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5 Ways to Stop Floating Through Life Like a Cork on Water

Most successful people have a destination in mind and have plotted a course to get there.

1/29/2021 | Steve Woodburn, The Only Constant is Change

I love listening to Earl Nightingale, one of the most iconic personal development speakers and trainers of the 20th century. His voice was like that of James Earl Jones; deep, silky smooth and resonate, pulling you into the stories and inspirational messages he delivered. I’ll never forget his words about setting goals and how without them we are like corks floating on water. Boats have rudders and can be steered to whatever destination the captain chooses. But corks? Floating on water, they are at the whim of the tides and winds and will eventually land somewhere with no decision in where that may be.

People are the same really. Most successful people inevitably have a destination in mind and have plotted a course to get there, checking it regularly to make sure they are on course and headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, everyone else just goes with the flow, being carried wherever the wind and tides in their lives may take them. The good news is, anyone can take charge and decide where they want to go and how they will get there by setting goals. 

Goals in and of themselves won’t get you where you want to go. That takes hard work and dedication on your part, but goals give you the roadmap without which you are rudderless and at the mercy of life. If you decided to take a cross country road trip, would you just start driving? Without some sort of map or GPS system to follow, you'd simply be wishing and hoping you were headed in the right direction. 

I’m not an expert, but I do know what works for me and maybe it will give you a place to start in developing your goals for the New Year. I’ve read dozens of books end, listened to hundreds of hours of audio books and podcasts. These are the five steps I use at the end of each year to create new goals for the upcoming year.

  1. What is it you want? The first step is to decide what you truly want in the various areas of your life. Would you like more money? A promotion at work or a new job? Do you want a better marriage, stronger relationship with your children or to spend more time with your family? To get healthier by working out or eating better? Travel more, a new car or boat, a lake house? Would you like to do more good works in your community? Whatever it is you desire, write it down. Don’t elaborate yet, just get down on paper what it is you want to achieve and/or acquire in the coming year, in five years and even 10 years from now. Write these things down as you think of them and don’t hold back. Dream big because ironically, studies have shown the sub-conscious part of our brains can’t tell the difference between wanting something and actually having it. Remaining focused on achieving something actually helps the subconscious finds ways to attain it.
  1. Get Specific. Now is the time to look over your list of goals and determine which are the most important. Deciding on fewer goals will help you focus on them and achieving some of those might naturally lead to achieving others. For example, if your desire is to earn $100,000 a year, achieving that might naturally lead to enough money for that new car or boat. Be specific, especially with financial goals. Don’t just say I want to earn more money, decide on an amount. If you set a goal of earning $100,000 a year you can then break it down to what you need to earn per month and even per week and day. This is especially good in sales because if you know how much you must earn daily to reach your goal, it’s easy to measure. If you want a better marriage decide what that means. Better communication, more time together, nights out without the kids? If better health is on your list decide what it will take to reach that goal. Working out on a regular basis, eating healthier, regular medical check-ups? For each person it will vary, but the more specific you can be with your goals the more likely you are to stay focused and reach them.
  1. Make Them Measurable. As in the example of earning $100,000 a year above, you must be able to measure at regular intervals how you’re doing. Just as the captain of a ship needs to check her compass and charts regularly to insure she is on course, so must you have benchmarks to determine if you’re headed in the right direction. For a better relationship with your children that may mean a family dinner together two or three times a week. Perhaps a family game night or spending time reading or talking with them every night. For each of the goals you’ve chosen determine how you can measure it along the way to see if you’re on track
  1. Write Them Down. Putting your goals on paper helps provide clarity and seeing our goals in writing helps keep us focused. Another key is to write them down as though they’ve already happened. Instead of “I want to travel more” write down “I was able to travel this year to Lake Tahoe and Hawaii, places I’ve always wanted to visit.” I write my goals out as though I’m writing them down after-the-fact, like they've already happened. I can’t stress enough how important this step is because this is your map for getting to where you want to go. If you’re inspired, write one sheet for one-year goals, another for five-year goals and a third for 10-year goals. As you write, let yourself feel as though you’ve already reached them and how that will affect you and make you feel. Once you’re finished read them out load to see how they sound and edit as needed to get them exactly where they need to be. 
  1. Read Them to Yourself Each Day. Take five minutes as you begin each day to read over your goals. This does a couple of things. First, it will help plant them in both your conscious and subconscious mind and reading them each day helps keep you motivated and moving forward. Just like a ship’s captain, you may need to make adjustments as the year progresses depending on circumstances. If a storm hits a boat and it’s thrown off course the captain needs to look at the map and plot a new route to his destination. If unexpected happenings occur in your life you too may need to readjust while keeping the end goals firmly in mind. Reading them daily will keep you focused and you’ll find yourself beginning to truly believe you have achieved them, a big step towards actually reaching them.

There's something known as SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-bound. It's a great acronym for remembering how to lay out your goals and might make it easier for some of us when first getting started. 

The key is to take that first step and create a set of goals for yourself. Be specific, write them down, have them be measurable and read them every day, preferably in the morning and again before bedtime. And write them as though they've already happened. 

Or, if it’s easier to just float like a cork on the ocean of life with no goals, chances are you'll end up somewhere, but it might not be where you'd hoped. As Zig Zigler said, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." You can find lots of statistics about goals vs. no goals, but author Jack Canfield wraps it up with this salient quote. "People with clear written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could even imagine." 

Here's wishing you an amazing new year and the fulfillment of all the goals you seek to achieve.

Steve Woodburn started hustling early in life, landing his first on-air radio gig when he was just 20 and spending the next 20 years as a DJ, news anchor, talk show host and traffic reporter. He found the promotional products business totally by accident (as do most) working 29 years on the distributor side and five as a supplier. Steve won multiple sales awards along the way and volunteered his time with his local association, the Regional Association Council (RAC) and served on the PPAI Board of Directors. He's currently the Chief Adventurer of Marvelous Moosey Adventures, a company he and his wife created, and pursues acting, writing and voice-over work. Connect with Steve on Linkedin or via email at successnow09@gmail.com
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