Extreme Goal-Setting: Putting the ‘Why’ Before the ‘How’

Why HeartFor more than 30 years, I have been exposed to some top goal-setting trainers. My first experience was as a 13-year-old, when I had the opportunity to meet and listen to a then-unknown 20-something by the name of Tony Robbins.

So while I don’t consider myself an expert on goal-setting and, more importantly, goal-achieving, I have been tuned in to its importance for a good while. Since I have experiential knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work, I tend to notice similar themes in those who speak on the subject.

A few days ago, I came across “The Power and Danger of Setting Extreme Goals,” a rather lengthy article in the March 2013 issue of Governing that, among other things, explored the city of Chicago’s hugely ambitious goal of reducing the number of pedestrian deaths, within the next decade, to ZERO.

The story examines the tension between underpromise-and-overdeliver style goals and what writer John Buntin terms “extreme” goals such as the one being championed by Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.

Fascinating and thought-provokingwell worth 10 to 15 minutes of your time, if goal-setting is a topic that interests you. For me, the story sparked a variety of thoughts:

Too often, people focus on the mechanics of goal-setting. They are good at pointing out superficial reasons why some goal-setting doesn’t work. But they miss, literally, the heart, of the issue.

Over and over again, through the years, I’ve heard multiple Amway leaders in World Wide Group (WWDB) and other Amway Approved Providers say things like:

“This business is 98% attitude and 2% detail.”

“If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t count.”

“Make the decision, then make the decision right.”

“Wish, want, need, got.”

To some, these might sound like empty clichés or unattainable nonsense.

What does this all mean? It means you’ve gotta work backwards.

At times, we stop ourselves from wanting, from really desiring something, because we simply can’t see how we are able to make it happen. We want to wait until we figure it all out, before we give ourselves permission to dream.

But this insistence on connecting all the dots ahead of time results in never fully dreaming–at least not for any sustainable length of time required to turn our dreams into reality.

For goal-setting to work, we have to allow ourselves, on an emotional level, to want. To long for. To passionately desire something. Not just one time, but consistently, daily.

Athletes are big proponents of visualization. Why? Because visualization emotionally anchors our desires. And it’s emotion that moves people, not logic.

As an analytical person, even I make decisions emotionally. Then I “back in” to those decisions with logic, in order to “feel good” or “be right” about the decision.

It’s only then, when we have a clear, emotionally rooted WHY (why we would be willing to go through the work, the struggle, the pain, the changing) that the HOW manifests itself.

This kind of thinking does not come naturally for most of us. When I am thinking small rather than big, I know I’m getting “flabby” in my dream-building. It’s when my world starts to shrink rather than expand. When I’m self-centered rather than others-centered…when I am living fearfully rather than full of faith…when I am living scarcely rather than abundantly.

The habit of creating the WHY before the HOW has to be continually worked, like any of our muscles. Over the years I have found that the best way to tap into this easily neglected mindset is by associating with people who think this way.

If I want to go beyond the A-B-C’s of meaningful goal-setting, it is essential that I get around those who speak this different language, whether via books, audios, or in person. Then, imperfectly but increasingly, I can become fluent in this language myself.


Know Thyself: Goal-Setting, 24 Hours at a Time
Hand-in-Hand: Goals & To-Do Lists


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