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The Right Way to Set Goals for 2021

Rainer Zitelmann
BizLIVE -

Only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the calendar year, while around 80% have failed to live up to their good intentions to improve their lives by as early as mid-February, says U.S. clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani.

The Right Way to Set Goals for 2021
Photo: INC
Erik Weihenmayer has climbed the “Seven Summits” – the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Almost everyone told him this was impossible. A few days ago I interviewed him for my next book and he told me: “You know, a couple of other people said things like I didn't belong on the mountain or, like, anybody could get to the top of the mountain with 13 seeing guide dogs. I heard one guy say he was going to follow me to the summit and take a picture of my dead body just to make some money with the media. I call them naysayers. And sure, there are naysayers and I feel sorry for naysayers because they're people who go around with the door in their mind shut and it's really more tragic for them.”  
The reason why hardly anyone believed he could achieve his goal is that Weihenmayer was born with an incurable eye condition and has been blind since the age of thirteen. On May 25, 2021 it will be 20 years since he became the first blind person in history to climb to the summit of Mount Everest – an achievement that earned him a place on the cover of Time magazine. I asked him what mindset had enabled him to achieve his extraordinary goals. His answer: “I spend like 15 minutes just every day, envisioning myself standing on the summit like to the point where I’d hear the snow crunching under my crampons. I’d hear the slacks, I’d feel the sky, just feel the cold, and I'd feel the hearts of my teammates, I’d feel the tears, I’d literally start tearing up because I was there. And, when I summitted Everest, I had already summitted it 100 times in my mind. So, I think that kind of belief system and that kind of programming it into your subconscious is hugely important so that you can truly be there.” In other words, visualizing your goals and “programming” them into your subconscious is an important technique in achieving goals: “Envision yourself on the top and you’re there,” he told me. “Yeah, then it kind of gives you kind of energy because you have like this goal in your mind. And I do find it’s energizing.” 
Goals for the new year
In less than two weeks, television shows will be sending their reporters out onto the streets—as they do every year—to ask shoppers and people heading back to work what goals they have set themselves for 2020. Time and again, these sidewalk interviews feature cliched figures like the overweight man who says he has set himself the goal of losing weight as he pops a French fry in his mouth and laughs. He is laughing at himself because he has already abandoned his New Year’s resolution within days of making it—as he does every year.
According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the calendar year, while around 80% have failed to live up to their good intentions to improve their lives by as early as mid-February, says U.S. clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani. Given findings such as these, some ‘experts’ advise people that it is better to set no goals at all, or to set smaller, more easily achievable goals, in order to avoid guilt-driven remorse and frustration. When it comes to setting goals, the terms ‘small’ and ‘realistic’ are frequently used as synonyms. By this logic, small goals are seen to be reasonable and attainable while ambitious goals are unrealistic and unachievable.
Set yourself greater goals!
However, scientific Goal-Setting Theory says exactly the opposite: In many ways it is actually easier to achieve challenging goals than small ones because bigger goals are the source of far greater motivational power than small goals. Numerous scientific studies into goal-setting theory have confirmed that demanding and specifically formulated goals lead to better outcomes than easy goals—people who set specific goals are always more successful than people who set vague goals, ‘do your best’ goals, or no goals at all.
Howard Schultz was born the son of an unskilled laborer in Brooklyn in 1953 and grew up in a deprived neighborhood. He turned his company Starbucks into a leading brand with more than 31,000 branches worldwide. He prefaced his autobiography by advising readers: “Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible.” Larry Page, the cofounder of Google, is a strong proponent of what he calls “a healthy disregard for the impossible.” He lives by the maxim: “You should try to do things that most people would not.” 
For my book The Wealth Elite  https://the-wealth-elite.com/, a study into the psychology of the rich, I conducted in-depth interviews with 45 exceptionally successful individuals, most of whom were self-made entrepreneurs with net assets of between $30 million and $1 billion. For many of the interviewees in The Wealth Elite, committing to their goals in writing was a crucial component of the goal-setting process. They set themselves specific financial goals and exact deadlines for achieving them. An overwhelming number of interviewees described a process of detailed goal-setting, which they carried out once a year. They took the time to define milestones for the next year, while also reviewing the goals they had set for the previous year in order to assess what they had achieved. 
The only reason some people don’t set ambitious goals is because they’re afraid they might fail to achieve them. Is that how you feel? Gordon Moore, the American IT Pioneer and cofounder of Intel, once observed that, “If everything you try works, then you are not trying hard enough.” And Elon Musk said: “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”  Being a winner doesn’t mean being somebody who never fails. On the contrary, winners set themselves ambitious goals and experiment until they achieve them. They don’t ask for foolproof guarantees before trying something. They realize and accept that a lot of the things they try won’t work. As the Woody Allen once said, “If you don’t fail now and again, it’s a sign you’re playing it safe.” So, set much bigger goals for your life – and start now. If you don’t do this because you are afraid of failure, then the truth is that you have already failed.
Rainer Zitelmann is the author of Dare to Be Different and Grow Rich https://daretobedifferentandgrowrich.com/. The book, which has been published in eleven languages, is not just about building wealth, it also explores the fundamental attitudes and techniques that will help you achieve even the most ambitious goals.

RAINER ZITELMANN