“Where did you go to high school?” is always the number one question of St. Louisans. But one of my favorite questions as a journalist is, “If you could accomplish one thing in life, what would it be?” In everyday terms, it would be, “Where ya’ goin’?” Everybody’s going somewhere, but how many really choose their own destination? Everybody has a dream, but few actually accomplish theirs.
As an educator, talk show host and speaker, I have learned through the years that the most successful people not only set goals, but every day they try to do something to work toward those goals. Therefore, we are all told that we must resolve every day to make the very best of each day. We are told that it really doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what really matters is where you are now and you’re headed. No matter what you have accomplished in the past, or where you have failed in the past, what matters is now. The very best days, weeks, months and years of your life could lie ahead. Of course everyone has goals of some kind. Then why is it that some people seem to accomplish their goals far more consistently than others do? The answer seems obvious. People who accomplish goals at a higher rate are people who put action to their desires. It all sounds so reasonable and so practical. For some of us, it’s a constant battle.
A few years back I was interviewed on one of our local television networks for being “one of three featured St. Louisans who has managed to be successful in spite of having Adult ADHD.” For those of you who are not familiar with the term, ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is defined as “having a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination.” For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for both the age and development. I tested in the 98% range when I was in my 40s and fully developed. I explained to the talk show host how I learned through my students as well as research, it is imperative for those of us in this category to try even harder to succeed since two of the most important qualities of success are focus and concentration. Focus means knowing exactly what it is you want and concentration means having the discipline to keep a single-minded approach on one thing until it is complete.
If you can attain both of these qualities you can accomplish virtually anything. The starting point of setting goals is what Stephen Covey says in essence, “Begin with the end in mind.” Project forward to the end of this year and ask yourself, "If everything happens as I want, what will it look like?" Of course there will be obstacles and setbacks, but isn’t it better to aim high and not quite get there, than to aim low and hit the mark?
So personally I have to use certain techniques to keep from procrastinating or getting off task. I know the right things to do. I even teach others to set goals for every part of their life so that they all work together, physically, mentally, financially, spiritually, emotionally and relationally, like a balanced wheel that goes around smoothly in every respect. You need goals for your health, for your career, for your finances, for your relationships, for your personal and professional development, for your community and for your spiritual growth. Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens for a reason. Other than an act of God or outside circumstances beyond your control, most things are happening in your life because you make them happen, not because you sit around and wait for them to happen. So I add three criteria to my life to help me daily:
1) I commit to paper both short term and long term goals. (my bucket list)
2) I allow myself a lot of creative play time (motivators and rewards)
3) I have accountability partners who keep me on track (my husband, my assistant, my mother)
There are a few professional steps to help stay on track as well. One is for you to decide exactly what you want. This places you in a separate category because most people have no idea of what they really want. Clarity is the most important single quality of goal-setting and perhaps the most important single quality of success. Fear of failure is the greatest single obstacle to success in adult life. And the fear of failure can work on you subconsciously by blocking you from setting clear specific goals.
Another important criterion is to set a deadline. If it is a large goal, set a series of sub-deadlines. A deadline acts as a "forcing system" on your subconscious mind and begins to move you toward your goal more quickly. If you don’t make the deadline, set another one. If it is too late for what you were wanting to accomplish, bite the bullet, learn from it and go to another goal.
For me, the greatest impetus is to simply do something! A baby step, an outline, a phone call, anything that requires action usually gets me going in the right direction. You will have to find your own tricks as well as your own obstacles, but if you want something bad enough you can usually find a way to get there. When all else fails, PUSH! Pray Until Something Happens. One word of caution: be careful what you pray for; you just might get it.
Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to the National Teachers Hall of Fame, there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is www.pepperseed.org.