There are many ways to use your imagination correctly. One of the best ways is to become goal oriented. High performance people set their own goals and find their own motivation and inspiration. Once you know what you want to achieve, you can learn to affirm, visualize, and imprint, and let your goal orientation guide you.

When Diane and I had nine children to feed at home, we had taken the vow of poverty, by mistake. Diane felt that she needed to stop working outside the home to take care of the kids, and I continued to teach and coach high school kids. Our cars were junkers. Every year we’d need to get a “new” car. We would say, “We’ve got to get a new car.” But we weren’t talking about a $10,000 car or even a $5,000 car. It was closer to a $500 car.

When we said, “We’ve got to get a new car,” we meant a new junker. It wasn’t like we thought of a new car and then adjusted back to a used car. The new car never even came into our minds.

We’ve purchased new cars since then, so the potential was there inside of us, but we didn’t have the aspiration or goal.

You won’t think expansively if you lack inner strength. You won’t dream big enough for the real potential inside yourself. You face a constant need to improve yourself so that you dream bigger. You won’t let yourself think about what you don’t believe you can cause. If you lack self-esteem, you will limit your dreams. If you don’t dream big enough early, you may wake up when you’re 50 and say to yourself, “My gosh, I could have owned the trucking firm. I didn’t need to be driving trucks all my life.” But you figure it’s too late now, so you resign yourself to what you have.

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Three Dimensions of Goal Orientation

Goal orientation means using a teleological process to move toward and become what we think about. We think in images and in words; and the imagery and language we use trigger emotions. So it’s three dimensional: pictures, words, and feelings.

1. Pictures

How do you want things to look in the future? You must have the target, the new picture of what you want, so that your sensory system can hone in on the picture.

Goal setting is changing the imagery or environment inside your mind your income level, inside your mind; your social status, inside your mind. All meaningful and lasting change starts on the inside, then works its way out. It starts first in your imagination. If you don’t like where you are, imagine a different future. As you visualize the new, you become unhappy with the old. The more graphic and visual your goal, the stronger the initial imprint.

2. Words

If you are particular about your future, you will be careful what you think and talk about, both with yourself and others. Your choice of words determines whether it’s smart talk or dumb talk.

Self-talk. Dozens of thoughts go through your mind every hour. These thoughts are part of your self-talk. So, in a sense, you’re setting goals all the time. You’re deciding how things are by the way you choose to talk to yourself. You’re setting the quality and quantity standards that will guide you in the future.

You constantly tell yourself how your world is as you talk to yourself. You interpret what you perceive and experience, and you create images in your mind, including your own self-image, with your thoughts. You create your own environment, limitations, and standards with you own thoughts and words.

The key to learning, growth, and achievement is to use your imagination and self-talk correctly to focus on near term goals and future events. As you think about the new, you won’t like some aspects about the ways things are.

If you dwell on the “good old days,” you may also become dissatisfied with the way things are but that dissatisfaction doesn’t lead to progress. It’s a retreat into the past. Old folks who sit on the porch or in the park, rocking and talking about how good life used to be, become unhappy with the present generation. They want to go back, not forward.

To the degree you keep describing past problems and current troubles in your self-talk, you establish a negative reality. Your sensory feedback then confirms how bad things are, reducing motivation to move forward. You then become stuck in the current reality. Don’t keep telling yourself how bad things are if you don’t want them to be that way.

When we ask astronauts who went to the moon to speak to us, we always invite them to tell us what it was like on the moon. And so we trap these people in history. Similarly, a salesperson who wallows in the success of the last sale may miss several opportunities today. Likewise, we ask old athletes to talk endlessly about the game they won 10 years ago. Even athletes who just won a big game may think about it all week and lose the drive to prepare for their next game. When they get beat, we may hear, ”They just couldn’t get up for the game.”

Rather than get trapped in history, you can learn to use history to help you grow. You can reflect on your past success briefly to spring into the future. You can think and talk about a desired future as if it’s a done deal. This is the gutsy part of growth and goal setting. The words that you use in your self-talk trigger emotion. So your talk becomes the way you want things to be before they ever are.

At first, this “future” of yours may seem laughable. And so you may talk back to yourself: “Who are you to think that? It’s stupid of you to even think that way.”

But you may see other people being, doing, or having what you want, and soon you think, “I think I can do it.” And then, “I know I can do it. And soon, you say, “I’m doing it.”

When I first started my business, I said, “I will need to double my income.” I think I was making about $1,300 a month at the time. It was hard for me to find a person who was making $2,600 a month. None of my friends were making that much money. At first, my self talk was, “My gosh, that is absolutely ridiculous.”

Public talk. Not only was I laughing about my income goal, but if I discussed it with other people, they also laughed at it. And that was worse. People whom I respected when I was a football coach were laughing at me, and they were telling everybody what an idiot I was. “Who is this guy? He’s not even a head coach of a college. He’s not a professor of a university.”

So I quit talking to them. I quit telling people about my vision of the future. I had to stop telling them because they kept giving me negative feedback. I was getting enough of it from myself; I didn’t need it from other people.

You’ve got to be careful who you share your dream with. Some people don’t want you to grow in the first place, and some don’t want you to leave your current position. And so they’ll say, “What do you want to do that for? We’re having a good time here. Why don’t you stay where you are?” So be very careful who you share your goals with. Your public talk must be as smart as your self-talk.


We commonly underestimate the emotional component of goal setting. If we set goals and make decisions only on an intellectual level, we forfeit the strong passion of the emotional level. Our goals, particularly the tough goals, should trigger feelings of joy and fulfillment. particularly the tough goals. If you approach these solely on an intellectual level, you simply won’t care enough. The purpose and the passion won’t be there. So ask yourself, ”Why do I want it?” And create the depth of purpose, the intensity of mission, and the power and passion of emotion.

To make your vision, ideal, goal, or future stronger in your mind than the reality that you’re currently living with, you need to use the power of emotion. You probably spend too much time describing the what (creating the vision), and too little time telling yourself why. You need to find the why that drives you, because the why is the source of passion. When you’re emotional or passionate about a goal, nothing holds you back. You get things done. But if you just make an intellectual decision, you don’t care enough. Things go wrong because you don’t set the goal with a strong vision, reason, and passion. So ask yourself, “What do I want? Why do I want it? What is the purpose behind it?”

You may want to change and know how to change, but you won’t change much if you don’t get emotion into your goals. If you don’t want something with passion, it won’t happen. To change the inner reality of how things are, you need to dream about the change, visualize it, think about it, talk about it, plan it, and dwell on it with emotion.