Activating Your Success Mechanism

written by Brian Tracy

One point that all motivational teachers agree upon is that every peak-performing man or woman is an obsessive goal setter. They are motivated by compelling, burning, internal goals. Our subconscious mind goes to work immediately on goals we write out and think about continuously to make them a reality. Why then do so few people have goals? Studies indicate that only about 1 percent of the total population has written goals. (Unless a goal has been written out, it is merely just a wish.)

A study at Yale University in 1953 asked this question: "Do you have clear goals? Have you written them down and laid out some method of achieving them?" Only 3 percent of the graduating class had specific written goals! In 1973, 20 years later, those members of the 1953 class were surveyed to follow up on their past performance. It was found that the 3 percent who had written goals were worth more, in financial terms, than the remaining 97 percent!

No other quality, such as environment, appearance, grade level or family background, is nearly as important to personal success as the habit of personal goal-setting. It is intense goal-orientation that marks the winners in every single area. Unless we have goals, we simply go around in circles in our lives. We go nowhere. When we set goals, we go straight and true. We develop purpose, we develop direction, we develop focused and channeled energy. We develop more in a short time with goals that we could accomplish in years without them. Every human being has a failure mechanism and a success mechanism. The failure mechanism is on automatically. When we set a goal, we push the success mechanism. When we are preoccupied by a burning desire to accomplish our goal, we are moving toward success. Most people are not aware of this. And even those who are, often lack the self discipline, the will, self confidence to set goals and stick with them until they accomplish them.

The characteristic that sets high achievers apart from the average person is "intensity of purpose." Bunker Hunt, who was bankrupt at age 32 and worth approximately $5 billion when he died in the late 70's said, "to be successful you must first decide what you want in life. Next you must determine how much you are willing to pay to achieve it. You must resolve to pay that price and to make the sacrifices required to reach your goals. That's all that is necessary."

Why is it that so few people set goals? First, not many people understand how important it is. Those who come from families who set goals usually pick up the habit of setting goals themselves. Second, they often don't know how. It is sad but true that we can receive 12 to 18 years of education through our schools but not receive one hour of time dedicated to teach us how to set goals. Most school teachers are not goal setters themselves. Elementary school students who have been exposed to goal-setting techniques enjoy school more, score consistently higher than their counterparts and have a better attitude toward parents, teachers and life in general than those who do not receive instruction in goal setting.

Third, they have a fear of rejection brought on by destructive criticism. Due to human nature, friends and relatives tend to discourage us when we tell them about our goals. For this reason, keep your goals confidential. Share them only with others whom you respect and who are also in the habit of setting goals. They will be encouraging. Other than that one exception, don't tell anyone so you do not put yourself in a position to be criticized or discouraged from your goals.

Fourth, they have a fear of failure. This is the greatest block to success in adult life. People do not realize the importance of failure in achievement. It is impossible to achieve without failure! We can never reach our true potential without experiencing numerous failures in our lives. Thomas Edison found 10,000 ways that a light bulb would not work before he hit on the right combination. The natural tendency is to stay in our comfort zones. The nature of human beings is to become satisfied and complacent with their surroundings and to try nothing more. Every single peak-performing man or woman has thrown off the natural tendency to play it safe and stay within the comfort zone and has tried to exceed past performance They have gone into the risk zone to try something bigger, better and more important. Every important achievement ever made has been accomplished by men and women who have had the courage to take the risk, to step out even though they had no guarantee they would succeed. Life is somewhat like a baseball game--three strikes and your out. But in life you are not only the batter you are also the umpire. If you stand at the plate long enough you will hit a home run. No one can call you out but yourself.

With regards to goal-setting, almost everyone is afraid of change. This is because we are afraid that change will make us worse off than before. The reason we set goals is to enable us to control change in our lives, we can see to it that the change will be an improvement rather than causing us to be worse off than we were before. We must set goals in order to be in control of our lives, and we must be in control of our lives before we can feel good about ourselves.

With regard to goal-setting, there are two to three general concepts. One of these is the "area of excellence." This merely means that we are all usually average in most areas of our lives, but we all have the ability to be outstanding in at least one area. Every single person is put on this earth for a unique purpose. Nobody is put here at random. We all have something special and valuable to contribute to the human race. One of our major responsibilities as human beings is to find our area of excellence and to become as good as we possibly can be at developing our area of excellence. As we must make a living for the rest of our lives, we have an obligation to develop to the best of our ability at least one marketable skill.

