A reader requested me to write on setting goals. So, today, I am sharing my philosophy on goal setting. Let me begin with a little story:
On a gorgeous sunny day, under the soft winter sun, Mulla Nasrudin and his best friend were lying on the plush bed of green grass in a stately garden. They were enjoying the sunbath. Trees stood gracefully in an organized fashion as if forming a natural boundary of the garden, they were arching over the pathways. Blooming flowers of various hues made the place look like a Floriade. Bees were hopping from one flower to another. Birds were unobtrusively tweeting and singing in the trees. A warm breeze caressed and massaged them as it traveled intermittently as if playing hide and seek. It was peaceful and serene.
“Oh! How beautiful,” sighed Mulla. “Right now, I would not trade places with anybody for even a million dollars.”
“How about for a hundred million?” asked his friend heightening the appeal to insane levels.
“Nope. Not even for the combined wealth of the whole world would I give this up!”
“Well, how about three? I can give you three dollars right now to leave this place.”
“Hmm…Three? Alright, that’s different. Now you are talking real money,” said Mulla sitting up with the intention to move.
This anecdote underscores a beautiful message: your mind does not take even the most lucrative dreams seriously but it is willing to act on the tiniest of real possibilities of rewards, of gains.
You eat real food, you work real jobs, you wear real clothes, why not have real goals?
Reality does not always mean that you need to aim low, it means you genuinely believe it to be practical.
1. Believe in your goals
The most important thing about goals is that you must genuinely believe in them. It should be a bite-size piece cut out of reality and not a monstrous meal snatched from the fangs of day-dreaming. There is a fundamental difference between dreaming and goal setting. Your conscious mind will only allow you to believe in what you consider real. It has evolved that way. However mythical your concept, your reality or your goal maybe for the whole world, if you believe it to be real, you can turn it into your goal. Whatever you can work towards, can be your goal.
Your reality is dependent on your beliefs, commitment, efforts, and mindset. Imagine a mango hanging five feet above you. You know you can jump two feet comfortably and if you stretch your arm, you can easily reach four feet. You only have to jump a little harder and stretch more to gain that extra one feet. Your mind believes it to be attainable.
It is based on your belief, your reality that you may attempt to jump. The same mango when twenty feet high, will discourage you to even try. Aiming for a mango at twenty feet is not unrealistic or unattainable, especially if you are serious about getting it. However, jumping alone will not accomplish it. You will require some sort of paraphernalia, perhaps a slingshot, a stone, or a ladder and so forth. Your conscious mind automatically comes up with ideas if it believes in your goal.
2. Work towards your goals
Dreams are not something you work towards, you just have them. The goal is what you are willing to work for. You have probably heard about SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific (what), Measurable (how much), Attainable (how), Realistic, and Timed (when). I reiterate: your mind will only allow you to put a serious effort towards what you truly believe to be a real goal. Perhaps having a SMART goal is not enough, it should be SMARTER where E is for Evaluate and R, Realign. If you are prepared to work towards your goals, you have a much greater chance of attaining them.
Sometimes, they say, it is all about being at the right place at the right time. If you are persistent, your chances of ending up in the right place at the right time go up significantly. The probability of miracles in your life go up, fortune starts to favor you. Be patient and be persistent. Be determined and be disciplined. Results will certainly come through. Evaluate your goals and realign if necessary.
Dreams are many, but goals are those dreams that you believe to be real, feasible, those dreams that you prioritize. Imagine a kid in a candy store, she wants to have everything. But she must pick and choose based on what all is allowed or affordable. From the store of your dreams, pick the ones you cannot be without.
Prioritize your goals and align your actions. Achieving each goal requires time and effort. If you can be infinitely patient and eternally persistent, you can attain even the most extraordinary goals. You can dream as big as you like, especially if it helps you stay motivated, but you need to be realistic about your goals if you are serious about their attainment. First you define your goals and then they define you.
Do you know your greatest strength in attaining your goals? Your habits. And your greatest weakness? Your habits. You may want to read- How to build a new habit. Discipline is a habit, so is indiscipline. Read the last three posts on attraction, psychic imprints, and erasing them to form the right habits and achieve the desired results.
Spend time understanding yourself before you define yourself. If you are patient enough to analyze yourself, you will be potent enough to elevate yourself.
Take it easy. Not for granted.
Why is goal setting important? Because it helps us break down our dreams into achievable steps.
You’ve read above, the 2 golden roles to setting goals. Let’s take this a step further and look at how to set goals in detail.
This is the story of current Google and Alphabet CEO, Sundar Pichai:
Sundar Pichai was born in the small town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. Growing up in the 1970s, he lived in a modest home that his family shared with tenants. They would sleep on the floor of their living room and often faced droughts.
After graduating school, he secured admission at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kolkata, for a degree in metallurgical engineering. Slacking off in his first year, even securing a C grade in one of his papers, Pichai worked hard over the next three years to make up for it.
