The following eight principles will help you achieve a goal orientation in your life.

1. Prepare your mind before taking action.

prepare mind

Preparing for personal change and growth is a process of familiarizing yourself beforehand with the new situation; familiarizing yourself beforehand with a new environment; familiarizing yourself beforehand with the new behavior. All meaningful and lasting change starts on the inside first, and works its way out. Change starts in the imagination, and then manifests itself externally.

If first you don’t change your internal picture of who you are, you tend to revert to the familiar. For example, suppose that you consciously force yourself to lose weight without first changing your self-picture. If you still see yourself as 20 pounds overweight, your belief system will keep you there. You might temporarily lose weight, but when you let go of conscious control, you return automatically to your currently dominant picture, to the way things are “supposed to be.”

This is like cooking from a recipe. When you open a cookbook to a recipe, what do you see? The ingredients. But what do you see in your mind’s eye? The finished product a baked cake.

The recipe for change is to deliberately throw your system out of order. Create dissonance inside yourself so you will have the energy and drive to change your picture. Take your ideal and visualize it and affirm it as if it’s already done in the first person, present tense.

Suppose you know you’re usually in debt for only $500, and then bills suddenly come in to put you in debt for $5,000. You think, “I’ve got a problem. This is more debt than I’m used to.” That prompts your creative energy and drive. You stop spending foolishly; start saving money; get an extra job; and do whatever it takes to get the two pictures to match.

If you use affirmation and visualization to upgrade “where you belong” before you go out of your comfort zone, you won’t feel the tension when you actually get there. For example, to prepare your kids for kindergarten, you talk with them about it months in advance, not the day before. You get the kids to visualize the kindergarten environment so vividly, they feel as though they’ve already been there. Then you can’t keep them home. If the child visualizes kindergarten in advance and affirms, “I’m going to have a great time,” that child will comfortably adapt.

That’s how you feel when you set goals properly: “I’ve been there. This goal is mine.”

You can deliberately prepare to be a better father, mother, son, or daughter; deliberately prepare to be a more dynamic leader; deliberately prepare to have a free-flowing memory; deliberately prepare to become financially secure; deliberately prepare to do all the things you want to do.

Why prepare your mind first? Why not take immediate action? If you’re an action-oriented person, as soon as you imagine a new future, you want to get to it right away. You immediately start coming up with how-to’s. “Well, we can do it this way.” But when you take immediate action, you make three bad things happen:

1) you limit the emotional component;

2) you lock on to the first or second idea;

3) you eliminate the chance for others to be part of the creative team and buy into the project and these are people you may need to achieve the end result.

Also, if you take immediate action, you may find yourself in a new situation with an old self-image and mind-set. You’ll be far out of your comfort zone. Even if you do the new behavior one time, you go right back to being your old self, back to your old comfort zone, because you haven’t changed your internal idea of the way things are supposed to be.

2. Change your internal image of reality.

reality check

Millions of dollars are spent on television commercials to produce imagery to get you so discontent with the old that you buy the new. In a car commercial, for example, the camera slides you behind the wheel so you can imagine vividly what it would feel like if you were driving an elegant new car. If you repeat the image often, your subconscious won’t know the difference between pretending that you’re driving the car, and actually driving it. You’ll drive that car 100 more times in your mind. Soon, you’ll have a new image of reality a new picture of the car that’s “good enough for me.”

Once you compare your new image of “reality”the elegant new car with your old image of reality last year’s model, you throw your system out of order and become discontent with the old. Anything less than the new car that you visualize will not satisfy you. Eventually, you will invent a way to get the new car. You’ll rationalize, “With the money I save from the new tires I’ll need to buy next year, and with the better gas mileage and the better resale value of the new car, it’ll pay for itself. In fact, I’d be stupid not to buy it!”

By setting goals, you mentally produce your own commercials. You deliberately throw your system out of order to stimulate the creative energy you need to resolve the conflict or achieve the goal. But you must imprint the image of the new into your subconscious so vividly that it is stronger than the way things presently are. The vision must be so strong that you can’t stand the “old car” anymore. If it isn’t strong, you’ll return to your currently dominant picture.

The aspiration creates the appetite for growth. No goal, no appetite. You first create the appetite, and then you grow.

