But what if the opposite happens? What if I set a goal and don't achieve it? What if I fail?
Well, I know from personal experience that the stars don't suddenly fall from the sky, nor am I instantly surrounded by a chorus of creepy kids chanting, "Na-na-na-na-na, You-didn't-make-it!"
In fact, as long as I haven't missed a hard deadline, the only one who knows I've failed is me. And I'm not generally dumb enough to put it on the 6:00 news.
I do, however, ask myself a few questions to try to figure out what happened and how I can get back on track.
Was My Goal a SMART Goal?
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-limited.
I've noticed I have a nasty habit of setting goals that aren't realistic unless I evolve another brain, at least two more sets of arms, and the ability to type about 1000 words per minute (hey, it could happen).
If my goal doesn't pass the SMART test, I work on it until it does. Then I try again.
Who Controls the Goal?
Suppose I set a goal to write a novel that 30 million people will read and love. That is so not in my control. I can write a damn good novel--and that is in my control. But let's be honest, I can't make some of my best friends read my books, so how can I expect to influence the behavior of 30 million people that I don't even know.
The goal needs re-working. Perhaps I'll decide to have the final draft of my novel complete and ready to submit for publication by a certain date. That's the best I can do. The 30 million people will just have to take care of themselves.
Is the Goal Still Important to Me?
Years ago, when I was in junior high and enjoying my first pet hamster, I set a goal that when I grew up, I would breed hamsters and sell them only to loving homes. It wasn't a bad goal, but now that I'm grown up I have three cats and a writing career. Hamster-breeding suddenly doesn't sound all that interesting to me.
We all set goals that we grow out of. It's just part of the human condition. When you don't achieve a goal that no longer matters, simply release it. Then set a new goal that fits with your current interests.
A Few Final Words about Failure
Two close friends, salesmen, got together one New Year's Eve to set their goals for the coming year. They decided to meet again in one year to see how they had fared.
At their next meeting a year later, the younger of the two men spoke up first. "My goal was to make $50,000 this year," he announced with a grin, "and I did it!"
The older salesman congratulated him. Then he sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm afraid I didn't do nearly as well," he admitted. "My goal was to earn two million dollars...and I only made it halfway."
Who truly "failed?"