It’s hard to believe, but not only is 2013 already here, nearly two full weeks are already gone!  Do you have goals for the new year; a plan for reaching those goals?  If you haven’t already done so, now would be a good time to …

•    Write down your goals – Write down what the goal is, what it looks like, how it will feel to achieve it.  Be specific.  The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to see where you stand as you work toward it and know when you’ve reached it.

•    Tell others what your goals are – This is not about “bragging rights”.  Rather, it is about accountability.  In the Speakers’ Academy, we have accountability partners; someone who will help us hold ourselves accountable for working toward and ultimately attaining the goals that we have set for ourselves.  Your accountability partner can be a single individual or a group of people who support you and want to see you succeed; your personal “board of directors”.

•    Believe that you can reach your goals – You’ve got to believe in yourself and in your ability to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself.  The great W. Clement Stone wrote that, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.  When you believe in yourself, really believe, your brain has the capacity to focus like a laser on the goal and the actions that must be taken to reach it.  Without belief, there can be no focus.

•   Make the goals measurable – Earlier, I said “be specific”.  Specificity makes it easy to measure your progress.  A vague goal such as “I’m going to make more sales this year” has no real power, no real motivation, and no clearly defined actions that must be taken.  A specific goal, “I’m going to increase sales by 10%” leads to specific action steps such as, “To increase sales by 10%, I must make three additional sales presentations every week, which means I must add ten additional qualified prospects to my sales pipeline every week.” With these specific action steps, you can measure your progress every day.

•    Challenge yourself – While it may feel good to reach the same easy goal every year, it’s not possible to grow by pursuing this strategy.  A wise man once told me that “when you’re green, you grow … when you’re ripe, you rot”.  Goals that do not challenge us do not empower us to grow.  Many performance reviews are based on a three step model … Base Acceptable Minimum Performance (BAM), Desired Goal, and Stretch Goal.  BAM may allow you  to keep your job (for now), but it probably puts you #1 on the list of people to cut if the company decides it needs to reduce personnel.  Dare to dream … dream big … it’s impossible to soar with the eagles if you’re not willing to reach for the stars.  Make your goals big enough to inspire you to strive for greatness; to motivate you to “go the extra mile”.

•    Set a deadline for reaching each of your goals – my first agency manager constantly reminded the new and veteran agents in the office that “goals are simply dreams with deadlines”.  Without a “due date”, goals are little more than dreams that are seldom achieved.  When you commit to reaching the goal by a specific date, you have committed yourself to doing what is needed to reach the goal by that date.

Now is the time to map out the goals, the destinations, that you want to reach in 2013.  The goals you set and the actions that you take to reach them will determine how you see this year when you look back at it from some future date.  The future is in your hands.  Make it a great one!


I met with “Susan” this week and asked if we could review the record she was keeping of what she spent her money on; her expense log.  She pulled a notebook out of her purse with some apprehension and quietly told me that it was “pretty embarrassing.”

Susan went on to tell me that she had been afraid to keep this record; that she feared it would make her look like a bad person because of what it revealed about her decision making.

She continued, “This morning, I reviewed my notes and they confirmed my worst fears.  I made a lot of really bad decisions.”

This is a very common reaction when people first begin keeping records of their spending and taking responsibility for how they manage their money.  They feel like the record they keep is full of bad news.  It was fun to tell her that the record is actually full of GOOD NEWS.

“Susan, your expense log may feel like bad news, but it’s really full of good news; and, here it is.

•    “First, you took a really big step in choosing to keep this record.  It took real courage and commitment.  It’s very important that you give yourself credit for taking this big step.

•    “Second, each of us has a personal board of directors in our minds.  Think of your board as those little voices that are always whispering “good choice”, “smart move”, or “ooo, you could have done better”.  This board is always looking at what we’ve done in the past and what we can do in the future with the goal of helping us do our best.  When you reviewed your expense log this morning, your personal board of directors expressed its disappointment in some of your spending choices.  As the CEO (Chief Excellence Officer) of yourself, you agreed with your board of directors and said, “yes, I could have done better”.  The GREAT NEWS is that you took a responsible step and decided that you wanted to make changes in your future spending decisions.

•    Third, the even GREATER NEWS is that your get to make your own plan for making those changes!”

By now, Susan was smiling as she realized that her fear of confronting what she thought was a real weakness had turned out to be a winning move as she took a big step toward financial independence.

Want the secret weapon that Susan used in this real life story?  Here’s what you can do …

1.    Identify three areas where you do not like the choices you have made about how you’ve spent your money.

2.    Set a goal of what you want future decisions to look like.

3.    Write down how you want to reach that goal.

4.    Promise yourself that you will make the changes that will enable you to reach this goal; and, continue to write down your expenses so that you can measure your progress.  (Bonus … if you just sighed and thought that this is too much work, take a second and write down just 1 thing you spent money on today.  Just one.  How long did that take?  Don’t let your emotions fool you into overestimating how much time this will actually take.)

5.    Set a date when you will review this record and decide if you have reached your goal.

Susan left our meeting with renewed confidence that she could control her money rather than have her money control her.

Ironically, the effectiveness of this process is not confined to personal finances.  It can be applied to all aspects of life.  Our internal board of directors is always conducting an on-going performance review … looking at our goals (or lack of goals), the plans we’ve created for reaching those goals, the progress we’ve made toward the attainment of the goals, and rendering a judgment every day; exceeds expectations, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory.  When we receive the board’s daily verdict, we choose how to respond.

•    We accept the accolades for a job well done and vow to keep up the good work;

•   We take credit for the accomplishments and responsibility for the shortcomings and make a plan for improving performance where it is needed; or,

Well, the third choice is giving up; but, that is not an acceptable choice.  The board of directors is not an external body that we can choose to ignore.  Rather, it is a living, breathing, part of who we are and it will always be whispering in our ear.  It cannot be disregarded.

