the elements, wind, current, other ships and outside forces. Most all of us set goals of some sort all of the time, often without hardly giving them a second thought. They are small goals like going to the grocery store, making dinner for friends or family, buying hay for the winter, or cleaning your horses’ stall, or maybe it is a bigger goal like saving to buy a new saddle. We do everyday tasks similar to this all the time. It is when the goals become bigger and we need to step out of our comfort zone that we often struggle to accomplish them.

If you are like most folks, you often set goals that you would love to accomplish, goals that would make a huge difference in your life—like quitting a bad habit, losing weight, exercising, or even riding more—only to quit and not see them through. Do you remember your last year’s New Year’s resolution? Did you accomplish it? Do you even remember what is was? Most likely not. Many of us would not dare to set a New Year’s resolution out of lack of confidence that we could succeed in just a few short days or at most a couple of weeks, fearing that we could be right back in the same spot, doing the same thing day after day. You also most likely know someone who is always doing the next big thing and moving forward, like everything comes easy to them. They most likely have learned consciously or unconsciously to use the tools of goal setting to achieve what they desire. When I think about goals that I have recently accomplished, I smile, chuckle, and have a real feeling of accomplishment of a job well done. That is what achievement should feel like and is what a good goal can produce for you by using a strategy and persevering.

About twenty months ago, I decided that I wanted to write a clinic manual for a horsemanship clinic on the fear of confidence. I had been dreaming about building the curriculum for quite some time but was putting it off. Writing much of anything other than a to-do list and maybe an occasional thank-you card was way out of my skill, character and comfort zone. But I believed that a manual would help my clients to gather more value out of the clinics and allow them to review key ideas, exercises, quotes, tools and horsemanship at a later date, reminding them where they were at and how far they had come weeks, months, and even years later. With lots of encouragement and quite a bit of help, I pounded through to a finished product.

While working on the manuals, I envisioned a series of four progressive clinics for aspiring horsemen who wanted to be the best they could be. I would present them throughout the year, setting a goal to do one each quarter: January, April, July, and November. I would write a manual for each of the clinics that would teach key horsemanship techniques I had learned from my mentors as well as over thirty plus years of working professionally with horses, cattle, kids, and aspiring pro-horsemen. I would inspire and lead students to understand that much of their horsemanship success would be determined by their own personal growth and not by their horse. I would teach them that horsemanship, lifemanship, and personal growth oftentimes cannot be separated. 

In the end, they were titled New Year New You, Overcoming Fear and Building Confidence: Becoming the Horseman You Were Meant to Be, Using Willpower to Build Habits to Rock Your Life, and Peak Performance for Arena, Ranch, and Life. Here are the twelve goal-setting tools I used to accomplish this dream and how you can accomplish your goals as well:

1. Set a goal. Choose a dream that you want to achieve. It could be something you have been thinking about for years. It could very well be something you feel like you have already failed at. The bigger the better!

2. Write it down! Just writing down your goal will make you sixty percent more likely to accomplish it. Harvard did a study in the 1970’s and found that only three percent of their MBA graduates wrote their goals down. Ninety-seven percent had not put them to pen and paper. Ten years later the three percent who wrote their goals down were ten times more successful than the ninety-seven percent who had not combined. You want to write down your goal using first-person point-of-view. Use “I will” or write as if you have already achieved your set goal. 

3. Make sure your goal is attainable. Most of us will not be a pro NBA basketball player. But we can play ball and we can be better tomorrow than we are today! You may not be able to compete at Rolex or at the National Finals, but you and your horse can train, you can compete, and you can be better tomorrow than you are today.

4. Decide on a time frame. Is this a short, medium, or long-range goal? But more importantly, pick a deadline. When are you going to accomplish your goal? You started it when you wrote it down; it went from an idea or a dream to a goal. Now, when are you going to finish it?

5. Find a mentor, guide, or hire a coach/trainer. You want to find people whose job is to make you successful. The best of the best olympic-level athletes or pro players all have coaches, trainers, and mentors.

6. Build a plan. This may be the second most important step and is where a lot of people mess up. You want to build a clear and concise plan that breaks your goal down so small you can’t help but be successful. I often think about high-rise buildings and what it takes to build them. Without a plan or a blueprint for every step in the process, they would be impossible to build, yet we build them all of the time, brick by brick. Without a plan, your goal may be impossible. But a good plan written down will get you halfway there.

7. Tell someone who will encourage you and hold you accountable. This is really important for both your vision and your confidence. Talk about your goals to people who want to see you successful: friends, family, people who are involved in your life. But at the same time, choose who you tell wisely! You will find some people will try to discourage you from your dreams. They will either not want you to go through with the pain of failure or they will be jealous of you stepping up and out to follow your dreams.

8. Take massive action. When it is time, go for it. Don’t hold back. A friend sent me a text the other day. It said, “Seven frogs were sitting on a log and one decided to jump off. How many were left? The answer is seven.” Deciding to do anything is different than taking the action to do it. It is not in the deciding. Great things happen in the doing. Just do it!

9. Work on your goal consistently. Daily read your “I am” statement. Every day look over your plan and do the next step. This is important to keep you moving forward and motivated.

10. Celebrate your accomplishments!  Any stepping stone or milestone should be celebrated. The greatest part of your goal could very well could be in the journey to achieve it. Celebrate on the journey. 

11. Don’t get discouraged. Any goal worth achieving is going to be hard. It will take a lot of work on your part. If you hit a hard spot, keep going. If you run into a wall, go around it, over it, or through it. If you find yourself stopped, start again. Don’t quit! Rome was not built in a day!

12. Have a next goal. Olympic athletes and gold medal winners often fall into a state of depression and feeling of loss at just the time they should be living at their peak and enjoying their accomplishments. This comes from the goal having been achieved and not having the next goal to move on to. Many of you may remember as a kid the feeling of let down Christmas night after the big day, that sad feeling that the big day was over and you had nothing else to look forward to for a whole year. Have a next big thing!  

Folks, the greatest things in life, the things that are really worth accomplishing, are hard. They are a lot of work. I visit with horse people all of the time who have really great dreams for their horses and horsemanship, yet they are being held back by something. That something could very well be overcome by using these twelve simple tools for accomplishing any goal.

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