Goal Setting For Success

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- -- Merriam-Webster defines 'goal' as: the end toward which effort is directed.

In his book "5: Where Will You Be Five Years From Today?," Dan Zandra references Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, writing, people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as the people who don't and yet 80 percent of Americans say they don't have goals. Sixteen percent do have goals, but don't write them down. Less than 4 percent write down their goals, and less than 1 percent actually review them on an ongoing basis. Guess which 1 percent?

Goal setting is about more than merely financial success. It is about creating a plan to realize personal and professional achievements. Eighteen years ago I was an airman first class with less than one year in the Air Force, and I was among the 80 percent of Americans with no established goals. During my first year as an airman, I met Chief Master Sgt. Paul Tesch; over the next couple of years we had many frank discussions about career aspirations in the Air Force and Chief Tesch became a mentor and close friend.

The best advice I ever received from the Chief was to set personal and professional short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. The goals should not be easy or something you can just wake up one day and decide to do. They should challenge you, and you should have to assert some level of effort to achieve them.

Short-term goals should focus on the near future and should be achievable in six months to a year or possibly sooner. Mid-term goals should be on the foreseeable horizon, think one to three years in the future. Mid-term goals come to fruition through the achievement of several milestones (or short-term goals) along the way.

Finally, long-term goals could be viewed as the proverbial "pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow. These goals are things you want to accomplish five or more years in the future. Long-term goals are usually far enough down the road that they could change over time, which is a normal part of the process.

Changes to your long-term goals may result in adjustments to your short-term and mid-term goals, as they are on your path to future success; hence the importance of periodically reviewing and amending your goals. I took Chief Tesch's advice, and I wrote down my goals.

My short-term goal was the most difficult to articulate. I knew where I wanted to be in five years, but the hardest part was figuring out how to get there, my short-term goal was the first step.

I decided that to be successful in the future, I had to be good at what I was doing at the time. Therefore, my short-term goal was to be the best airman I could be. I worked hard at finishing my Career Development Course and becoming proficient at my job.

The effort paid off and working on that short-term goal became a milestone towards achieving my mid-term goal of attaining a bachelor's degree. My supervisors and co-workers supported my aspirations and encouraged me to pursue my educational endeavors, they allowed me to plan classes and study time around the work schedule.

One by one the college credits added up and in just under three years I achieved my mid-term goal, which, was a big stepping stone towards the long-term goal I set as a young airman, to attend Officer Training School (OTS).

Nearly five years after I first established my goals, I graduated OTS and received my commission. Along the way I set new goals, both personal and professional and even today I occasionally evaluate and readjust my goals as I work to realize them.

Goals are not achieved over night; they are something that you have to work at, but the end result is worth the effort. Goal setting and a periodic review of your goals will put you among the mere 1 percent of Americans who practice this skill and will ultimately result in the success of your future endeavors. Take some time today to write down your goals.

Best-Selling Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. wrote, "Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein."

Goal setting is a lifelong journey; to start the journey is a choice that only you can make.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu