Without new visions and goals, we tend to recreate the old ones. So, last year looks like this year; and next year will look like this year. You say, “Things don’t change much around here.”

Genius and creativity come alive when you’ve got an inspiring vision in front of you. As you learn to set and imprint goals, as you put in a new picture of reality a new vision, ideal, or target you find a way to become more every day.

When I was young, living with my mother in West Seattle, we didn’t have much in the way of material possessions. For example, we had an old icebox, but no refrigerator. Everyone else in the neighborhood had refrigerators, and so it was embarrassing for me to have people come over to our house and see this old-fashioned icebox. I tried to talk Mother into buying a refrigerator, but she said, “We don’t need one; we can better spend the money some other way.”

One day my mother’s sister learned she had polio. When she was released from the hospital, Mom went to take care of her sister for a while, leaving me at our home with my sister. My mom’s sister had a nice home in the Queen Anne district. The home had an updated, modern kitchen with a refrigerator and all the latest appliances, and so Mom started using the refrigerator at her sister’s house.

Mother could see other people having refrigerators, but now for the first time could see herself having a refrigerator. After she used her sister’s refrigerator for a while, she started imagining one in her kitchen not just once, but over and over again, until she changed her self-image and her environmental comfort zone. When she returned home, we still didn’t have a refrigerator. But she set a goal to get one, without knowing how she would pay for it. She also started finding fault with the icebox. Now the “crummy, ugly, smelly, leaky, old” icebox just had to go. She started saying that with “the money we could save” on ice and spoiled food, we could afford a new refrigerator.

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As she changed the picture of what was acceptable on the inside first, she become very dissatisfied with the old picture. By setting a goal, she started this improvement process. We all became very dissatisfied with the old icebox, and looked for ways to get a new refrigerator. We still didn’t have the money to buy one, however. But Mom entered a contest and won a refrigerator!

Now, why set goals? If you create the vision, you invent the way. You might think that we would have gotten a refrigerator anyway. I don’t think so. It wasn’t luck. Mom wrote a poem and entered a poetry contest to win a beautiful new 8-cubic-foot refrigerator, the first one we ever had.

Six Reasons to Set Goals

You might ask, ”Why are goals so important?” “Why set goals?” I see at least six good reasons.

1. If we don’t set any goals or ideals if we don’t have anything to keep us looking forward, with positive expectancy, to the future we can waste away, self-destruct, or die.

A few years ago in Vienna, I met Victor Frankl, author of the book Man’s Search for Meaning and founder of LOGO psychology. He states: “It’s essential for human beings to have an ideal or a goal; without a goal, you die or self-destruct.”

He’s right: if you don’t have a goal, you die. It was proven in the Korean War. We lost more prisoners of war in Korea than in any war in American history. Why? Because the Chinese and the North Korean Communists destroyed the goal orientation of the prisoners through relentless mental torture: constantly painting a bleak future; rewarding prisoners for ratting on each other; providing “Dear John” letters, divorce subpoenas, bill collection notices; brainwashing with false versions of history. They thoroughly obliterated the prisoners’ hopes of the future. They destroyed hope; the prisoners then had nothing to live for. These young men, ages 18 to 23, would crawl into a corner, pull blankets over their heads, and within 48 hours, they would die, from no physical cause. At first, this phenomenon was labeled “give-up-it is.” Later, it was identified as “clostermorastis”a withdrawal behavior usually observed in children.

Observe people who are married for a long time and who are close companions. When one dies, the other one soon follows. Look at people who retire with no goal in front of them. On average, they die in 18 months, regardless of the age of retirement. You have a goal, or you die. Companies without goals also die. When you give up on your goals, or have no goals at all, your whole system shuts down.

2. We all need targets; otherwise, just like missiles without targets, we will fizzle out and self-destruct. Goals allow us to orient and operate in relation to a target. Human beings are teleological in nature. We have the power or ability to seek out targets. Our subconscious gets us to move toward whatever goal or image is uppermost in our minds.

Our goals can be anything. For some, it might be the next episode of a favorite soap opera: “I can hardly wait for tomorrow’s General Hospital,” or it might be, “I can hardly wait for Friday.” Or, ”I can hardly wait to finish work and go out for a beer.” Others look forward to building a new home, finding a solution to a vexing problem at work, or founding a new company.

