Is setting goals THAT important?

If you’ve worked in sales or leadership, you’ve probably heard it again and again: ‘Set goals, and write them down.’ It’s probably been said so much that those who say it start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher after a while. In time, the idea itself starts to seem overrated, despite the fact that the majority of the world’s most successful people are people who write down their goals.
Oddly enough, there are many experts in both fields who believe that writing goals down tends to make them ten times more likely to be achieved. This might seem to be an exaggeration, but let’s consider some reasons why this could be true.

For instance, if a young artist wanted to draw Deadpool for Marvel comics within three years. He writes this goal down: “I’ll become the penciler for Deadpool on [date 3 years from now].” He then reads this goal to himself every night, and every morning. He spends all day working on making it come true. He takes some art classes, buys a pile of sketchbooks, and works on his craft. As time passes, his artwork improves drastically. Now that’s very different from just occasionally telling himself he’ll work for Marvel one day.

Because the goal is written down, it’s easier to use it as a reminder to pursue, at least in some small way, activities conducive to that goal. Without the constant reminder, that artist might well go days or weeks or even months without doing anything specifically toward his goal. He might draw a lot, but he may not do so in a constructive way. As an artists, I’ve known many artists who went years, even decades without any improvement in their work. For a few this was a stylistic choice, but for most it was because they had no definite aim to improve, so they didn’t set aside any time to work toward improvement. They took no risks with their methods, they didn’t study the work of others, and so on.

The same can be said for sales, leadership, and any business endeavor. Imagine for a moment, walking into a bank for a business loan, or meeting with a group of prospective investors without a business plan, and without any written goals. Doing so seems more than just unwise, it’s downright stupid. How many lenders or investors would be interested in a business with no written plan or goals? Probably none, and for good reason: activity rarely translates to achievement without direction.

Written goals help you to determine your direction. They are a roadmap to your success, if used properly. Perhaps you’re not taking your goals to bank. Fair enough. However, think of your life as a bank of energy, time, and ability. As the old saying goes, each day your memory gets longer and your life gets shorter. How much of your life are you willing to invest in your goals? If the bank down the street is worth writing a plan, for, isn’t the time, energy and ability you intend to spend on your goals worthy of a written plan?

What are you waiting for? Go write down your goals and get to work.

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