As you change the inner construct to the new way, your senses may say, “Ah, it’s a lie. You say it’s there, but it’s not. You say it’s done, but it’s not.” Now you’re out of your comfort zone. Now your senses are saying, “You’re out of place.” And so you correct by changing the present environment to look like the new one. The inner picture changes first, and then your senses trigger the drive, motivation, and creativity to correct the problem. Goal orientation is deliberately causing a problem for yourself, deliberately causing disorder, chaos, or temporary insanity by throwing your system out of order to create a new, better order.

As you visualize the new, you become dissatisfied with the old. No dissatisfaction, no growth. How do you become dissatisfied with the way your house looks, with your health, with your present income, or with how some people are treated? You do it by becoming goal oriented, and that dissatisfaction naturally triggers the creativity and the motivation to complete the task.

You and I are always working for order in our minds. Your senses are always asking, “Where am I? How am I? How does this look, feel,taste, smell, or sound to me?” When your idea of how things are supposed to be does not match your present situation, you experience a conflict. Whenever you sense incongruence, you seek to clean up the mess. Goals, if set properly, stimulate creativity. So, your job is to disrupt the status quo by setting goals and then to imprint the what and the why. You need to write out the what and the why several times a day to imprint the new vision with emotion. It takes many repetitions to make that image so strong that “it’s a done deal.” It takes clarity, strong emotion, and repetition to change the image in your mind to a new sense of the way things are supposed to be.

3. Avoid flattening out by setting goals through, not up to.

setting realistic goals

Goal setting is not static; it must be a continuous process. Once we achieve a goal, our motivation tends to flatten out, and we relax and float. For example, as soon as you reach the level of performance that you’re used to, your no longer have the motivation to get a better job or to make more money. You only do “what’s good enough” to relieve the tension, no more. Once you’ve returned to “what’s good enough” for you, your system shuts down. When our pictures match, we lose our motivation to excel and achieve. We have boundless creativity, drive, energy, and competence as long as we have a conflict to resolve.

What happens when parents set a goal to see the kids grown, married, and out of the house and then the kids finally leave? The parents often stagnate, get depressed, lose energy and motivation. They may even get divorced.

Years ago, I taught a three-day seminar every month. My goal was to just get through that seminar and to get home so I could collapse on the couch. During that time, my daughter Nancy won a poster contest at her school with her drawing of what her dad did for a living. I went to school to receive the award with her. You know what the drawing was? Her dad asleep on the couch! “What does your dad do?” “He sleeps on the couch.” That was her picture of me, because, at the time, my only goal was to get home and crash.

When I saw Nancy’s drawing, I realized that if I wanted to have dinner with my family, and enjoy them after dinner, I had to learn how to goal-set through getting home, not just up to it.

Many people set goals to get through their work week. But then they get up on Saturday, and they can’t get out of the house. They can’t get off the chair to change the channel. They can’t even get up to get a snack: “Bring me a sandwich. I’m too exhausted. I don’t know what it is. I must be working too hard.” Their goal was to get to the weekend, not through it.

Suppose a person sets a goal to start a dental practice and works diligently to open up the practice. But the person goes out of business shortly because his goal was to open a practice, not to manage it and keep it growing.

Once I worked with a large airplane manufacturing company on the East Coast. They gave their retiring executives 90 percent of their last three years’ salary averaged out monthly for their retirement fund. I said, “That must cost you a great deal of money.” They said, “No. We know we’ll only need to make about 16 payments.”

When you set a goal to retire but neglect to set new goals, you may die soon afterwards. You don’t need to go into the same line of work, but you must set new goals, other than “I want to retire and do nothing.” Remember Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama football coach? He died less than a month after his retirement. He was known for his boundless energy and drive right to the end of his long career but he apparently had nothing left after football.

The same thing can happen to you and me, unless we learn to create dynamic new goals, endure the creative dissonance, and ride the goals to higher plateaus of happiness and success.

If your goal is simply to “get there,” you typically don’t perform well once you reach that plateau. For example, individuals and teams that set goals to get to the Olympics rarely reach the standard of performance that got them there.

