Write It Down, Make It Happen

Henriette Anne Klauser on the power of writing down your goals:

Without further ado, before you read the chapters which follow, I want you to compose your own list of goals. Go to an espresso bar and buy a latte or put on a pot of peppermint tea at your own house. Set the stereo for the kind of music you like best and start to write.

Write fast. Do not linger over the page. If you find yourself dismissing a goal as grandiose or farfetched, write it anyway and put a star next to it. That’s a live one.

Do not be afraid of wanting too much. Write down even those ambitions which have no practical means of accomplishment.

Keep on writing. Write from your heart and make the list as long as you like.

Lou Holtz, the famous football coach, did this in1966. He was twenty-eight years old when he sat down at his dining room table and wrote out one hundred and seven impossible goals. He had just lost his job, he had no money in the bank, and his wife, Beth, was eight months pregnant with their third child. He was so discouraged that Beth gave him a copy of The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz to help lift his spirits. Up until then, Holtz says, he was totally lacking in motivation.

“There are so many people, and I was one of them, who don’t do anything special with their lives. The book said you should write down all the goals you wanted to achieve before you died.”

The goals he wrote in answer to that challenge were both personal and professional. Most seemed impossible to a twenty-eight-year-old out-of-work man. His list included having dinner at the White House, appearing on the Tonight Show, meeting the pope, becoming head coach at Notre Dame, winning a national championship, being coach of the year, landing on an aircraft carrier, making a hole in one, and jumping out of an airplane.

If you check out Coach Lou Holtz’s website, along with this list you will get pictures—pictures of Holtz with the pope, with President Ronald Reagan at the White House, yukking it up with Johnny Carson. In addition, a description of what it was like to jump out of an airplane and get not one but two holes in one.

Of the one hundred and seven goals on his list from 1966, Lou Holtz has achieved eighty-one.

So give yourself permission to dream, to be totally unrealistic. (Richard Bolles says, “One of the saddest lines in the world is, ‘Oh, come now, be realistic.’”) Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Endow a university or a hospital. Compose an opera. Start an orphanage. Become a better parent. Play the flute in Carnegie Hall. Discover a cure for an untreatable disease. Get a patent. Appear on TV, or whatever equivalent grandiose schemes you can come up with—if money were no object and time were not a factor. Money is no object, and time is not a factor.

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Velleity

Edwin Bliss on goal setting:

I can’t think of a better investment of two or three hours than this process of getting all of your goals on paper. Everything that you can think of that you’d like to accomplish between now and when you’re ninety-five. Write it down.

Don’t stop and think, don’t meditate, just write it all down. The editing of your list is a separate process, that comes later. The first step is to get everything — fill as many sheets of paper as you can with a list of all the things you would like to accomplish in every phase of your life.

And regarding velleity:

Editing your list involves one other thing — in addition to making each of your goals more specific — and that is: you want to eliminate the velleity from your list. Velleity means wanting something, but not wanting it badly enough to pay the price for it. Every time you start making these lists of goals, a lot of velleity creeps in… things you’d love to do, but you’re never going to.

(…)

There’s a price to be paid. Are you willing to pay that price? Are you willing to invest that much time and effort and energy and money to achieve that particular goal? If the answer is “yes”, good. You’ve identified a goal.

If the answer’s “no”, that’s good, too. You’ve identified some velleity, so cross it off. Get it off your list. We don’t want a single thing on that list that you are not committed to. It’s been weighed, you’ve decided, you’re willing to pay the price, and you can go ahead and do it.

The entire recording is well worth listening to.

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