Since we are teleological by nature, we are directed toward and shaped by our goals. When we function properly, we think in terms of purposes and goals. Our teleological thoughts and ways of perceiving are like the guidance system of a missile; they direct us toward our target. Our guidance system is our inner picture of how things are supposed to be: “I have a picture of the way I want my family to be.” “I have a picture of the way I want my company to be.” “I have a picture of where I’m going on my next vacation.” “I have a picture of how much money I will earn this year.”

Your guidance system keeps you on course as you work toward your goals. So don’t join the “Thank God It’s Friday” club. You need goals to change and grow. Do your goals cause you to linger in the past, float in the present, or leap into the future? Once you learn how to program this teleological mechanism, it can guide you anywhere you choose to go.

3. If you don’t deliberately give yourself a goal for survival, you recreate the one you’ve got. Your tomorrows won’t look much different than your todays or your yesteryears if you don’t give yourself a new ideal, image, or goal to shoot for. All you will do is make the next week or next year, the next generation or the next situation, look amazingly like the last one. So, goal setting is an important part of causing growth and development in you.

Having goals is absolutely essential to your existence. We move toward, and we become like, that which we think about. So if you don’t deliberately anticipate the way you want your life to be, the way you want your family to be, the way you want your career to be next week, next month, next year, then your subconscious will duplicate your presently dominant picture. You will end up repeating last year’s goals again and again. That’s what happens when people allow themselves to stay in a routine job, repeating the same tasks day after day. We commonly call that a “rut.” If you don’t put in a new target or picture, you use the old picture of your neighborhood, of your home, of your income, of your family. The image for you is already constructed in the neuron cells of your brain. You’ve let this picture develop by assimilating what’s in the environment, by growing up on one side of the tracks, by absorbing how people behave toward you.

4. If you don’t set your own new goals, you adopt the agendas and suggestions other people have for you. You then get caught up in doing what the crowd does. You become too lazy or too afraid to think for yourself. “Let’s drop that client.” “Oh, that’s a good idea.” “Let’s go to that new movie.” “Oh, that’s a good idea.” “Why don’t we sell our car?” “Oh, that’s a good idea.” See, anything is a good idea and you move toward whatever anybody triggers in your mind. “My minister inspires me.” “My coach gets me up for the game.” “My parents guide me.”

If you don’t set a goal for yourself, you become very open to every suggestion. And it could be rap music, something that somebody mentions, or a complaint, gripe, “isn’t this awful,” “nothing to do.” So you become very susceptible to the environment and to the suggestions and opinions of people around you. If you don’t set the goal yourself, your subconscious knows it. And so you’ll do what everybody’s doing. You’ll hang around, go have a beer. “Sure, that’s a good idea. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

5. By having goals and affirmations, you build resiliency to setbacks. When you have a positive expectancy of winning, you take every setback as temporary. For example, Rose Kennedy kept a family together in spite of many setbacks. She had a child that was born retarded, and she bounced back. She had a son and daughter killed during World War II, and she bounced back. She had a son who was the President assassinated, and she bounced back. And she had another son assassinated while campaigning for president, and she bounced back. She had a son scandalized, and she bounced right back. She had a husband die on her, and she bounced back. She had a grandson with a leg amputated, and she bounced back. She broke her hip, and you expect her to bounce right back.

I believe that her tremendous tenacity and resilience came from her vision and goal of what she wanted her family to be.

How many disappointments and setbacks can you take and not quit? Thomas Edison, the man who invented the filament for electric lights, had over 3,000 temporary setbacks 3,000 failures before he got it right. You’d think a guy would give up.

6. Another reason to set goals is to create cognitive dissonance and its positive byproductscreative energy, motivation, drive, and direction. We are always striving for order in our minds. We gain order when our internal picture of “the way things are supposed to be” in our environment, our social life, our business life, and our home life matches the external picture we perceive through our senses. When we perceive disorder, our system creates energy to bring us back to “where we belong.” In other words, when the pictures don’t match, we have a problem: ”This doesn’t taste right.” “That doesn’t look right.” “This doesn’t sound right.” “Something doesn’t feel right to me.”

Sometimes, we resist change because we feel awkward, uptight, uncomfortable, even when the changes would be good for us. It’s the difference that causes the negative tension in our system which drives us back to “where we belong.” But our creative subconscious has the ability to transform that same negative tension into the positive energy we need to solve problems, resolve conflicts, make changes, and accomplish our goals. Here is an NLP type approach toward setting goals as well.