The life-changing power of small things: Goal Setting

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series The life-changing power of small things

On May 21, James Citrin, the author of The Career Playbook who is also the leader and CEO Practice at Spencer Stuart delivered the Wesleyan University Phi Beta Kappa Commencement Address. This post has been adapted and condensed from that speech by the man himself and reproduced here without any alterations whatsoever.

Goal Setting

For years, I thought that having the desire to be the best was hardwired into everyone. But I learned some years ago, and have been reminded many times since, that this simply is not the case. I do believe, however, that it is here with you today. Indeed, if you have that burning desire to achieve and accomplish important things, then one of the most powerful ways to do that is another small thing. Goal setting.

Setting measurable goals, committing them to writing, and monitoring your progress is a powerful way to point yourself in the right direction and track your advancement. Some people avoid being specific because they don’t want to expose themselves to the risk of failing. But it is essential to be specific and hold yourself accountable.

I had the privilege of interviewing one of the greatest Olympic champions ever, Australia’s Grant Hackett, the fastest middle-distance swimmer of all time. When he became a teenager, Hackett had the simple idea to pin up a chart on his bedroom wall in his Queensland, Australia, home. The chart showed the best times that his idols had achieved when they were 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 years old. The chart gave Hackett a concrete way to set his goals and track progress. He would just try to do the same times that they did when they were at his age. He said it was singularly motivating in focusing his training and racing efforts.

Setting measurable goals, committing them to writing, and monitoring your progress is a powerful way to point yourself in the right direction Click To Tweet

For those of us who aren’t Olympic athletes, it’s similarly important to set quantifiable goals. It’s important to set short-term goals – developing an important new skill, completing a high-priority project, reading a particular book. But it’s also essential to focus on longer-term goals as well. An effective technique for doing this is to complete the assignment that my Vassar English professor gave to our expository writing seminar in 1979.

The assignment was “Twenty Years from Now”. With only that as a direction, we each had to write an essay about what our life would look like in 1999! Trust me, it is both impactful and hilarious to do that and look back later at what you wrote. So I urge you to have some fun after graduation by writing a vision of what your life will be like in 2036. Print it out and refer to it from time to time. I believe it will truly help you achieve important things.

I have one last major example of the power of small things. Leadership.

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