Has your board of directors conducted today’s review? If it has, you know what you want to work on.  If not, there is still time to make today’s review a favorable one.


It’s that time of year again.  The ball has fallen.  The decorations have been taken down.  The confetti has been swept up.  It’s time to face the reality of a new year  with the clean slate upon which each of us will write the story of what we do in the next 365 days.

I like watching old movies and there is a scene in a movie where the captain of a ship instructs his navigator to “plot a course thataway“.  Can you imagine the thoughts that must have gone through that poor navigator’s mind?  “Thataway?  Whichaway?”

The navigator in our minds needs to know where we want to go and what we must do to get there.  He/She needs goals.  So, in order to give your mental navigator the guidance needed, let’s take a few minutes to focus on goal setting and what helps us set goals that take us where we want to go.  What are the characteristics of goals that truly take us to the destinations we want to reach?  Goals should be …

  • Written down and made public – a quick search of the internet will yield a multitude of websites designed to help us set goals.  Some tell us to write them down on a piece of paper.  Others instruct us to record them in a page on-line.  Still others will suggest that we post them on one or more of our social media pages.  Whichever method we choose, the important thing is that we have them written down someplace so that we can see them regularly.  Making them public doesn’t necessarily mean that they must be posted to social media; but, it is important that others know about them and will hold us accountable for them.
  • Believable – for a goal to truly motivate us, we have to believe that we can achieve it.  W. Clement Stone wrote that, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.  To believe, we must be able to visualize ourselves reaching the goal and feeling the satisfaction that will come with the achievement.

I once knew an agency manager named Ray who measured his own success by the number of individuals that he recruited, trained, developed, and promoted into leadership positions in the company he worked for.  One day, he asked a young man what his ultimate career goal was.  “To become an agency manager and replace you” was the young man’s answer.  While some would have thought that to be an arrogant and presumptuous answer from someone just entering into a career, Ray grinned and invited the young man to come into his office and sit in his chair.  Then, Ray took the young man’s picture while he was sitting in that chair, handed it to him, and told him to put that picture on the bathroom mirror where he would see it every morning while he was shaving.  “That will remind you, everyday, why you are getting up and working hard”, Ray told him.  He made it possible for that young man to literally see himself reaching the goal that he had set for himself.

  • Specific – Goals that are vague (“thataway”) aren’t really goals.  They are vague suggestions that provide no ultimate end point.  One person says, “This year, I’m going to lose weight”.  Another person says, This year, I’m going to lose 25 pounds”. Who do you think will be more likely to attain the goal?  Specific goals require that specific actions be taken.  “To lose 25 pounds, I’m going to stop taking “seconds” at dinner; skip desserts; and, walk for 30 minutes every evening”.
  • Measurable – For a goal to truly motivate us, we have to be able to see how we’re progressing toward it and to know when we’ve reached it.  Let’s assume that the goal is to create an emergency fund that has 2 months of actual living expenses in it.  Since we know that our basic living expenses are $2,000 each month, we know that we need $4,000 in the fund.  Each month, we deposit $167 into the account and, when we get our bank statement, we can see the balance increasing by not only the deposits we make but by the addition of interest as well.  Viewing the increasing balance each month allows us to measure our progress toward reaching the goal.
  • Challenging – Our goals need to be big enough to make us stretch.  Doing just enough to get by may keep our heads above water, but it won’t help us grow.  The sales person who knows that by doing the same thing every year he can reach his/her quota won’t grow and advance.  But, the sales person who challenges himself/herself to increase sales by an amount that requires a bit more effort is the person who rises to the top of the organization; both in terms of professional responsibilities and financially.
  • Inspirational – As the great motivational speaker Jim Rohn once suggested, setting the goal of earning enough to pay our bills may be a goal, but it seldom inspires anyone.  Goals that inspire us to “go the extra mile” lead us to greatness.
  • Have deadlines – Ray, the agency manager referred to above, told everyone that “goals are simply dreams with deadlines”.

“Someday” is not a deadline.  “Someday” is a dream … an illusion … a mirage that may appear to be leading us somewhere we want to go; but, is really leading us to nowhere.  When the young man above told Ray that his goal was to be an agency manager and replace Ray, he was told to set a deadline … when was this going to happen?

The young man set a date … exactly five years from the date on which he was hired.  Did he replace his mentor?  No.  But, exactly three years after the date on which he was hired, he was appointed as the agency manager for an agency that was struggling.  He’d reached his goal of agency management; and, somewhere, I believe that there is a picture of him sitting in a chair just like Ray’s.

If the story of this new year in your life is to have a happy and satisfactory ending, the course you plot will be guided by the goals you have set.  If you have not already done so, today would be a good day to begin writing down your goals.  Some should be long-term goals (where you ultimately want to end up) and some should be short-term goals.  There will be professional (career) goals and there will be personal goals.  Some of the goals will be big goals and some will be small goals.

Short-term goals may be things that you want to accomplish within the next week; the next month; the next year.  Short-term goals may be way stations on the road toward your long-term goals.

Professional goals empower us to grow within our chosen vocations.  Personal goals enable us to become better spouses … better parents … better people.

Big goals could be long-term goals but are not required to be long-term.  Small goals are little things that help us feel we are making progress.  Don’t underestimate the importance of these small goals.  There is something incredibly satisfying and motivating about being able to go down our list of goals making check marks as we say “got it … got it … got it”.  The more often we are able to say “got it”, the more motivated and inspired we become to continue working toward the attainment of the goals still unchecked.

One year from today, each of us will look back at what we have accomplished.  Will we like what we see; or, will we look back with regret for what might have been?  Only you can determine what you will see.

Make 2012 your best year yet!