I am very proud to be a member of the Next Level Performance Leadership Group, which was founded by my Crossfit mentor, Mycal Anders. He is a former Marine with an MBA, leadership instructor and Crossfit Gym owner. The members of the leadership group are extremely accomplished in their careers as well as in Crossfit prowess.
This week’s monthly meeting featured a workshop led by Mycal on goal setting. I think goal setting is an extremely valuable exercise to do periodically, no matter what the stage of your career or life achievements. Goals must change if we are to continue our mental, physical and spiritual growth. Once you achieve a goal, then what? It is important to set sights on the next endeavor immediately. Otherwise, you will wither and die. If you don’t have anything to strive for, is life worth living?
During the workshop participants were asked to first describe “your perfect day.” Next, was an exercise in the reverse planning process. Starting with the vision of the perfect day, participants were asked to describe where they hope to be in 10 years. In pursuit of that vision, participants listed their personal 3-year goals, 1-year goals, quarterly goals, a 30-day goal and lastly 3-5 weekly tracking parameters essential to reaching those goals.
Following this exercise, some of the participants shared their personal goal “utopias.” Some of the goals were financial, and in this category were building businesses, purchasing vacation villas and travel adventures. Some goals were relationship oriented and many expressed the desire for more time with their significant others, their children, or their not-yet-conceived children.
Most would agree that Steve Jobs was one of the most successful goal setters and executors in the annals of business. He had some very interesting things to say about setting goals:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Certainly our leadership group followed Steve Jobs’ advice this week. Jeff Haden, who noted these words in his article in INC magazine
[https://getpocket.com/explore/item/steve-jobs-said-1-thing-separates-successful-people-from-everyone-else-and-will-make-all-the?utm_source=pocket-newtab], said that most of us think need to develop a comprehensively detailed grand plan where every step and milestone is charted, and success is “pre-ordained.”
We are hard-wired with the need to see an end before we can see a beginning. But in our leadership group exercise, we were only able to chart generalities, a vague utopian vision of what success means to each of us.
Steve Jobs knew that plans can never be overly detailed and perfect. “Only in hindsight can they appear that way,” says Haden. “Here’s what really happens. People who eventually find success start by trying things. Lots of things. They succeed at some. They fail at others. They learn from those successes and those failures. And along the way they seize and at times even create their own opportunities to advance themselves.”
Jeff Haden admitted that that there is never a guarantee that you will succeed, but he emphasized that “when you never bet on yourself and try something new, you can definitely guarantee that you will never succeed.” For this reason, Mycal is big on accountability. He knows that most people tend to fall through the cracks in the pursuit of their goals when the going gets tough and life “interferes.”
Last month Mycal outlined how each individual connects with the world in 4 different ways: as an internal individual (self-esteem), as an external individual who connects with the world, as an integral part of an internal collective (identifying groups); and as an external collective focused on creating lasting impact and legacy.
Interestingly almost no one in the group paid heed to their internal and external collective aspects in the pursuit of their personal goal utopias. For me the internal growth and external collective goals of creating lasting impact and legacy are of paramount importance. That is why I have created my teaching website (www.theONWARDprogram.com). Continuing education is key and it is more than just a means to an end. “We have entered a phase in our society,” says educator Vartan Gregorian, “where education is valued for what it will give you rather than for what it will make out of you.” [Bill Moyers, A World of Ideas, 1989].
I know that I am happiest when I am learning something new; I am my most enthusiastic self when I’m learning something new; and my mind is racing with new goals when I am learning something new. [especially at 3 o’clock in the morning when I suddenly bound awake with a “Eureka” moment].
Perhaps Goal #1–which nobody listed in their exercise this week–should be quest for personal and spiritual growth, knowledge, and skills. I believe this is the real pursuit of happiness. Happiness has to come from the internal achievements, not from external achievements. Happiness is a choice because no one can predict what life will throw at you. It is the journey and not the prize that is most important, the saying goes.
I like to describe my life—with a smile, of course–as a “series of monkey wrenches.” Things are guaranteed not to go as planned. Doors are not going to magically open for you; you have to pry them open with all the strength you can muster. Building inner strength and mental toughness through internal growth is an essential—though often overlooked–ingredient in the pursuit of goals. How will you react to life’s monkey wrenches? Will you compromise your values on your ladder to success? Who do you want to be? These are the most important questions we should ask ourselves. When we take stock at the end of our lives we will all realize that it is much more important to “be” than to “have.”
Peter Economy, aka “The Leadership Guy,” who ghost-wrote more than 100 books on leadership, pondered the importance of mental toughness in the pursuit of goals in his article “Want to Build Mental Toughness?” [INC Magazine Nov 15, 2019; http://www.inc.com/peter-economy/want-to-build-unbeatable-mental-toughness-here-are-5-surprisingly-effective-ways.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab].
Peter tells the story of Seun Adebiyi, who was diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia one week after graduating from Yale Law School, and while he was pursuing his 2008 Olympic dreams. Surviving this disease in itself was no easy task—he ended up founding Nigeria’s first national bone marrow registry.
It was mental toughness that led to Seun becoming cancer free. He went on to create an interesting career in online legal technology. He even pursued his dream of participating in the Olympics and in 2018 he represented Nigeria in the Winter Olympics. Here’s what Seun he had to say about developing unbeatable mental toughness in Peter’s article: