All the great philosophers in history at one time or another have compared human beings to ships. About 95% of the people can be compared to ships without rudders, subject to every shift of wind and tide. They float along on the external current, helplessly adrift. They fondly hope and dream that one day they'll drift into a rich and successful port, but they usually end up on the rocks or run aground. But those 5% who win, who have taken the time and exercise the discipline to decide on a destination and to chart a course, well, they sail straight and far, reaching one port after another, and accomplishing more in just a few years than the rest accomplish in an entire lifetime.
All sea captains know their next port of call. Even though they can't see their actual destination for fully 99% of their voyage, they know what it is and where it is, and that barring an unforeseen catastrophe, they'll surely reach it if they keep doing certain things in the same way every day.
Winners in life begin with lifetime goals. What do I stand for? What would I defend to the end? What would I want people to say about me after I'm gone? And winners, after they've clearly set their lifetime goals, begin to set their as-soon-as-possible goals. No time limits on these. These are character, attitude, and behavior goals that dare not be put off any longer, knowing that if they set a time limit or a date on them, that will be the soonest they'll ever reach them.
It's interesting that corporations and institutions have clearly defined plans, but only the top achievers in life seem to have established the same kind of game plan for their own personal lives. Most people spend more time planning a party, studying the newspaper, or making a Christmas list than they do in planning their own lives. But the winners, they set their daily goals the afternoon or evening before. They put down a list on paper in a priority sequence the major things they'll do tomorrow. And they select priorities that lead toward the achievement of their most important current goal; in other words, they're always thinking of goal achievement rather than a trivial pursuit to fill a time slot. And that's really the key.
Winning self-direction is setting goals that are profitable to you and your loved ones. They should be specific because the mind does operate like a homing torpedo or a computer reading its disk. Like a robot on automatic pilot, what you get is what you set. But it can't compute without specific data. It can't relate to nebulas, vague or general terms like enough money, wealth, peace, happiness, or just doing better. It responds to $6,000 a month, a new BMW, a desired weight of 175 pounds, let's say, for a man of average build.
On a sheet of paper write down what would give you the most fulfillment out of your work and your life. But be specific. The more defined, the better the aim and the focus.
At the top of the page write the words, "My goal is to" and then make the list underneath. Here are some examples. My goal is to be happy. Write down what will make you happy. To make a lot of money. How much money, over what time period? My goal is to be famous. By excelling in what? To be president of the company. List the career steps necessary. My goal is to own my own business. By what date, in what field, and with how much capital required to start? To gain financial security. Write down the dollar amount by what age. My goal is to have more time for my family. How will I gain the hours and what are the tradeoffs? And remember, no goal set for you by others will ever be sought with the same intensity, effort, and time commitment as one you set for yourself.
The secret to positive self-direction is in establishing clearly defined goals and then writing them down and then reviewing them often, dwelling on them with words, images, and emotions as if they were already being achieved. And since your robot self-image can't tell the difference between a vivid image and something that is real and has substance, you will move in the direction of your goal, whatever it is, as though it were already a natural part of your life.
You see, that's why it's so vital that you share your goals only with other positive goal setters and support coaches. Because misery is always looking for a growing ground. Never share a goal with someone who is likely to flood your garden of dreams and rain on your parade with a downpour of negative reactions.
Woodrow Wilson summed up his belief in the power of goals like this, he said, "We grow great by dreams and goals. All big successes are big dreamers. They see things in the red fire of a long winter's evening or through the mist of a rainy day. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them through the bad days until they bring them to the sunshine and the light which always come to those who sincerely believe that their dreams will come true."
You know, we do become what we think, because no wind blows in favor of a ship without a destination. The human without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. So get behind the helm of your life, and plan your work on a daily basis, and go forward a day at a time. Decide now on your goals, and put those goals into your subconscious robot with unrelenting practice. See yourself achieving them one by one. Remember that top achievers usually do one thing well at a time. They are single-minded in focusing their creativity and their energy on their most important goal. The achievement of one major goal is the seed that spawns many more and multiplies the open doors to success almost spontaneously. Positive self-direction is the action plan that winners use to turn imagination into reality. Positive self-direction is the power of purpose.