Prepare to Accomplish the Unthinkable

“Crystallize your goals. Make a plan for achieving them and set yourself a deadline. Then, with supreme confidence, determination, and disregard for obstacles and other people’s criticisms, carry out your plan.” – Paul J. Meyer

I was inspired to ante-up the challenges I’m setting for myself this year by a piece I clipped from The New York Times a few weeks ago. The article is about Suzan-Lori Parks, a pretty, dreadlocked, 43-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who, in 2002, decided she would write a play a day for a year.

Think about that. A play a day for a year.

When it comes to goals (setting and accomplishing them), I consider myself to be a strong player. Before my 40th birthday, I met and surpassed all my business and financial objectives. Since then, I’ve been knocking off other lifelong goals at a pretty steady pace – and many of them involved writing.

To me, writing a short story a month is a very ambitious goal. And although that’s been one of mine for at least the last five years, I’ve never quite accomplished it.

How is it possible to even imagine that you could write a play a day for 365 days in a row? And even if it were possible to imagine, how could it be done?

The NYT article doesn’t tell me that. It talks about how, after finishing the project, the huge manuscript sat in Parks’ drawer for three years until she and a theater friend hatched a plan to produce all 365 of her plays. (The plan is very complicated, opening them a day at a time in 14 different cities, using a network of hubs and satellite theaters.) And it tells me her subject matter ranges from “deities to soldiers to what Ms. Parks saw out of her plane window.”

But how did she do it?

Did she wake up early every morning and get to it and not stop until she was done? Did she work on other projects first (she is also a screenwriter and novelist) and then get to her plays at night? And how much did she write? According to the NYT, some of the plays were “only a few pages long” – but that doesn’t detract from her achievement. She gave herself an almost unthinkable goal and went ahead and accomplished it.

And she did it smart: She didn’t put a minimum length on each play. She let each one take its own length. That’s a clever way to do something great.

That’s something to think about for 2007. What sort of incredible personal goal could you set for yourself? And how would it transform your life?

I’ve been asking myself those questions, because I’d like to accomplish something unthinkable myself. And I’m hoping you’ll join me in making this one of your goals for the coming year. If you’re not sure what to shoot for … here are some ideas:

  • Learn a marketing secret a day.
  • Read/scan an educational book a day.
  • Write a story a day.
  • Study a promotion a day.
  • Analyze a stock a day.
  • Make a sale a day.
  • Contact a potential customer a day.
  • Recite a poem a day.
  • Call/write a friend a day.
  • Practice a speech a day.
  • Sing a song a day.
  • Practice a musical piece a day.
  • Exercise intensely each day.

During the next two weeks, we’ll be offering many suggestions in ETR for how you can prepare to make this year your wealthiest, healthiest, and most successful yet.

To get started, you need to identify one significant goal in each of the four most important areas of your life:

  • Your health (without which most of the others don’t matter)
  • Your wealth (which is undeniably important – so treat it as such)
  • Your personal self (your hobbies and interests)
  • Your social self (your friends, family, and community)

Each of these goals should be not only significant but also specific. That means you’ll probably have to break each one into several smaller objectives. For example, you might want to resolve to become stronger, leaner, and more flexible. To make this fitness goal more specific, you could resolve to add three pounds of muscle to your body, lose four pounds of fat, and learn how to do a proper Sun Salutation in yoga.

Today, since you’re not (and shouldn’t be) working, your job is to set these four big goals for yourself – and to make one of them unthinkably great. Then, once you set them, commit to them.

You can use the ETR goal-setting program to convert each of your four major goals into monthly, weekly, and, eventually, daily objectives. By taking the time now to write down your goals and think about what it will take to accomplish them, the likelihood that you will accomplish them will increase dramatically.

Studies show it: People who make formal goals and write them down accomplish more. If you follow the ETR goal-setting system and stick to it, I am 100 percent sure that 2007 will be the most successful year of your life.

While you are picking one unthinkably great goal for yourself this year, why not allow me to suggest a second.

I’d like you to consider making a commitment to spend at least five minutes every morning skimming through ETR for ideas, tips, techniques, and strategies that can improve your life. You don’t have to promise to spend any more than five minutes – unless you find something that is especially good and you want to slow down and study it.

I recognize that there are times when you don’t feel you have a spare second to read another e-mail message. And I know, too, that not all of our articles will be particularly helpful to you.

But every day, Suzanne Richardson, Judith Strauss, Charlie Byrne, and I review all the many good submissions we get from the dozens of smart and successful people who regularly write for ETR – and we do our best to include the best possible information in every daily message:

  1. to help you build your wealth
  2. to make you healthier
  3. to make you wiser

We won’t always hit the bull’s eye – but if you read ETR conscientiously and with an open mind, I’m sure you’ll find plenty there to learn from. I know I do.

Five minutes a day. It is a small investment that will pay you back many times over.


[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]