Stay On Target! Stay On Target!

Copyright 2006 Donovan Baldwin

You Star Wars fans remember that chant from one of the Star Wars films. I have to apologize here. I HAVE seen and enjoyed all the Star Wars movies, but am not enough of a fan to remember tasty tidbits like who said it and in which episode. However, I DO remember that the speaker was exhorting a comrade to “Stay on target” and to ignore all those pesky little attacking fighters trying to blow him to smithereens!

Fortunately for most of us, the attackers we have to dodge on a day to day basis are a little less lethal. Unfortunately, they can be distracting enough to divert us away from a path to success, whether in life, relationships, or in business.

There has been an awful lot written about goals over the years, and most would agree that having a goal is paramount importance in achieving success. Even so, you might be surprised at how few people have really thought about what their true goals are, much less about how to stay on target to achieve these goals.

The other day, I was reminded of this as I walked across a large parking lot with a companion. We were both headed towards the door of a building about 100 yards away. As we walked, I noticed that my companion seemed to almost be walking into me as he veered away from the path to the door. It didn’t take much to figure out what was happening. His head was down, and he was concentrating on the ground immediately in front of his feet, and never once looked at the door to see where it was in relation to his path. I, on the other hand, kept glancing at the door in the distance, and made that my object of interest as I scanned the surrounding area for possible pitfalls. I was walking towards the door, and my friend was walking, thinking he was headed for the door he had seen several steps ago, but actually veering off course again and again.

I had been taught this sort of thing years ago by my father, but the army had really strengthened it in me. Not only had I been involved in moving through areas where it was necessary to keep a fix on some distant target, but it had also been necessary to be constantly aware of my surroundings as well, gauging and evaluating as I went, and sometimes actually having to take an intentional detour around some obstacle in order to arrive at my destination. Failure to keep my eye on my target would result in my failing to arrive at it, particularly with the distractions of terrain and events to divert me from a direct path.

Once a goal, consider it a target, has been formed, whether to make a certain number of dollars in a given time, or to lose a certain number of pounds, or to clear away the clutter in the garage, we tend to get distracted by other things, events, people in our lives and lose sight of the goal that seemed so plain and easily achieved. If we let these distractions take hold, achieving that goal, when we remember it, not only seems much more difficult than when we originally envisaged it, but may actually seem to be completely unachievable, causing us to give up and experience a feeling of failure.

True enough, we may fail anyway. After all, a goal is simply a target towards which we strive, and in the real world, we may actually find that our original goal IS realistically unattainable. However, being able to experience effective progress towards that goal, not only gives us a boost of confidence, but, nearing the goal, allows us to more accurately assess our ability to reach it. We might even find that we need to set a more realistic goal, or even a more challenging one. But if we are not approaching the goal, we may simply quit.

One of the simplest solutions to this problem is to “glance at the door” once in a while. In other words, we very often have to pay attention to a lot of other distractions in our daily lives, so to stay on target, we need to periodically and intentionally review what our goal is. It is easier to set our course towards a specific and recognizable goal that doesn’t waver, also, and for this reason it is often recommended that goals be written down and stated with some specific language and expectations. This written goal should be taken out and reexamined thoroughly at least once a day, and perhaps even more often. Maybe you could have it written on a card in your wallet and tape a copy to your bathroom mirror or the door of your refrigerator.

Every time you repeat your goal to yourself, reexamine it to make sure that it hasn’t moved. Although you want to avoid wavering back and forth in uncertainty, you DO want to be able to realistically modify your goal to reflect reality and progress.