Why Goals Are Not the Same as Wishful Thinking


There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to the difference between having goals and plain, old, wishful thinking.  I often hear people talking about their personal goals and find their enthusiasm to be very encouraging.  Everyone should have goals.

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When I ask these same people about their strategies for reaching those goals, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “I’m going to try.”   I know their intentions are good, but the simple truth is that trying is not a strategy.  In fact, it’s usually a combination of wishful thinking topped with a token amount of effort.

What does this accomplish?

Most of the time simply trying will result in little or no progress.  Even if some initial progress is experienced, the results will likely be very short lived. This creates a negative feedback loop that can actually hinder our willingness to set personal goals. After all, if they never succeed in producing their intended result, then, what’s the point of trying again?

Think about that for a moment. Not only do halfhearted efforts lead to disappointing results, they also stifle a person’s enthusiasm toward future goals. If this pattern continues, it can easily result in limiting beliefs about what that person is or is not capable of.  And, just think, it all started with the best of intentions.

Intentions are not enough!

People who are successful at setting and reaching their personal goals understand that there is a process involved, and that this process can be duplicated.  They recognize that reaching goals involves several stages and that success comes by carefully following the process from one stage to the next. If we skip one of the necessary steps, the process falls apart.

Wishful thinking, on the other hand, involves a desired outcome but lacks a sound strategy for achieving that outcome.  There is a huge difference between wanting something to happen and following a systematic approach for making it happen.

We are not born with life skills, they need to be learned

The process involved in successfully setting and accomplishing goals is one that anyone can learn.  If your efforts to reach your personal goals in the past did not produce the results you were hoping for, chances are, you did not fully understand the process.  So please, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you simply don’t have what it takes.

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Instead of taking it personally, recognize that most of us simply have never been taught effective strategies for reaching our goals.  The good news is, once you acquire the necessary information and put it to use, you can expect to experience dramatically improved results.

How do we learn these life skills?

There are a number of ways to learn the life skills we need for goal setting, or any other area of personal development. Let’s look at a few choices.

1) Imitate success. One of the best ways we can learn to be successful in any area is to find people who are already producing good results and then imitate them.  Do you know somebody who is successful at reaching their goals? Why not spend some time with that person?  If you learn to think the way they think, and take action in the same way that they do, you should be able move from wishful thinking to producing results.

2) Trial and error. Like it or not, much of life is a process of trial and error. No matter how much we try to piece together the necessary information, success will still require that we make some adjustments. Gathering partial information here and there and then using what we learn to create a personal strategy can be very rewarding.  Nevertheless, we will still need to put our ideas to the test before we know whether they will work or not. This is the most common approach to personal development and it has a substantial learning curve.

3) Get a blueprint. If we can find a reliable, step-by-step blueprint that outlines the skills we need without leaving out vital information, we can simply follow the instructions. This is getting to be a very popular learning alternative. The problem is, very few affordable, blueprint type programs are actually complete enough to teach you the whole process. Also, since we are all different, a good personal success blueprint should be fully customizable to your particular needs. That is precisely why I wrote TRUE SELF. For less than the cost of a large pizza you can get a stand alone, step-by-step, totally customizable guide for personal success.

4) Personal coaching. I know it seems like an expensive alternative, but of all the ways to learn effective, customized strategies for achieving your personal goals in life, this is the clear leader. An experienced life or business coach can save you literally years of frustration over trying to cut and paste your way to personal success. There is nothing quite like the personalized attention of someone with both the experience and knowledge you are seeking. In the long run, hiring the right coach may be the least expensive way to quickly learn the right skills for reaching your goals in record time. Remember, cost is relative and your time is valuable.

Set your personal goals and follow through

Regardless of the approach you choose, the important thing is that you do more than just try to reach your goals. Any goal worth setting deserves to be acted on, and your course of action needs to include a systematic plan for producing your intended results.

Always keep in mind that learning to effectively set and achieve your goals is a life skill, and skills are something we acquire over time. Like any other skill, the more experienced you become at following through on your goals, the easier it will be to produce meaningful results.

Do you have a proven strategy for achieving your goals?
Where do you go for help with your life skills?
What challenges tend to get in the way of your goals?

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My all time favorite tool for accomplishing amazing goals and creating massive positive change is called the 100 Day Challenge. If you are ready to realize your dreams and goals, then you should read this article.

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