It is amazing to find that most people work 20 to 30 years at a job without realizing that they should become experts at what they do if they do if they wish to receive the awards life has to offer. Instead, many go through their entire careers frustrated and complaining, expecting government or their employers to provide them with the material things they were unable to earn for themselves. They were paid lower wages because they did not develop their skills to the degree that they deserved more.

Most people do what they do in a mediocre fashion, never realizing how important it is that they become outstanding at something. One reason this is so important is job security. The top 20 percent in any field are always guaranteed a job. More important is the fact that how we feel about ourselves determines how well we do everything in life. It determines our level of health, our personal relationships, our creativity, our peace of mind. If a person does not develop excellence at something, then that person gets up every morning and sees someone who is mediocre at everything. It is impossible to like ourselves when we realize we are not trying to excel in some area of our lives. In establishing our goals, one goal must be to find one area of excellence and become the best we can be in that endeavor.

"You can only become excellent doing what you love to do." One of our prime responsibilities as adults is to find what we like to do and spend the time and effort to do it very well. You can tell what you like to do by looking at what interests you, what attracts your attention. Look at the kind of things you would do if you were not getting paid to do them, the sort of things you would do if you had no limitations on your abilities.

The second concept is called the "acres of diamonds" concept. This is based on a story about a farmer who sold his farm to go in search of diamonds. After many years of futile searching, he died broken and unhappy. Meanwhile, the person who brought his farm found some rough, mud-caked rocks that glittered when they were chipped. It turned out the entire farm was covered with a fortune of rough diamonds. The moral of the story is that the farmer who sold his farm never realized that diamonds don't look like diamonds until they are cut polished and set. We must realize that our major opportunities come to us disguised as rough diamonds. We must see them for what they are. It is through our efforts, dedication and ambition that we develop beautiful diamonds from the rough rocks others ignore.

When you set goals, don't think you must move or go back to school for 5 years to get a degree. Opportunities, like the diamonds, are close at hand. You need only to recognize them.

We must have a balance of goals to have a balanced life. The major categories of goals include: Family and personal goals--these are the reasons we set goals; business and career goals; self improvement goals. Successful people are always working on themselves to become better people. Goals must be in harmony with each other. We cannot want to spend half our time on the beach and still wish to become wealthy and successful in business. We must also set goals which are congruent with our fundamental values.

Ask yourself the following questions. The answers may give you acute insight into what your major goals should be.

  1. What are the five things you value most in life?
  2. In 30 seconds or less, write down the three most important goals in your life right now.
  3. What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery tomorrow? What changes would you make in your life?
  4. What would you do if you had no physical or mental limitations. What would be your ambition, your dream?
  5. How would you spend your time if you knew you had only six months to live? What would you do with your life? What changes would you make? The answer to this question will tell you what your values are.
  6. What have you always wanted to do but have been afraid to try? Remember, it is the fear of failure that is preventing you from doing what you have always wanted to do.
  7. In looking back over all the things you have done in your life, what things have given you the greatest feelings of importance and mental well-being? What has added to your highest self esteem? The answers to this question will give you the answer to where your field of excellence lies.
  8. If you had a magic bottle with a genie in it who would grant you one wish, what one great thing would you desire? If you could accomplish any one great goal, what would it be? What one great thing would you dare to dream if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt you absolutely could not fail?

This is one of the most important question because if you can write it down on paper, you are capable of attaining it. Nature is not capricious. It does not give us the ability to clearly visualize and write down a goal without also giving us the ability to realize it. The only questions are: How badly do you want it? And, are you willing to pay the price to get it? The only limitation is in your own mind. It is not contained in physical reality.

After answering these questions, it is essential that you pick one major purpose in life. We know that all great success starts with one great, major purpose. If we choose to work on too many goals simultaneously, we diffuse our efforts and end up accomplishing almost nothing. Every great life only becomes great when the individual picks only one thing as the major goal and devotes all of his or her energy to making that goal a reality. Usually all of the minor goals are also accomplished. If you have not set and achieved goals before, it is important to understand that each time you achieve a predetermined goal, it is easier to accomplish the next goal. This is because you gain confidence in your own abilities with each victory. The stronger you believe, the more likely you are to succeed.

