The Power Of Goal Setting

Success has been defined as “the progressive realization of a worthy goal”. Setting meaningful goals gives you focus and a target to aim for. Writing them down insures that you won’t lose sight of your destination.

Unable to See Her Goal

“When she looked ahead, Florence Chadwick saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for nearly sixteen hours.
Already she was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. She had managed to finish that swim in a record time, 16 hours and 22 minutes on August 8, 1950. Now, at age 34, her goal was to become the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to Palos Verde on the California coast.

“On that Fourth of July morning in 1952, the sea was like an ice bath and the fog was so dense she could hardly see her support boats. Sharks cruised toward her lone figure, only to be driven away by rifle shots. Against the frigid grip of the sea, she struggled on – hour after hour – while millions watched on national television.

“Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and her trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn’t much farther. But all she could see was fog. They urged her not to quit. She never had . . . until then. With only a half mile to go, she asked to be pulled out.

“Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, ‘Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it.’ It was not fatigue or even the cold water that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal.

“Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere behind that fog was land and this time she made it! Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina, eclipsing the men’s record by two hours!”

~ Author Unknown ~ [1]

How I Learned To Set Goals (Not Well At First)

I was never very good at setting goals, the formal write-’em-down-and-make-a-plan type goals. I’ve achieved a number of goals in my life, but it often took longer than was necessary, sometimes much longer.

When I was an adolescent, I wanted to learn to play the guitar. My parents bought me a guitar that I would occasionally sit down and try to strum but I wasn’t consistent and never learned. After several years of hit-or-miss practice, I began to sit down regularly day after day to practice and, over time, learned to play. That was a goal achieved, but in a round-about manner.

As a college student, I dropped out my sophomore year. A few years later, I went back to the local community college and earned an Associate’s Degree, which initiated my career in software development. But I had that incomplete hanging over me for years. Eventually, in my mid-30s, I went back to school at night to finish my Bachelor’s degree. Another goal achieved, but again in a round-about manner.

When I hit middle age, I began to put on extra weight. Tipping the scales at 260 pounds, I knew I had to do something. So I joined Weight Watchers. I enjoyed the meetings and I bought a lot of their products but I did not follow the plan that well – I was undisciplined and erratic in working the program. After a couple of years of weekly weigh-ins, tracking what I had eaten (sometimes), measuring and weighing my food (sometimes), I finally got below 200 pounds. Again, a goal achieved, but in a round-about way that took much longer than it needed to.

If I had understood more about goal setting and the importance of having a target to aim for, I could have accomplished these and other goals more easily and quickly.

But I didn’t grasp the power of having goals . . . at least not right away.

The Importance Of Having Goals

On Thursday mornings, I volunteer for the United Ministries Employment Readiness program to teach a class in creating a solid financial foundation.

The first thing we talk about is setting goals. I always begin the class with a question: “Why do you think goals are important?” Invariably, someone answers, “To give you a target to aim at” and “To give you something to focus on”. (And if no one gives that answer, I keep leading them in that direction until someone does.)

Because, as Yogi Berra famously said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” I want my students to have a target to focus on, to develop a plan so they can measure their progress and know when they get off track.

I want that for you, too.

“Success Is Goals”

“Success is goals,” says Brian Tracy, a leader in the field of achievement and personal development. “All else is commentary.” It is possible to achieve some desires without a clear goal, as my own experiences show . . . but it is rather hit-or-miss and takes much longer than necessary.

And in Lead The Field, Earl Nightingale, radio personality, speaker, and writer says: “To understand the subject, and the importance of goal setting, we have to realize that it is the very basis of any success. It is, in fact, the very definition of success. The best definition of success I’ve ever found goes like this: ‘Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal,’ or, in some cases, ‘. . .the pursuit of a worthy ideal.'”

Goal Setting As A “Happiness Tool”

In The How Of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses a number of exercises that can increase positivity and lead to improved well-being. One of the tools is committing to a goal. According to Lyubomirsky, this activity has a number of benefits:

  • Provides a sense of purpose and a feeling of control over our lives.
  • Bolsters self-esteem, self-confidence, and the feeling of being useful and effective.
  • Adds structure and meaning to daily life.
  • Helps us to master our time and set priorities.
  • Commitment to a goal can help us cope better during times of crisis.
  • Often involves engaging with other people, which can bring happiness in and of itself.

How To Get Started

How could a goal be beneficial to you?
Do you want to focus on an achievement and have a sense of accomplishment?
Do you feel stuck, not making any progress?
Is there an area of your life that needs some attention or some TLC?

To help you think through this, consider where you are in these different life areas:

  • Professional
  • Financial
  • Physical
  • Relationships
  • Learning / Growth
  • Spiritual

Would setting and achieving a goal in one or more of these areas help you to feel a sense of achievement?

Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Destination

Florence Chadwick failed in her first attempt to swim the Catalina Channel in large part because she could not see her destination. It’s going to be difficult for you to reach your destination if you don’t have a clear picture of it in your head.

This is part of the power of having goals. Having a clear goal helps you to stay focused on the target. And the further away the target is, i.e., the bigger your goal, the more important it is to keep it clearly in your mind.

Oh, you can muddle through in a hit-or-miss fashion, as I did for a good part of my life, and you may accomplish some things. But having a written goal, with specific steps of action, makes your achievement many times more likely.

When you have a goal that you’ve written down, with action steps to take you to your destination, you are on your way to achieving your desires. “What the mind of man (or woman!) can conceive and believe,” said Napoleon Hill, “it can achieve.”

Take Action

The Excelerated Life web site has a couple of resources you can take advantage of to help you get started on your goal setting adventure: The Goal Achievement Excelerator and The Excelerator JumpStart – Excelerated Goal Setting™

For a quick introduction to the power of goal setting and some distinct steps you can take to begin planning and achieving BIG goals, use the Excelerator Jump Start Excelerated Goal Setting™.

For an in-depth exercise in goal setting, use the Goal Achievement Excelerator. This Excelerator consists of 9 steps with corresponding work sheets. The nine steps lead you from brainstorming possible goals to prioritizing your choices, then stating your selected goal as a SMART+Plus goal. Next, you tap in to your own personal problem solving techniques to develop a general goal strategy. Then, you create specific action steps to implement your strategy. You consider obstacles you may encounter on the path to your goal and develop specific actions to deal with them. Finally, you put it all into a Goals Work Sheet – your individual personalized goal plan ready to help you take off.

Like a pilot, it helps to begin the trip with a flight plan. The Goal Achievement Excelerator can serve as your flight plan.

“If I Could Have Seen Land”

Goal setting works in at least 3 ways:

  1. It helps you know where you are going. Your goal becomes your destination and your plan is your map to reach the destination.
  2. It gives you a focus for your time and energy. You don’t feel like you are “spinning your wheels”.
  3. It is motivating. When your goals are personal and meaningful to you, you look forward to working toward and achieving them.

Florence Chadwick most likely would have achieved her quest on her first try if she hadn’t literally lost sight of her goal. You can keep your goal in sight by writing it down and creating a plan, keeping in mind that your first plan will not be the one that eventually gets you to your end. Chadwick didn’t give up after her first attempt; she kept at it until she achieved her goal. And that is how you embrace the Excelerated Life™!

Excelerated Goal Setting™ — planning and achieving BIG goals — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.


[1] Reprinted from the blog [See Resources.]


Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How Of Happiness. New York: Penquin Books, 2007

Team IS. “Keep Your Goals In Sight.” Inspirational Stories. Inspirational Stories, . Web. 04 April 2020.

power of goal setting

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