A Simple But Powerful Goal-Setting Tool that Rescued Me from a Personal Growth Rut

Photo Credit: Fubiz.net

Photo Credit: Fubiz.net

“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”
– Napoleon Hill

In early 2012 I was fed up. I seemed to be at a sticking point in my life. I was unhappy with the drudgery of my corporate job, sick and tired of consumer debt, depressed at my lack of savings, and inability, despite my best efforts, to save. I was angry at myself for my uncontrollable bad habits.

Lastly, at the time, I was dating, but I didn’t have the courage to seek out the specific types of romantic relationships that I knew would be more fulfilling. On that day, I was reminded of an “ah-ha moment” I learned from a college girlfriend, which led me to discover a simple, but powerful, tool that changed the way I tracked and kept up with my goals. I felt like I had snapped out of a multi-year cryogenic sleep, because over the next three years I started accomplishing a whole lot more, and much faster.

So, what did I accomplish using this method:

“Big for Me” Goals I Accomplished in Less Than 3 Years Using This One Simple Method

  • Went from $XX,XXX to nearly $XXX,XXX (+17%) in yearly income.
  • Accepted three increasingly more interesting and better titled career-propelling positions.
  • Increased side consulting business from zero to +$10k in less than a year.
  • Organized and promoted a charity-focused arts event with 125+ in attendance.
  • Paid off $10,000 in credit card debt, owing nothing for the first time in 10 years.
  • Paid off a $13,000 car loan and didn’t apply for another (I will pay cash for my next car).
  • Invited to attend dozens of local food festivals, VIP events, and new restaurant openings.
  • Reached over 100,000 visitors in a 30 day period with my city-based arts/culture blog.
  • Increased year-over-year traffic by 78% for the city-based arts/culture blog.
  • Attracted over 36,000 Twitter followers and other growth for the same publication.
  • Hung with legends like Richard Branson, Francis Ford Coppola & cast(s) of DALLAS.
  • Co-Hosted an Internet podcast that received 14,000 downloads from 14 or so shows.
  • Took over and grew a marketing mastermind group from 100 to 1,000 members.
  • Became more prolific, purposeful, and decisive in dating potential marriage partners.
  • Gained a more purposeful life through discoveries of truth I could have never predicted.
  • Became closer to my family, plus dozens of other goals that are still in progress.

I don’t tell you these things to brag. There are literally millions of others that have achieved much more in less time using the same process, especially among my peer circle in the area in-which I currently live (Dallas, Texas). These are what I consider “Big for Me,’ and outside of my regular achievement programming.

How did I achieve these goals? The magic was in the method, and using it improved my speed and velocity of achieving some of my personal goals. These were big for me, not everyone. Also, they were on my list. They didn’t just happen by default. The secret is to let the subconscious mind work while you live your life deliberately. I’ll explain more as we go.

Life Wasn’t Automatically Easier 

Since achieving many of the goals I had my heart set on for three years, my life did not automatically become easy. I have had an extremely hard year-and-half, rocked hard with some expensive life lessons not just financially, but psychologically.

I will share those anecdotes at a different time. Despite having a tough time personally. professionally I’ve done well. More importantly, my spiritual life has become much more rich; my faith has increased greatly.

Sharing is Caring

As I mentioned in my stated mission with this site, I’m at a point now where I want to absorb less and share more of what I’ve learned in personal development, not to “speak down from the mountain,” but in order to contribute to others’ growth while continuing to work on my own.

One of my gifts is my story. May it inspire, teach, and/or entertain others – even if the inspiration comes from one saying “If he can do such and such, then I can” or “I don’t want to be like that guy, so I’ll keep reading to learn from his mistakes.”

This unpacking of stories and the lessons I’ve learned from a personal development perspective is going to take a certain degree of transparency, which I welcome.

Back to the subject at hand, goal setting. Before I tell you the method, let me first explain that I had considered myself a goal-oriented person before that moment three years ago.

For years, I had created long lists of goals. They were usually created out of a position of dissatisfaction, which is not the best place to create and architect a life of one’s dreams.

Setting Goals Verses Creating a New Year’s Resolution

I was never a “New Year’s resolution” setter, because I always thought a resolution was the opposite way one should approach a goal. I felt I should focus on the result, not focusing on what I didn’t want to do, or need to fix. My goal lists were generally long, specific, and time-based.

Even though I learned to focus on results and specifics years ago, what I realized in March 2012 was, that my goals were disorganized and out of sight, and out of the everyday working ram (memory) of my mind computer.

These goals were typed out on different computers, dispersed among dozens of digital notepad text files in desktop folders and half a dozen yellow legal pads. Ideas were strung about here and there. Many of them, in actuality, were hit or miss.

Power in the Pen, Power in Simplicity

So between the years 2005 – 2012, I would end up finding text documents or legal pads of to do lists and realize, surprisingly, that I had accomplished some of the big things on my list that had seeped into my sub-conscious. I no longer wanted this just to be a surprise. On that day, I wanted to create a duplicatable process.

I also wanted to create a teachable process, similar to the goal-setting gurus from whom I had learned some of these techniques. One of my longer-term life goals is, as it is for many, quantifiable contribution and impact. My hope being that I can best impact by personal anecdote and contribute with useful takeaways.

Returning to my anecdote, during the last part of college, I had a girlfriend that would put her “To Do”list(s) on large white butcher paper. She would hang them all over her apartment from her bedroom to the kitchen.

She claimed she did this because she would forget crucial things due to her ADHD. Since that time, I had considered doing the same, only for less every day, more intermediate goals.

I was timid about trying this at first because others would see my deepest aspirations plastered on my apartment walls, but in March 2012, I decided that I no longer cared and it was worth doing. I didn’t use butcher paper; I used a whiteboard. It turned our better than I could have imagined, as evidenced above.

What do I call this method? It’s called the 50 Goals Whiteboard Challenge.

Of course this isn’t the only way, or necessarily, the best way to reach goals. It’s just one way, or one tool for achieving goals. It combines several applied principles I have learned over the last ten years from writers, thinkers, productivity geeks, and self development gurus, much wiser than me. Mindset does play a big role, and we’ll get deeper into that later. Right now we’re just starting with brass tacks.

If you’re an achievement-oriented person and you have your own system, the simplicity and honestly of this exercise can work for you just as well, and add to your overall mix.

How to Take the 50 Goals Whiteboard Challenge

  1. Write down 50 of your three-year goals on a whiteboard (don’t type them on a computer).
  2. Think BIG, think VERY big. Make all goals quantifiable, or merit-based milestones.
  3. Keep the whiteboard of goals where you, and others, can see them everyday, at home.
  4. Make small, but high-leverage, actions weekly that lead you to accomplishing those goals.
  5. Set up circumstances that will tackle multiple goals automatically and simultaneously. 
  6. For the ones that can’t be automated, don’t worry about them at this point in the process.

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” – Earl Nightingale

As you can see, what Mr. Nightingale is saying is that even though you put a three year timetable on it, don’t stress about how long that sounds, or if it takes longer.

Three years is short enough to be understood by the conscious mind (you can remember where you were three years ago if you take a pause), but long enough to let the sub-conscious mind work to synthesize solutions to reach your goals.

There you have it, one powerful and practical tool for achieving your intermediate goals, the 50 Goals Whiteboard Challenge. 

Need a more specific, step-by-step formula for writing your goals? Get my next post: How to Write Goals that Get Accomplished when it’s posted, via email, by subscribing here. 

In the next post, I will take a deep dive into what might be the “elusive obvious” when it comes to settings goals. By crafting them a specific way, they are more likely to get accomplished.

– Neil