Staying the Course – Look at Edison
I am barely hanging on with my resolution of not to talk about resolutions! This article is not just about sticking to your goals in January but is applicable any time of the year. Most of us set goals for ourselves. Goals can be effective in helping us achieve something we really want. Some people have very informal and short-term goals such as, “Today I will make sure to finish a book.” Other people will have long-term goals such as, “I will overcome my fear of snakes this year.” Adding to the diversity in goal setting is whether or not your write down your goals or whether or not you make them objective. The website MindTools says that the Five Golden Rules for Goal Setting are: 1) Set Motivating Goals, 2) Set SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound), 3) Set goals in writing, 4) Make an Action Plan, 5) Stick with it.
A recent article in Forbes discussed the 12 things that successful people do and by no surprise, goal setting made that list. Anybody can set goals but Staying the Course or as mentioned in the Five Golden Rules of Goal Setting, “Stick with it”, tends to be the hardest one. Everybody has started a goal only to falter at some point. We all have our reasons for letting go before we attain the goal. For many people, they did not pay attention to the “A” in SMART goals. If your goal is not “Attainable” then you have started off with a slim chance of success. Since success builds on success we need to make sure we set goals we can attain to build our confidence before setting higher goals.
Teaching children difficult concepts like math elucidates the need for confidence building. If you push through and set the bar so high that a child fails and fails, their confidence will flat-line and they will likely develop a lifelong disdain for the subject. Getting a child excited about accomplishing a goal builds on itself. The same is absolutely true for adults. I once tried to learn how to do Yoga by watching a DVD for “Advanced Practitioners”. While I had never done Yoga before, I thought to myself, “How hard could this be?” A couple of weeks of utter humiliation sent me back to buy the “Beginner Version” and I slowly gained some success.
I have a poster on my wall which is a quote by Thomas Edison that says, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” As most people have heard, Edison’s incandescent bulb failed thousands of times before he finally succeeded. It might have appeared that Edison’s goal was unattainable but this is where his motivation overcame a string of failures. I think that motivation is an under-appreciated aspect of goal setting. Many people want to achieve something but what really is their motivation? Many people have found success with increasing motivation by using a technique called associative conditioning. Self-help guru Tony Robbins created a process called Neuro Associative Conditioning (NAC) which, in part, gets people to link the pain of NOT achieving a goal to the goal itself. For many people the pain of failing overrides the temptation to quit.
As many parts of the northern hemisphere are experiencing the throes of winter, it is perhaps a good time to think about goals and how you will Stay the Course. Since winter is like a period of hibernation, it is a good season to start a goal and consider how you will Stay the Course. Will you give up after a few broken light bulbs or will you accomplish the goal so that you start building your goal setting muscles. If you do decide to make a goal, give your self the greatest chance for success. Use a SMART goal and make sure it is really attainable. For added motivation, try using NAC to link the pain of failing as the outcome if you do not achieve the goal. Most importantly, if you are unable to Stay the Course, learn from it and make the necessary changes for the next time.