Most of us want a good job, successful career, financial stability, a happy family life and for all our dreams to be fulfilled. It’s what we expect should happen. For many, it’s just not the case. Have you ever wondered why some people seem have all the “luck” yet the rest of us plod along making a living and getting by.
Why are some people “luckier” than others? Perhaps it has nothing to do with luck at all.
In 1953 Harvard University conducted a detailed survey of its graduating senior class. Three thousand students filled out a questionnaire that specifically asked them to look at their expectations in life for the future. The university then tracked the progress of this graduating class for the next 20 years.
In 1973, Harvard University conducted a second questionnaire with two thousand of the same ex-students that they were able to contact. When they compared the two questionnaires they found that in many areas of their life the results were quite predictable.
In other areas there were a number of surprises the biggest of all being the shock they received when appraising the respondents’ net worth.
This is what they found.
Sixty individual ex-students of the students surveyed had acquired an individual net worth greater than the combined 97% remaining respondents. Simplistically, any single one of those sixty people could have bought and sold the other 1940 ex-students combined.
What was even more extraordinary was the realization that these sixty ex-students did not constitute the “cream” of the 1953 graduating class. It was not the academic geniuses that had succeeded financially 20 years later. How they finished academically in their various classes at graduation, turned out to bear no relationship to their successes in life.
It took twenty years for Harvard University to discover that the 1953 survey unknowingly predicted this 3% to 97% split.
What made the difference?
The 3% who succeeded in their life, particularly financially, had written a clear vision for the future in 1953. Simply by writing down what they wanted to achieve, and following up by setting clear goals and taking action, the study found that those students had predetermined their own success levels back in 1953.
If someone let you into a secret that would guarantee your success in life, most likely you would highly value that secret.
If that secret also outlined the steps you needed to take, chances are you would commit to doing what you needed to even if you didn’t understand how it worked. If you also knew that it worked well for others chances are you would follow up by doing the same things.
The secret these sixty people had in common in 1953, is that didn’t just dream about what they wanted, they actually wrote it down. Not only did they write down what they wanted, they followed through by taking action. This simple step brought them enough wealth to live on even if they never worked again?
Anyone can dream. It’s putting your dreams and ideas down on paper that is the key to success. When you create a vision for the future and write it down on paper, something magical happens. You begin to believe your vision for the future can become a reality. When you follow this up by writing down your goals, it makes your vision step into the physical plane. Before this time, your vision has existed purely in the mysterious thought patterns of your subconscious mind.
A simple consequence of writing down your goals means your vision can become a reality. This mere act of committing to paper what you really want in life is the most basic secrets of success.
On the surface the 3% of success in the Harvard study seemed like they were the “lucky ones”. In reality they just did something different from the other 97%. They committed their vision and goals to paper.
1. Define your vision for the future
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous “I have a Dream’ speech in which he called for the end to racism in the United States. There were over 250,000 people gathered that day to hear him speak along with many more watching on television or listening to him on radio. King did not say to all these people “I have a plan” Martin Luther King was a visionary. He was able to inspire a nation with his vision for the future. Let your vision inspire your future.
2. Define your values
Values are the qualities that are important to you that have a major influence on your behavior and decision making process. They are a guiding compass in terms of the way you live and work.
Your values help you decide the direction you want your life or business to go. It’s when your life or business is not aligned to your values that you begin to feel like something is wrong. Example, if one of your values is family, then it is unlikely that you would feel happy working a 60-70 hour week that kept you away from your family. This would cause you internal conflict and stress.
You already have inbuilt values; you just may not recognize or understand what they are. If you are struggling with internal conflict, it may be that your values are not aligned. By identifying what your values are, you can then make decisions that match up with your values.
3. Define your goals
To succeed in life and business – you don’t need the right conditions; you need the right fuel to keep you going. Goals are the fuel you need to light the furnace of desire and help keep you motivated along the way.
For many people – they struggle with having a purpose in life. They work hard but don’t feel like they are achieving anything. Mostly it’s because they haven’t spent much time thinking about what they want out of life.
Your vision is a statement of what your ideal for the future looks like. Your goals are the fuel that turns your vision into reality. Your vision is your destination and goals determine where you need to put your energy and time into making your vision become a reality. Goals focus your attention on the acquisition of knowledge and skills and help organize your time and resources.
Clearly articulated goals also help you avoid the distractions that can so easily lead you astray along the way.
4. Write goals down
A goal not written down is a dream. A train would never pull out of station without knowing its final destination and the stops it has to make along the way. Your destination is your vision. The stops along the way are your goals.
By writing down your goals, it crystallizes your thoughts and puts things in perspective. It is also a visual reminder of where you want to go and how to get there. Written goals give you more power – they are the fuel that drives you forward.
Write each goal in the positive
The sub-conscious mind believes whatever you tell it. If you tell your subconscious “don’t make stupid mistakes” it hears the words “stupid mistakes”. What happens next is that your subconscious mind replays “stupid mistakes.”
Therefore, always express your goals in the positive. “Perform to the best of my ability” is a more positive goal than saying, “Don’t make stupid mistakes.”
Keep goals realistic
If your goals are too big and chunky, this could be demotivating because they might seem out of your reach. You can also feel like you are not making any progress. Break large goals down into bite-sized chunks. This helps you focus on achieving all the small goals that make up your larger goal. Keeping goals small and incremental gives you more opportunities for success.
Although it is important to set goals that are realistic, it’s also important to set goals that will stretch you. It is better to aim higher that aim too low. You might surprise yourself.
Set performance goals, not outcome goals
It can be quite demotivating if you fail to achieve a goal for reasons beyond your control! You should set goals that you do have control over as much as possible. Example, if you have a financial goal that is dependent on bank interest rates, you can’t control the interest rates, therefore if rates went up, you might not achieve the goal you set yourself.
In business, the adverse business environments or the unexpected effects of changes in government policy, could affect the achievement of your goals. An injury, the weather conditions, judges and referees making bad decisions or other things that are out of your control might affect your goals.
If you base your goals on your personal performance, then you have control over the achievement of your goals. This in turn gives you personal satisfaction and a feeling you are making progress.
5. Take action
It’s not enough to write your goals down, yes it gives you a visual reminder of what you want to happen. You must take action everyday towards the achievement of your goals. By taking action daily however small, it means you are 100% committed.
Yes, you will have bumps along the way which will look to steer you off course. We all know that if one road doesn’t get you where you are going, you simply adjust your personal GPS and take a different road to reach your destination.
On a final note
When you create a vision, define your values, set your goals and relentlessly follow through, you will achieve your goals.
In a Nutshell
- Define your vision for the future. Make it powerful enough to inspire you.
- Define your values which are your guiding moral compass to keep you on track.
- Define your goals as the fuel to help you achieve your vision.
- Write your goals down. Keep them positive, realistic and performance based.
- Take action daily and make adjustments along the way.