Once you arrive at a goal that you set, you stop your drive. To keep moving, you don’t wait until you arrive; you set the goal past the one that you set. As you approach it, you set it out again. You don’t wait until you arrive, if you expect to keep yourself alive. You need the goal, the imagery, the vision, and the affirmation to progress.

You shut down your own energy when you think you’ve arrived. You stop your appetite for growth. Your goal might have been to become vice president of your company. When you do, you get in the way of the growth of your company for the next 10 years.

High school students who work hard to “get through” high school and “get to” college, often flunk out before Thanksgiving. Why? Because their goal was only to get there, not to graduate. And college students who set a goal to graduate but forget to set a goal to start a career, may hang around your house for a year. What about someone who sets a goal to get hired by a company? They dress well and act bright to get the job. Then they’re hired, but the company can’t get them to work. What was their goal? To get hired. After that, it’s “I did it. Now I can relax.”

The natural growth process is to create tension and then to stimulate the creativity to restore order. The difference between what is supposed to be and what actually is causes tremendous anxiety or tension. Unless the new goal is deeply imprinted, when the tension occurs, you take away the goal through rationalization, and go back to the old way. You justify it through excuse making or rationalizing, because you’re trying to prove that you weren’t crazy for setting the goal. “I wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t absurd. Timing wasn’t right. I didn’t get the cooperation. The market wasn’t right.” Now, your goal isn’t to reach the goal. Your goal is to get rid of the tension.

Tension and anxiety come with the discrepancy or conflict. By disrupting the status quo, you stimulate energy to fix the problem. By causing the problem you not only get energy, but you also get ideas; your creative subconscious seeks to resolve the conflict in the direction of the strongest picture, the most dominant picture or image. Now, this won’t be an uptight, negative tension, but an adventuresome spirit, if you not only envision a positive outcome but also anticipate the joy and the excitement of the outcome.

4. Make the extraordinary ordinary.

ordinary image

Some people say, “Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year. Wouldn’t it be hard if I had to be this nice all year?” If that’s your picture, the answer is, “Yes, it would be hard. It would be extraordinary.” On the other hand, suppose you saw yourself as an extraordinarily giving person. Suppose you repeatedly affirmed with your own self-talk, “I’m a very giving person. I enjoy giving of myself every day.” Once that affirmation is burned into your subconscious, you will try to be a giving person all year.

Affirmations, visualization, and goal setting lead you to make the extraordinary ordinary. You look at all the special occasions, all the exciting travel and adventurous lifestyles that you once considered extraordinary, and assimilate the experiences into your subconscious so they become ordinary. You imprint them into your subconscious, and that’s what you get used to.

A few years ago, I decided that Diane and I should have a big party on September 3 to celebrate our wedding anniversary. On past anniversaries, we’d had very nice parties with excellent entertainment. We’d always invited several people, but we hadn’t decided on anything yet; all we started with was, “Let’s have a big party on September 3.”

I asked Diane, “What kind of party should we have?” She said, “I don’t know. Let’s just keep adding to it as we think about what we want.” I said, “Okay.”

Finally, we ended up with about 1,500 people, 18 kegs of beer, tepees, horses, covered wagons, mule rides, musket shooting, wine,roasted pigs, chili, popcorn wagons, country singers, community singers and a two-day family “happening.” But all we started with was, “I think we’ll have a party.” We planned, we affirmed, we visualized, and ultimately Diane and I pulled off a party that we would originally have considered to be extraordinary especially for an “ordinary” anniversary celebration. But as we repeatedly affirmed and visualized its reality, that extraordinary party became ordinary for us.

When you set your goals, you can assimilate the extraordinary so it becomes ordinary for you. This isn’t just wishful thinking. It isn’t just having positive thoughts; it isn’t just hoping and wishing. You change your inner image of reality. Remember: All meaningful and lasting change starts first on the inside, and works its way out. It does not start on the outside and work its way in.

5. Take the chance, and don’t leave yourself an out .


Some people think that it’s better to avoid setting goals because they then avoid the risk and the responsibility that comes with having a goal. Their reluctance to set goals is then reinforced by their well meaning friends who say, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t reach beyond your grasp. You’ll only be hurt or disappointed.”

