According to the esteemed writer, Henry David Thoreau, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” America’s most prolific President, Theodore Roosevelt, seconded Thoreau’s pondering, tempered with a word of modest caution, noting “Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.” Beguiling prose for sure from the two literary intellects; sort of a 19th Century way of saying set your goals, mollify each with realistic expectation when necessary and attain them.
I am, and always have been, a goal setter. For me, I find establishing objectives a catalyst for self-motivation and a mechanism of self-discipline. Ask me to do something and I will procrastinate and drag my feet. I will ultimately complete the task; mind you, – I am nothing, if not responsible – but more times than not, on my timetable (as she is reading this I can imagine my wife sarcastically saying aloud “Really, I never noticed!) Let me establish a goal, however, and like the late Muhammad Ali, who said “What keeps me going is goals”, I will stop at nothing to ensure its completion.
Over the years I have discovered that challenging myself on a continual basis has been the impetus behind any success I have achieved. Setting goals and establishing performance benchmarks always serves as the propellant I require in any quest for accomplishment. Russian literary critic, Vissarion Belinsky, proffered “Without a goal there is no interest and without activity there is no life.” I have certainly found this assertion to be true. Setting goals keeps me mentally and physically buoyant and in doing so, embellishes my quality of life.
Over 150 years ago, industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, noted “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” To the great steel magnate’s statement I would add “challenge your abilities.” Many people – myself included early in my life – are intimidated by the specter of failure and succumbing to their fear, avoid goal setting altogether or establish safe, easily obtainable objectives. If you find yourself among this cautious cadre I offer this warning from Michelangelo, an artist, sculptor and poet of unparalleled influence: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
Renowned German composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven remarked “The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry “Thus far and no farther.” An observation made more compelling given the virtuoso crafted some of his most admired works after becoming almost completely deaf. Suffice to say in doing so, the great composer overcame many obstacles in the successful pursuit of his goals. Booker T. Washington, the former slave who became a dominant educator and orator, noted, “You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals.” Strive to be like Herr Beethoven and Mr. Washington.
Of course merely setting a goal is only half the quotient. Meeting the target is for many, the most onerous part of the equation. The legendary Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, heeded “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” The Andalusian Master is correct of course, a plan is a vital component when charting a course towards creating and meeting goals. In the words of French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
For me, the SMART process has always worked well:
S – Specific: Be clear and unambiguous when setting your goal. Don’t leave room for guessing.
M – Measurable: Set a goal that allows you measurement toward your goals progress.
A – Attainable: Ask yourself, “Is this realistic and attainable?” If not, back to the drawing board.
R – Relevant: Create a goal with importance and meaning. Make sure the effort is worth it to you.
T – Time-bound: Commit to a deadline. Open-ended goals tend to go forgotten
As most of you likely already know, SMART process or no SMART process, there are no guarantees that goals will be met regardless of their modesty or complexity. When setback does occur, I offer the following from the 19th Century German writer and statesman, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Everything is hard before it is easy.” And in those particularly disappointing situations, you can always refer to my mainstay, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who offered the following erudite succor “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
Don’t allow trepidation and the fear of failing to impede your desire to set and achieve goals. American philosophy giant, William James, prescribed “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” I will add never knowing cowers in the shadow of never trying. And for good measure, in the words of rapper and film actor, LL Cool J, “Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.”
I opened with a quote from the master of prose and essay, Henry David Thoreau, so it is only fitting that I look to him again as I close out this missive. Remember as you go about setting your goals, fear not the critic or those quick to point out your failings or shortcomings. For, as Thoreau bitingly noted “The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise.”
Esteemed author C.S. Lewis wrote “You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.” Sage words of wisdom for the Second Fifty.
Props to any of you who realized I lifted the title of this week’s blog entry from the opening line of rapper, Tone Lōc’s, 1989 smash hit “Wild Thing.” What? You are lucky I did not quote Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby.” Yo, V.I.P…Word to your Motha…Rollin’ in my 5.0…