Goals Give Direction

Goals Mind Map

“Nothing happens unless first a dream.” – Carl Sandburg

Happy New Year. This is a great time to refine your goals.

Over the years I’ve talked to a number of people who do not believe in goal setting. They argue that they do not forget to eat or go to bed without having goals to do such things; therefore, they do not need goals to achieve other targets in life.

I agree that the desires of food and sleep are so basic to our nature that we will seek them out without any planning; however, the conclusion that goals are useless is faulty.

Yet, let me ask: do the following events in human history seem likely to just happen randomly without any forethought:

  • The construction of the Great Pyramid of Egypt and the Great Wall of China.
  • The invention of the movable type printing press.
  • Humanity landing on the Moon

The simple answer is No. Without goals, none of these events would have happened. All of the above events took many years of planning.

The Great Pyramid was completed around 2650 BC and it certainly was a product of intense goal setting by more than just Khufu, the pharaoh who commissioned this massive project. Engineers, foreman, and other managers at a variety of levels certainly had to plan many complex operations over a 20 year period to complete this tomb.

Likewise, Johannes Gutenberg spent 20 years experimenting and researching how to produce the kind of printing press that revolutionized publishing and literacy.

Finally, one of John Kennedy’s legacies is that he personally made landing on the moon a keystone goal for American science when publicly stated that ‘We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’

Lofty goals have the ability to direct action for an individual or a group. They are like blueprints, offering a definite shape and structure for the end product. They offer a template for the future and this is where the power of goals really lies. Big outcomes are the results of grand goals.

Finally, I love the Carl Sandburg quote from above as he lived it. He won two different Pulitzer Prizes: one for history and one of poetry. His six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln was a huge undertaking, as it contains more than a 1000 pages and took years of scholar to complete. This certainly is a good example of a goal-directed work that would have not just haphazardly happened one day.