These people avoid setting goals because they can’t stand the tension, stress, or anxiety. If they do set goals, they set them close so that they can’t feel the sting of the creative dissonance. If you set a goal and don’t get it, you feel uptight, you want to throw up, you can’t sleep, you can’t face people. So you say, “Well, I don’t want to feel that way.” Fine, don’t set any goals. If you set a goal, go get it. If you don’t get it now, get it the next time.

Some folks are reluctant to set goals and make decisions. They are overwhelmed with the choices: “I don’t know which I like the best. There are so many to choose from.” Subconsciously, they ask themselves, “Will I feel crazy for making this decision? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I don’t meet the goal? I’ll feel terrible!” To make things happen for yourself, you must recognize that it’s all right to make a decision, even if it turns out to be wrong. If you are wrong, it will hurt. But it’s okay to make mistakes. You just tell yourself. “That isn’t like me,” and move ahead. That’s how to excel.

On the other extreme, you have people who don’t want to limit themselves by setting goals. They’ve been taught to believe beyond the goal and to believe in ideals and in unlimited possibilities. They think that setting goals is like imposing limits. They want to be the best they can be, and the best may be something much better than their goal.

When you’ve made a decision to do something to take a new job, buy a new coat, sell your washing machine later you’ve likely worried,”Did I do a smart thing?” Buyers wonder: “Was I right to have bought this thing? Was this the right decision?” Did you ever go looking for a new car? You made up your mind which car you wanted, paid the money, signed the papers and the moment the car was yours, you asked yourself, “Was I crazy for buying this car? Was this an absurd decision?” We all ask that.

Why is there a maid of honor and best man at weddings? To help kill the pre-dissonance. “Am I doing a smart thing?” the bride says. And the maid of honor says, “Oh, yes. It will be wonderful.” Why does the reception line come after the wedding? So everybody will come by and say, “Congratulations, you’ll make a lovely couple.” And your subconscious will say, ”Oh, thank God.”

You can learn to control your self-talk through positive affirmations about your goal, and stay on course if you have the guts to take the heat and stand the sting. You must tell yourself you are absolutely committed to achieving your goal. People say, “Let’s not get married. Let’s just live together in case it doesn’t work out.” When they feel the slightest dissonance, they break up and say, “It’s a good thing we didn’t get married.” But remember: We move toward, and we become like, that which we think about. If you do get married, you’re fully committed because there are no easy “outs.” When the dissonance hits, instead of giving up on the goal, you will most likely work at straightening up the mess. That’s the way you must be when you set your goals: No “outs,” no back door.

6. Choose what’s good enough for you.

good for you photo

To engage your creative genius, you must constantly upgrade the picture of what’s “good enough” for you. If you believe you’re a “C” student and then surprise yourself by getting an “A” on one exam, you may find it hard to get another “A” because you think, “Hey, look how good I did. That isn’t like me.” Your subconscious finds a way to correct for the “mistake.” It might convince you that, “I can flunk the next two tests and still get my C.” Why? Because your expectations are “I’m a C student, not an A student. Don’t expect me to get A’s all the time. That’s too tough for me.”

It’s almost impossible for you to motivate yourself beyond your expectations. But if you raise the level of your expectations, you can raise the level of your performance. Change your picture of what you believe, and you automatically change what you achieve. Since you rarely excel beyond your expectations, you must raise your expectations. You create energy when you have a problem that needs resolution. Can you see why you should think and work in ideals and why you should measure from where you are to your ideal rather than from where you started to where you are now? You shut off your drive when you think, “Look how far we’ve come. Look at how well we’ve done. This is better than we’ve ever had it. I don’t know why I’ve got to work so hard to keep it up.” Once you arrive at a goal you set, you lose your drive and energy.

As you walk around your home, your yard, your world, ask yourself, “What have I gotten used to?” And then set goals; otherwise, you lose the power for growth and change.

Goal setting is deliberately deciding what you’re going to get used to in the future and then assimilating that standard into your mind. Then you will not only see what needs to be, you will do something about it. As you visualize the new, you become very dissatisfied with the old. If you don’t visualize the new, change almost must fall on you from the sky.