The first step in any goal setting is desire. Desire is always personal. You can never successfully desire something for someone else. Your goal must be purely personal and selfish, something you want very much.

Second is belief. Your goals must be believable so that you must strongly believe they are attainable before they will become reality. They must be realistic. If your conscious mind will not accept the goal, there is no way your subconscious will believe it and go to work on it.

For example, if you are earning $20,000 a year today, raise your sights in 50 percent increments. That is, say I make $30,000 a year. Then visualize, believe and use self-affirmation to reach your goal. This will improve your performance, your communication skills and open up your mind so you will do your job better or see new opportunities that are open to you. Your goals should have about a 50-50 chance of achievement. This means they are believable and the subconscious mind can go to work on them. Once you have reached a point of success, you can reaffirm and work on the remaining portion of the achievement of the goal. For instance, say you would like to lose 40 pounds. Instead of setting 40 pounds as your goal, visualize yourself five or ten pounds lighter. Goals are reached one step at a time. When you have lost 10 pounds, set your goal to lose another 10 pounds.

Make your goals challenging and let them make you stretch. Each of your goals should be for the next level of attainment. Striving for our goals takes us out of our comfort zone and causes us to grow with each accomplishment. Make them difficult enough to be challenging but believable enough to be attainable.

Write down your goals. This is the way you program your goal into the subconscious It is very important to accomplishing goals. The more detailed and precise you write it down the better. Write exactly how you would like it to happen.

For example, if you want a new house, you would not merely say, "I want a 3,000 square foot house." You would instead describe the house as you want it to be, as you picture it. "I want a three bedroom, split-level house with...etc." Until a goal is written down on paper, it is not a goal, it is a wish.

Determine how you will benefit by achieving your goal. Write out all the benefits and advantages you will receive upon achieving your goal. If your goal is financial, then write out all the differences it will make in your life when you attain your goal. The more reasons you can have for reaching the goal, the more irresistible the goal will become for you. You will develop a force, a power and a conviction that makes you virtually unstoppable in reaching your goal.

Analyze your position. Where are you right now in regard to your goal? If your goal is financial, how much more money will you need to reach your goal? Do an exact financial analysis of how much you are worth today.

Set a deadline. Set a time when you expect to reach your goal. Your major purpose in life should always be measurable specific and quantifiable. You should be able to count it and measure it so you always know how close you are to accomplishing it. The feeling of being a winner is an important part of being a winner. We can only feel like a winner when we are working towards an important goal. "Happiness is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or idea." Unless we can measure the beginning, the end, and the steps in between, we will lose the motivational power that lies in a major definite purpose.

Identify the obstacles you will have to overcome to reach your goal. If there are no obstacles, it is no goal; it is merely an activity. Once you have written the obstacles down on paper, you will find they do not seem as large as they did. There is usually only one or two things that will take much of your attention. The rest will seem insignificant.

Clearly identify the groups, people and organizations whose assistance you will need in order to reach your goal. This introduces three laws. The first law is the law of sowing and reaping, or the law of return. You only reap from having sown in previous periods. What you are reaping today is a result of what you have sown in the past. The law of return says the more you put in, the more you will get out, and you need to put in to get anything out. Second is the law of compensation. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Realizing this, in regards to the people whose assistance you need to succeed, we ask ourselves, "what can we do for them in order to get the assistance we need?" Third is the law of service. We can only succeed by serving our fellowman by providing goods and services that are of value to them. All successful men and women have begun by finding ways they can serve others. They have determined to go the extra mile and always do more than they are paid for. The starting point of all riches is to find out how you can give, how you can serve others to get in return what you want. Successful companies have an obsession with customer service.

Make a plan. Take all the details you have identified in the last three steps. Make it complete in every detail. Write out all the activities you will have to engage in to reach your goal. Once you have identified your activities, prioritize them in order of importance. All plans are merely activities laid out in terms of time and priorities.

Once you have committed your plan to paper, continually go back to it and rewrite it until it is the perfect plan. As you acquire new information, have new experiences, receive feedback and begin to move forward and have setbacks and disappointments and make mistakes, look at the plan and see where it has to be revised. All high-achievers think and write on paper. They do it over and over again. They plan their days, they plan their weeks and they plan their months. That is why they move ahead so rapidly.

