On very rare occasions, I like to unwind in front of the TV with an episode of Law and Order. In one of my favorite episodes, Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy was enticed to take on a high-profile case, but he refused. You see, the case involved working against his boss, District Attorney Adam Schiff. When asked why he refused, Jack said, with a wry smile, “There were many reasons to say yes and one better reason to say no.”
That phrase has stuck in my mind. And I believe it can be a potent reminder to stay the course when working toward your goals.
Yes, achieving your goals can be difficult. It can be time-consuming and frustrating. At times, you may feel like throwing in the towel – and that’s when you need to remember Jack McCoy. There are many reasons to quit, but there is one better reason to keep going.
I’ve had my share of failures. But I’ve had even more successes in my life. And those happy accomplishments were often dependent on how fervently or how often I said “YES!” to moving forward.
Why make goals for yourself if you know you’re going to feel like quitting? That’s a good question. You need to take a good hard look at what you want to get out of life. Then realize that setting goals can actually help you get past those negative feelings and achieve success.
• Goals give you a clear starting point.
Let’s say you are sick of feeling winded every time you climb the stairs. You’re tired of wearing extra-large clothes. And you want to feel attractive again. So set a goal for yourself. Resolve to lose 20 pounds in 2009. Just setting that goal gives you a jumping-off point for feeling healthier, more attractive, and better about yourself.
Not only that, but setting the goal gives you a blueprint for how to achieve it. Once you know you want to lose 20 pounds this year, you can break that bigger objective into smaller, easier-to-achieve chunks: Lose 10 pounds by June, lose 5 pounds by March, and so on.
And once you accomplish the goal, you’ll find that it “transforms” into a new goal – a starting point for maintaining the weight loss and/or becoming even more fit and healthy.
• Goals help you define what is important.
It’s always easier to accomplish things that are important to you. Simply setting goals for yourself is a great way to announce – to yourself and the world – what’s meaningful and significant in your life.
Starting your own business this year says “Financial independence is important to me.” Losing 20 pounds says that you take your health seriously. Joining a family bowling league says that your family means a lot to you.
• Goals help you set priorities.
One you’ve chosen a goal that’s important to you, that goal will dictate your priorities.
Let’s say your primary goal is to start your own Internet business this year. That makes it a top priority in your life. So instead of going out for drinks after work, you might work on your website. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday morning, you might write your weekly e-newsletter. Instead of saying yes to dinner with that couple you hate, you can spend time on creating a new information product.
Your goal moves to the top of your list of responsibilities, and takes precedence over everything else.
As I said earlier, it’s not easy to do what you have to do to reach an important goal – and there will be times when you’ll be tempted to quit. But you have a better reason to keep going: the amazing feeling of – finally! – accomplishing it.
Here’s a story from my personal experience…
I would sometimes dream of going to an airport, hopping on a plane, going down the runway, and soaring into a clear blue sky.
I had this dream several times a year for more than 20 years, and I often thought about it. Then one July morning I woke up, realized my 56th birthday was a few days away… and I had a compelling urge to turn my dream into reality.
So off I went to a nearby FBO (Flight Base Operations) airport to sign up for flying lessons. My wife, Karin, had tried to stop me. “Bob,” she said, “it’s raining. Why don’t you go tomorrow?”
Not a chance! My decision had been made and a new goal (to obtain a private pilot license) was set. I wasn’t going to put it off any longer. The rain was irrelevant!
It took me almost eight months, and involved more time, money, sweat, and tears than I ever imagined. Yet I stayed the course and didn’t quit – even when quitting made good sense. After all, I was surrounded by young pups (students and flight instructors in their early 20s). I had absolutely no background in aviation or engineering. How was I going to be able to understand the instrument panel? Flying an airplane is not like driving a car. You don’t just turn the key and go.
On March 17, 2006 I took my FAA check ride and passed. Karin was at a Spring Training baseball game when I called with the joyous news. I could hear the crowd cheering for a home run, and I felt like they were cheering for me.
My initial goal to get a private pilot license then transformed into new aviation-related goals that I continued to pursue. I had no idea when I started that I would eventually own my own airplane and set two world airspeed records.
It began with a recurring dream. The dream turned into a goal – something that was important to me, no matter how much time and energy I had to devote to it. And it ended with the realization of a 20-odd-year fantasy.
What about you? Do you want to learn to play a musical instrument and give a recital? Do you want to enjoy working in your garden and create a hybrid rose named after you? Do you want to write a collection of poems? Do you want to build or buy your dream home?
Start on that goal now… and don’t give in to all the reasons that will come up for quitting. Turning your dream into reality is the one better reason to say YES.