Photo by Aaron Burden
“If you want what you’ve never had, you have to do what you’ve never done”
I cannot genuinely say that I am a goal oriented person — someone whose every move is consistent with a well-defined, well-articulated set of aims — but I recognize the reasoning behind being one.
I was sixteen when I made my first list of goals — it’s no coincidence that it was soccer related.
It was a simple list, made up of particular skills and abilities that I wanted to master before a certain time/age (confidence in my left foot, better endurance, etc.)
I kept the list in my wallet so that I could always have it on my person and on my mind. It was to serve as a reminder of sorts, one that would keep me focused.
The list was really just a result of the youthful excitement in discovering what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t long before I was to lose the list; and although I maintained my ambitions in my mind, it wasn’t enough. What I really lost was the sense of engagement and continuity involved in the process of goal-setting.
Photo by Napthali Marshall
Writing your goal(s) down, preferably in ink, is a surefire way to be engaged with them. Moreover, putting them in a place that they are readily visible and always in your face — like on your mirror or screensaver — can and should produce one of two ultimately positive outcomes in you: it will either keep you motivated, or remind you that you’re failing, and should, as a result, re-motivate you.
And when thinking about what motivates you, it’s vital to differentiate between internal and external sources of motivation, and to avoid the latter. A lot of things can fall under this category, but I find that it is unwise to be driven primarily by external things — that is things that are generally out of your control.
External motivators are those brief, inconsistent facets of your life that cannot be counted on to be there for long. For example, when someone (or something) has wronged you, perhaps the circumstance was severe enough to galvanize you, to make you act and make a change, and maybe you make some progress. However, this progress is contingent on you still caring about what this person has done to you. Your progress (likely) ends the moment this person is out of sight and out of mind. Then what?
You become reactive when you’re moved to act solely by external factors, e.g., someone says you can’t do something, so you want to prove them wrong. We know this story.
And if someone says neither anything positive nor negative about you? Indifference. Complacency. Inactivity.
Despite the value in being able to stand up again when you’re knocked down, a (major) key to doing well regardless of the arena, one surely cannot wait for difficult circumstances to appear in order to make moves, whether you do this consciously or unconsciously. You have to seek out the punches sometimes.
You fail a test. Now you want to study. You lose a game. Now you want to practice.
And if your semester is beyond repair? If the season is good and done? It might just be too late.
But if you get your aims down on paper, and then consistently engage with your now visible list of goals, you can get the jump on the headwinds coming your way, the barriers that get in the way of your forward motion.
Goal-setters are by definition proactive; proactivity is such an important trait that will do wonders for your productivity. Now, not every proactive individual is a goal-setter, and writing your goals down isn’t achieving them. But it will bring you closer than you’ve been before. Trust.