Posted by: brandextenders | December 18, 2010

Are You Floating Through Life Like a Cork on Water?

Set goals in all areas of your life

I love listening to Earl Nightingale, one of the iconic personal development speakers and trainers of the 20th century. His voice was like that of James Earl Jones; deep, silky smooth and resonate, pulling you into the stories and inspirational messages he delivered. I’ll never forget his words on one of the many tapes I listened to about setting goals and how without them we are like corks floating on water. Boats have rudders and can be steered to whatever destination the captain chooses, but corks? They are at the whim of the tides and winds and will eventually land somewhere with no decision in where that may be.

People are the same really. Most successful people inevitably have a destination in mind and have plotted a course to get there, checking it regularly to make sure they are on course and headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, the rest of us just go with the flow, being carried wherever the wind and tides in our lives may take us and many times wishing we could better chart our course. The good news is, anyone can take charge and decide where they want to go and the best route to get there and it’s called setting goals.

Goals in and of themselves won’t get you where you want to go. That takes hard work and dedication on your part, but goals give you the roadmap without which you are rudderless and at the mercy of life. I’m not an expert, but I do know what works for me and it might help give you a place to start in developing your goals for the New Year. I’ve read dozens of book, listened to hundreds of hours of cassettes, CD’s and now Podcasts and following these five steps each year I readjust if needed and create new goals for the coming year.

1.      What is it you want? The first step is to decide what you truly want in the various areas of your life. Would you like more money? A promotion at work or a new job? Do you want a better marriage, stronger relationship with your children or to spend more time with your family? To get healthier by working out or eating better? Travel more, a new car or boat, a lake house? Would you like to do more good works in your community? Whatever it is you desire you need to write it down. Don’t elaborate yet, just get down on paper what it is you want to achieve and/or acquire in the coming year, five years and maybe even 10 years. Write these things down as you think of them and don’t hold back. Dream big because ironically, studies have shown the sub-conscious part of our brains can’t tell the difference between wanting something and actually having it. Remaining focused on achieving something actually helps the subconscious finds ways to attain it.

2.     Get Specific. Now is the time to look over your list of goals and determine which are the most important. Deciding on fewer goals will help you focus and attaining some of those might naturally lead to achieving others. For example, if your desire is to earn $100,000 a year achieving that might naturally lead to enough money for that new car or boat. Be specific especially with financial goals. Don’t just say I want to earn more money, decide on an amount. If you set a goal of earning $100,000 a year you can then break it down to what you need to earn per month and even per week and day. This is especially good in sales because if you know how much you must earn daily to reach your goal, it’s easy to measure. If you want a better marriage decide what that means. Better communication, more time together, nights out without the kids? If better health is on your list decide what it will take to reach that goal. Working out on a regular basis, eating healthier, regular medical check-ups? For each person it will vary, but the more specific you can be with your goals the more likely you are to stay focused and reach them.

3.     Make them measurable. As in the example of earning $100,000 a year above, you must be able to measure at regular intervals how you’re doing. Just as the captain of a ship needs to check her compass and charts regularly to insure she is on course, so must you have benchmarks to determine if you’re headed in the right direction. For a better relationship with your children that may mean a family dinner together two or three times a week. Perhaps a family game night or spending time reading or talking with them every night. For each of the goals you’ve chosen determine how you can measure it along the way to see if you’re on track.

4.     Write them down. Putting your goals on paper helps provide clarity and seeing our goals in writing helps keep us focused. Another key is to write them down as though they’ve already happened. Instead of “I want to travel more” write down “I was able to travel this year to Lake Tahoe and Hawaii, places I’ve always wanted to visit.” I write my goals out as though I’m writing them down after-the-fact, as though they have already happened. I can’t stress enough how important this step is because this is your map for getting to where you want to go. If you’re inspired, write one sheet for one-year goals, another for five-year goals and a third for 10-year goals. As you write, let yourself feel as though you’ve already reached them and how that will affect you. Once you’re finished read them out load to see how they sound and edit as needed to get them exactly where they need to be.

5.     Read them at the start of each day. Take five minutes as you begin your day to read over your goals as this does a couple of things. First it will help plant them in both your conscious and subconscious mind and reading them each day helps keep you motivated and moving forward. Just like a ship’s captain, you may need to make adjustments as the year progresses depending on circumstances. If a storm hits a boat and it’s thrown off course the captain needs to look at the map and plot a new route to his destination. If unexpected happenings occur in your life you too may need to readjust while keeping the end goals firmly in mind. Reading them daily keeps you focused and you’ll find yourself beginning to truly believe you have achieved them, a big step towards actually reaching them.

A study by the Ford Foundation a few years ago on goal setting came up with some interesting statistics.

  • 23% of us have no idea what we want out of life
  • 67% have a general idea of what they want, but no goals to reach them
  • 10% of the population knows what they want, but only achieves those goals half the time
  • 3% know exactly what they want and achieve their goals 89% of the time

So what’s the difference between those who reach their goals 89% of the time and all the rest? Those 3% have written goals and have developed a plan to reach them. They don’t hit the mark every time, but in any math class you take achieving 89% of what you want out of life vs. 50% or less wins every time. Take time this holiday season to decide what you want in 2011 and write it down. And next year at this time I look forward to hearing how well you’ve done.

With 25 years in promotional marketing, Steve Woodburn works with clients to develop creative and measurable solutions that solve their marketing needs using promotional products, uniform programs, online e-Stores, point-of-sale initiatives along with rewards and recognition. He builds long-term relationships and becomes a trusted advisor and consultant his clients can turn to for all their brand extension needs. You can reach him at Staples Promotional Products:


  1. I spent couple of minutes at your www and i am very impressed, very good interesting post

    • Thanks so much for your comments and happy holidays and a prosperous New Year.

  2. Thanks for putting so much effort into this blog. It is looking good.
    Although, I noticed you don’t rank very high in Google.
    Maybe you need to optimize your blog to increase search engine rankings.
    Here is a WordPress Plugin that will get you to the top of Google.

    Try it!

    • Thanks for the hint on SEO. I will be more proactive this year in optimizing my blog.

  3. […] Are You Floating Through Life Like a Cork on Water? ( […]

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