So look upon areas where you’d like to improve and visualize a new reality. For example, suppose you see a new kitchen in a magazine, and then when you cook again in your own kitchen, you begin to alter your image of reality. As you visualize the new, you become dissatisfied with the old. You now notice that the paint looks dirty, the counter is scarred, the flooring is worn, the dishwasher doesn’t work right. And soon you say, “I refuse to cook in this mess until it’s fixed. We’re eating out.” But it was all right three weeks ago. In fact, it didn’t even bother you.

If you’re single and you visualize yourself being married to someone, you can hardly wait until you’re together. But if you’re together and you start seeing yourself apart, you find fault with each other. Those faults have always been there. You’ve accepted them; you’ve lived with them. Visualization works to bring you together or split you apart.

7. Grow into the goal .

grow image

Start with a goal out there that’s bigger than you are. And rather than adjust it back to where you presently are, grow into the goal.

How do you know if your goal is too big for you? You and I have been taught to think “realistically.” We’ve been taught the concept of realism by teachers, counselors, and other people who have never had a job other than to go to school. And yet they tell us about what we can do. They talk to us about being “realistic,” and they say, “Why don’t you reduce your aspiration to match your present appraisal of how good you are?” And so you limit your goals because you have a limited picture of the way things should be.

Start with the stretch goal and keep growing, until you’re much bigger than you presently are, and you’re not intimidated by it. Intimidation means you’re frightened by your goal to start with. I think that it’s okay to be intimidated, but it’s not okay to stay intimidated. You can learn to handle the problem.

How big do you set your goals? You don’t let yourself want what you don’t believe you can cause. For example, how much would you normally spend on lunch? $2.50. Now add a zero to that, a $25 lunch. What would you eat? What would you pay for shoes? $60. Add a zero, a $600 pair of shoes. What would you look at? What would you pay for a theater show? $50. Add a zero, $500. What would you pay $500 to see? What would you pay for a car? You might feel comfortable with a $5,000 car, but very uncomfortable with a $50,000 car.

Consider what would be a stretch for you by adding a zero to your current budget. Let your mind stretch to what it would be like. Of course, that’s harder to do when you’re being held accountable for outcomes. Does your vision affect the outcomes? Sure it does. The restrictions you set affect where you go and how you grow. So I think there is value in imagining that $500 evening, without judging yourself or comparing yourself to others.

It does no good to covet. All that does is create envy, not healthy tension or discrepancy. So don’t say to your spouse, “Look what our neighbors have,” or tell your child, “Why aren’t you more like your brother or sister?”

What limits the size of your aspiration or dream? If dreaming is what it’s all about, if visualizing properly is what it’s all about, why don’t you just visualize yourself doing great things? Because you don’t let yourself want what you don’t believe you can cause. In fact, you don’t even think about it. You don’t even get the idea, even though you have the potential inside of you. You need the aspiration to work and grow through perspiration.

8. Don’t worry about the resources .

resources photo

When you set a goal, you declare that some things are more significant than others. You define what’s important to you. Until that time, resources and information that could help you achieve the end result could be right in front of you, but you block them out because you consider them nonessential. You see them once you set the goal.

“Do we have the money?”
“No, but let’s find it.”
“Do we have the people?”
“No, but let’s find them.”

Don’t limit your aspirations, goals, and dreams based upon the resources available to you now. These resources may surround you, without your knowing they are there, because they’re not important to you at the moment. But as soon as you declare them significant, suddenly they appear. You think you’re lucky. You think it’s coincidence. But it’s not. You first set the goal, and then you perceive the resources.

Often I have set a goal without even the slightest idea of how I was going to achieve it. I didn’t have what I needed. It gave me great confidence to set “unrealistic” expectations. I was often thought of as being an unreasonable person. I guess I still am.

Now, you may be thinking, “But I don’t have the skills; I don’t have the knowledge; I don’t have the money; I don’t know how to get from here to there.” I know. But don’t be too concerned about the material, money, and means.

If you set goals correctly, creating healthy dissatisfaction with the current reality, you will find the way. If you invent the what and the why, you’ll find the how. You’ll discover resources or they will find you. You won’t even know from whence they come.