Get a clear mental image of your goal as though it was already in existence right now. Every time you get a chance, play that picture of your goal on the screen of your mind.

Back your plan with determination and resolve to never, never give up. The best plan on earth will not work unless you do. Many people do all of the steps properly until they reach step 12. At the first sign of a problem, they give up. Persistence is very important to success. No matter how perfect your plan or how pure your heart, every person who has set out to do something out of the ordinary has suffered setback after setback before they found success. They have faced adversity and disappointment. The difference between the winners and the losers is that the winners pick themselves up and keep on trying while the losers whine "why me?" Remember this: "Self discipline is persistence in action." You can see how much self-discipline you have by how much persistence you have at working toward your goal. "Your persistence is your measure of faith in yourself."

You can tell how much faith you have in yourself by how willing you are to pick yourself up after a bitter disappointment. If you are willing to pick yourself up, there is literally nothing that can stop you!

Practice effective time management. All high-achievers use their time well. Every minute, hour or day that comes and goes is lost to us forever. If we do not use it well, we have lost an opportunity to move closer to our goal. There are six key points toward effective time management. First, have clearly defined goals. We waste allot of time when we only have vague, or worse yet, no idea of what we wish to accomplish. Second, have clear, detailed plans. We would never buy a list of materials and give it to a contractor and say "build me a house." He would ask, "where are the plans?" It is just as foolish to try to build a successful life without laying out a plan of what we wish to accomplish and what it will look like once we have reached our goals.

Make a list for each day. Lay out your list on Saturday for the upcoming week. Then make a list at the end of each day so your subconscious can work on it overnight. When you start off your day, refuse to do anything not on the list. Discipline yourself to write every new assignment down on the list. You will find that once you write it down, it does not seem as important as your first thought. If you do not use a list, you will find yourself responding to the urgent, rather than doing the important. You become preoccupied with trivia.

Two important things happen when you use a list. First, you will become organized and achieve more each day. Second, you will get a feeling of accomplishment as you check off each activity you have completed. You will feel you are on top of your life and in control. Without a list, at the end of the day, you will feel like you have been spinning your wheels and have accomplished very little. You will feel stressed out because you will feel you have made no real gains toward your goal. At the end of the day, transfer the things that you didn't get to that day to your list for the next day. You will find that by using a list you will sleep better at night because you know that your work is under control and down on paper. You will not have to worry about forgetting something important.

Set priorities on your list. The 80-20 rule says "80% of the value of any list is contained in 20% of activities." For example, if you have 10 items on your list, 80% of the value of what you wish to achieve today will be in about two of the ten items. Concentrate on those items first. This is the most efficient use of your time. Ask yourself regularly, "What is the most valuable use of my time right now?" You always must make a choice between one activity or another. Before you choose, ask yourself the question. All high-achievers know, "there is never enough time to do everything, but there is always time to do the most important things." Ask yourself, "if I had to go out of town tomorrow and only had time to do one thing, What one thing would I do?" Put a circle around that--that will set your priority.

Use concentration and single handling. Successful people do first things first, and they stay with them until they are complete. It is important to find blocks of time that are devoted to handling your top priority without interruption. Otherwise you will pick up and set down a project four or five times, thereby taking too much time to accomplish it.

Develop a sense of urgency. Do it now! Don't procrastinate! Less than 2 percent of the people in our society have a sense of urgency. Less than 2 percent of the people will do a thing the first time it comes up--98 percent of the people put off even minor tasks for another time. The best way to stand out from your peers and make your superiors stand up and take notice is to do a task as soon as possible. Bosses always go to the person who gets it done now. They pay them more, and they respect those employees more than those who put it off until next week.

Remember, "Obstacles are what you see when you take your mind off your goal." Your mind can only hold one thought at a time--positive or negative--and your goal is a positive thought. Always think about your goal. It is impossible to be troubled by petty little problems when you are concentrating on your goal. You will feel alive and full of energy when you keep your goal in mind. When others tell you about their goals, encourage them to "go for it." Everyone should have goals in order to be happy. As you accomplish your goal, set new goals. Goals are what make life worth living.

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