This eventually resulted in an admission at Stanford University where he completed his Masters’ degree in Material Science and Engineering before going on to receive an MBA degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2004, he joined Google as a product manager. He worked on Google Chrome and Chrome OS, Google’s primary client software products. Under his strong leadership, his team developed Google’s Google Drive and the famous search toolbar which was later merged with Chrome, making Chrome the most used web-browser in the world.
His meteorological rise through the Google ranks saw him become its CEO in 2015, just 11 years after he joined the company. In 2019, he was also named the CEO of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.
The bridge between Pichai’s modest background and phenomenal achievements is built on two pillars – his passion for technology and his ability to set goals.
Why is goal-setting important? Because it just may change your life and the lives of billions around the world.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
If you are inspired to take on the world and take charge of your life, the following FAQs about the goal setting process are for you:
1. What are the 3 golden rules to turn my goals into reality?
Are you wondering how to set goals and stick to them? Habit. It’s the only way.
To that end, let me share with you the 3 golden rules of building any habit:
1. Practice: Take it as a given that it’s going to be hard in the beginning, even boring. To reach a state where it becomes effortless, you have to put in a great deal of practice. It takes a concert pianist an average of 10,000 hours of practice before they reach that “expert” level. Practice. Practice. Practice.
2. Patience: Patience is the key. It becomes much easier to be patient if you don’t have unreasonable expectations from yourself. It took me several thousand hours of intense, mindful, and correct meditative practice before I began experiencing different states of consciousness.
3. Focus: By focus, I mean a sort of mindfulness. If you are practicing patiently, chances are you are focusing anyway. If you want long-lasting results from your practice, however, you have to be mindful.
To build a new habit or to champion a new skill, somewhere, you have to want it desperately.
Still not convinced? Perhaps the story of the Chinese Bamboo will show you How to Build a New Habit and how to set goals in a manner that will ensure wild success.
2. Why do my goals never materialize?
Ever wonder why, other things being equal, some people seem to succeed effortlessly while many others fail no matter how hard they try? Why are your plans not working out? And why is it important to set realistic goals? Here’s my two cents worth; five reasons why your plans don’t materialize:
- You are all thought and no action
- You expose your plans too early
- You give up too soon
- You don’t listen
- You don’t follow your discipline
If you are hardworking and disciplined, if you are a good listener and can work without seeking attention, your success is as good as given. Just knowing how to set goals and plans is not enough. How are you going to follow through on them?
If within you and around you, you are in touch with reality, if you are true to yourself, your chances of seeing your plans materialize go up exponentially. Palaces of success are built on a truthful and sincere ground. One block at a time, by breaking it up into smaller goals.
Your dreams may be unreal and that’s fine so long as your actions are real. Why do Your Plans Fail? tells you more about how to achieve goals.
3. What are the five ways to come out of negativity after experiencing failure?
Sometimes you are down, going through a phase of seemingly endless struggle, it feels as if all your achievements, personal or professional, in the past were a fluke, as if you will never be able to restore harmony in your life again, you remain unsure whether the light you see at the end of the tunnel is actually a ray of hope or an oncoming train.
You feel listless while life looks lackluster and full of negativity. If you let negativity become your habit, you will mostly find yourself sulking. So, here are some suggestions for you that will help you come out of negativity:
- Focus on the positives
- Accept the situation
- Accept your mistake
- Focus on action
But that’s not all! Keep reading 5 Ways to Coming Out of Negativity to understand how even in a pool of negativity, in the mire of disagreements, you can rise and shine like a lotus. These become your steps to achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
4. How long will it take me to achieve the goals I have set for myself?
Whenever embarking on a new venture, though, the primary difference between success and failure is the motivation to persist, to stay motivated.
When people ask me questions around meditation, changing their habits, about self-realization, their goals and so forth, the one common question I get is: How long will it take?
There is no absolute answer to how long it will take you. It depends on multiple factors, and your pace is only one of them. More often than not, it is just about staying course and persisting and staying motivated. We all know the hare and the tortoise classic.
There are essentially four elements that lead to success. They are:
There is a fifth element. You can call it grace, fate, luck, destiny, or anything else you wish. This one manifests when you do not waver. It may appear like a coincidence, a stint of luck or serendipity, but the truth is with the four elements above, you create that perfect moment of realization, of attainment.
Perhaps there is no better anecdote than the elderly monk who made a pilgrimage to an ancient mountain temple, to answer the question, “How Long Before I Succeed?”
5. How do I identify my goal in life?
Before we understand how to set goals, identify your goal in the first place. What interests you, what calls out to you? What makes you passionate enough to not just set your goals around it but also work hard to achieve them?
The video below details how one can identify a goal or purpose and then work towards achieving it.
- 0:21: Discover your goal
- 1:35: The one habit that helps you find a purpose
- 4:24: Your purpose will grow on you
- 5:19: The story of the man who saved a suicide jumper