Most of us set up annual goals for our jobs and we are measured against them at yearend. For the job I just left, we were so busy putting out fires on a daily basis that our goals didn’t get on paper until September or October, and even then they were just random ones that weren’t tied to the financial goals of the business nor the company. No wonder the company has been failing to hit plan month over month, quarter over quarter and year over year. You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

We are all aware of the importance of goals. Yet the sad fact is that few people have any real goals at all. Less than 3 percent of men and women have their goals in writing. Fewer than 1 percent of them read and review them regularly. So why is it that the vast majority of people go about life without a clear idea of where we are heading? According to Brain Tracy, author of “Maximum Achievement”, there are seven reasons.

1) People are not serious. There are more talkers in this world than doers. Talkers want to improve their lives, but aren’t committed to making the necessary efforts.
2) People choose to escape accountability. Once they have well-defined goals in writing, they have to accept responsibility for their lives. Most folks aren’t willing or ready to do that. They’d rather make elaborate excuses for his or her failure to make progress than work towards reaching their goals.
3) People’s deep-seated feelings of unworthiness. A person who was raised in a negative environment, leaving him or her with feelings of undeservingness and the attitude of “What’s the use?” and “I’m not good enough,” is hardly capable of serious goal setting.
4) People don’t realize the importance of goals. If you aren’t raised in a goal oriented family or move in a social circle in which people do not have clearly defined goals toward which they are working, it will be natural for you to assume that goals are not a particularly important part of life. Since 80 percent of the people around you are going nowhere, if you aren’t careful you will end up drifting with the crowd, following the followers, and going nowhere as well.
5) People don’t know how. Even though goal-setting is more important to our long-term happiness than any other single subject that we can ever learn, most of us have never once received an hour’s worth of instruction on how to do it.
6) People’s fear of rejection or criticism. From the time we were children, we have had our hopes and dreams slapped down by the criticism and laughter of others. As adults, we get fearful of trying something new or challenging because we may get ridiculed for thinking about being someone or doing something far beyond what others could imagine for themselves.
7) People’s fear of failure. The fear of failure is the greatest single obstacle to success in adult life. It is what keeps people in their comfort zones. That’s why I am proud of my daughter Jane for her continuous effort on looking for and interviewing for internship jobs in spite of the previous rejections. I can connect her with people, but ultimately she’ll have to go and sell her skills and personality to the potential employers.

In his book, Tracy goes on to map out the principles of goal setting. One of the key principles is finding your area of excellence. You can achieve your full potential only by finding your signature strengths and then by throwing your whole heart into developing your talents in that area. You will never be happy or satisfied until you find your heart’s desire and commit your life to it. The principle of balance is equally crucial. It states that you need a variety of goals in the six critical areas of life in order to perform at your best. You need family and personal goals, physical and health goals, mental and intellectual goals, goals for study and personal development, career and work goals, financial and material goals, and finally spiritual goals. On top of that, you have to determine your major purpose in life. It is your number-one goal, the goal that is more important to you than the accomplishment of any other single goal or objective at this time.

By taking a careful look at your life, where you came from, where you are now and where you desire to go, and setting up clear and actionable goals in each area of your life, you’ll unlock the incredible reserves of potential that lie within you and begin accomplishing things tat you never dreamed were possible and with less effort than you had believed necessary.