Your primary task is to create the problem. You don’t want to limit yourself by getting stuck in current reality. You must think in ideals. You think about the ideal way you want it. You don’t need to know how. You’ll learn how. You’ll read books; you’ll go to school; you’ll find other people; you’ll develop yourself; you’ll save money. So you don’t need to know how when you begin just set the goal and then find. For example, suppose that you decide to buy a refrigerator. As soon as you clearly set that goal, you go through the paper and see refrigerators on sale. Chances are they’ve been advertised every week in the newspaper. But you don’t see the solution until you need it. Remember: you do not perceive until you need. Goal setting is establishing the need.

In theology, this is called faith, belief without evidence. Many people have little faith, because they need evidence to build their belief. They say, “Show me, prove it to me, and then I’ll set a goal.” That is one way of doing it, but if you just set the goal, you allow yourself to perceive. That’s exercising faith. The goal comes first, and then you perceive.

The more specific that you make the desired outcome, the more it activates your awareness system. The more detail you imagine, the easier you detect the clues that lead toward the goal. Your subconscious looks for clues clues that will lead you toward new business or even a parking spot.

If you clarify where you want to park and program that into your mind with real intent, as you drive into town you look for clues through your senses. Your subconscious won’t just look for the parking spot. It looks for heads in cars up ahead two blocks away. You start scanning for clues because heads in cars indicate they may be leaving. You see red lights flashing. That’s not a parking spot, that’s a clue. You see exhaust from cars coming. That’s not a parking spot, that’s a clue. You see people approaching cars. That’s not a parking spot, that’s a clue. Your subconscious looks for clues.

But you need to clarify what you’re looking for to activate this system inside that allows you to stretch and to achieve goals that are always bigger than you.

When people around you ask, “Where are you going to find the resources? Where are you going to find the business? Where are you going to find the people?” simply reply, “Out there.” This isn’t magic or luck. It is knowing how your mind works. You attach physiology with psychology, and you start looking at how you function and how you can use that knowledge to improve your environment, yourself, your family, your business.

When I started putting on rodeos at our ranch, I encouraged our staff people in Seattle to organize them. At first they didn’t know where to look to find Brahma bulls, rodeo riders, calf ropers, and all that goes with it. But once they started makings some calls, they found rodeo cowboys and animals all over the place. They didn’t know there were so many of them. At first they didn’t know there were any of them.

And then when I said, “We’re going to Australia to find business,” the response was, “Okay, no big deal. If we can find Brahma bulls in Seattle, I’m sure we can find business in Australia.”

So practice on fun things. When you go on a scavenger hunt, you list a bunch of ridiculous things, but then you see them. So the goal comes first, and then you see.

For example, take a moment and draw a picture of your watch and all the details on the face of it. Draw the picture from memory without looking at it. After you’ve drawn the picture of your watch in all the detail you can remember, have another person correct your paper. Show them your drawing and your watch and see how you did. Why can you look at your watch several times a day and not see many of the details? Because detail is usually not significant. What is significant is the time. The detail doesn’t get through because you don’t need to notice it.

Finding resources, people, and information could be as obvious as the details of your watch. It could be right in front of you. But you don’t know it’s there. How many times have you started to set an aspiration or goal for yourself, and then been asked, “Well, where are you going to find it?” “I don’t know. Maybe I ought to change my mind.”

Don’t ask how, where, and when at the same time you set the goal. There needs to be time delays in this. Put yourself out into the environment and watch for clues. They are there, but you won’t see them unless you need them.

Now, write down exactly what time your watch said the last time you looked at it. After you guess, check your answer. Why is it that you did not know what time it was? Because the last time you looked at your watch you were checking the detail. Only significant information at the moment gets through. The information you need to reach the goal could be there, but you won’t see it until you set the goal. Once you set the goal, the information screams through. It’s all over the place. You set the goal, and then you find. But you won’t see what you don’t perceive you need.

Teach your children, students, employees, and team members to be great finders of information and resources. Encourage them to set clear goals and define specific outcomes so that they know what they’re looking for. If you ask daily in the morning, “What am I looking for today?” you increase your resource awareness immensely. Previously unseen resources jump out at you.

You are already limited in your sensory perception, but you’re limited even more when you fail to set specific goals. A lack of goal orientation shuts down your awareness. Having a goal orientation keeps you moving. You become a person who goes after what you want. You don’t judge whether you have the resources now. You know that what you’re looking for is out there, somewhere, and that when you set a goal, you will begin to see the resources.