Getting Specific

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket magazine week of May 27th)

One of the most powerful tools in business and life is goal setting. There have been books, speeches, seminars, and more done on this one subject than probably any other. Yet one of the most significant parts of the goal setting process is not only ignored by most, but appears innocuous if it’s not followed. You need to be specific when you’re setting your goals. Being vague can produce unwanted results.

Goal setting is not just some gimmick. It’s a very powerful tool and when used correctly it can produce incredible results. The problem with goal setting today is not with its fundamental application, but rather not following through on one key step that is critical to the process. Specificity.

I learned a mantra years ago while attending a Tom Hopkins seminar. He implored from the stage, “You must be specific to be terrific.”  What I did not realize at the time was just how important that detail was. It sounded so simple, so plain, or may I say so corny at first blush. After all I knew all the rules. I had been to countless seminars. I read all the books. I practiced this stuff. It wasn’t like I didn’t get it. I did, so next subject please I muttered to myself. Problem was I knew it, but I wasn’t doing it.

Goal setting allows you to focus. It gives you clarity in where you’re going and why. But not accurately setting them while monitoring your progress with possible adjustments can result with inadvertently reaching a goal in a way you least expect.  “I want to make a lot of money” is worthless. “I want to make X dollars, by X date, by doing X tasks ” is specific and your chances of hitting the marks are exponentially increased as compared with something less specific. Leave vague details to be filled in by the cosmos, and trust me what you’ll get might be nothing short of stunning.

Years back I had written down a goal on specific amount of money I wanted to earn over a given time frame. When I wrote it I had no idea if I could ever achieve it. What’s uncanny about this was the fact I had put the note in a place and forgot about it only to find it a few years later to my amazement I had hit it nearly to the exact amount. It was an amazing example of the power of specific goal setting. But I also have had stunning reminders on what can happen when you get lazy and let the universe fill in the details.

When I was a kid we were left poor from divorce. My father on the other hand was always seen around town driving the fanciest of cars. (Lincoln Continentals to be exact) There was one I would see him driving that for some reason I loved its styling. I would say to myself “Someday I’ll have a brown, 1972 Continental also.” Years later I did but not what you might think.

I was in the middle of the crisis of my life. I had just lost everything. I lost my cars, my job, money, titles, everything. I had just met my wife and now I was nearly destitute. From big shot to big loser in a matter of months. It was winter and she lived 3 cities over and I had no transportation of any type to get around. Till a friend offered me something I could borrow to at least get around with. Being near destitute I was grateful for anything, but what it was is nothing short of eye-opening.

There I was once again poor but this time the universe gave me my wish. I had a brown, 1972, Continental. Only it wasn’t a car, it was a Schwinn® bicycle.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr