Clarity will increase your desire and move you in the direction of your goals and dreams. Legendary motivator Jim Rohn said, “It’s not the direction of the wind, but the setting of the sails that really matters.”

I want to remind you that you were born to win, but to be the winner you were born to be, you have to have a clear plan to get there. This means having specific goals that you are shooting for.

I once heard of a book called I’d Rather Eat Nails than Set Goals. I never read the book, but I certainly understand the sentiment. Goals make us accountable, and lots of people avoid setting them for that reason. There are many good reasons for becoming a goal setter, and here are just a few of them.

Six Reasons to Set Goals
1. Goals bring the future into the present, and the present is the only time we can take action.

Setting goals makes it possible to do something today to create the future you want.

2. If you don’t plan your time, someone else will help you waste it.

3. People get twice as much done on the day before they go on vacation, because they plan (set goals) and prioritize what they intend to do. Thought: if you lived every day like it was the day before vacation, how much would you be able to increase the total productivity of your life?

4. Goal setters make more money than people who don’t set goals. When Dave Jensen was the Chief Administrative Officer at UCLA in 1992, he conducted a study on goal setting. He learned that people with a balanced goals program earned an average of $7,411 per month. In 2011, those numbers showed earnings of $11,632.73 per month. Dave discovered that individuals without a goals program earned an average of $3,397 per month, or $5,332.13 in 2011 dollars and cents. Those with goals programs were also happier and healthier and got along better with the folks at home.

5. Goals keep you focused on the things that really matter and help you avoid wasting time on things that are unproductive. Focus helps you change from being a “wandering generality” to being a “meaningful specific.”

6. Setting goals gives direction and purpose to all that you do.

No More Excuses
People make a lot of excuses for not being willing to set goals, but the benefits of setting goals far exceed the excuses for not setting them. There is something about the goal-setting process that makes people approach it in fear, and they can find lots and lots of reasons to avoid it. The biggest reason is an unwillingness to be accountable for results. After all, if you set a goal and fail to reach it, some people will consider it failure. But there is an old saying that goes, “It is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all!” I would alter that concept slightly and say, It is better to set goals and have direction than to not have goals and wander around in confusion. Ultimately, people who do not set goals are just making up their life as they go long, which results in unreached potential.

Know Where You’re Going
A young couple, lost on a rural road, spotted an old farmer, so they stopped the car and asked him a question. “Sir, could you tell us where this road will take us?” Without a moment’s hesitation the old farmer said, “Son, this road will take you anywhere in the world you want to go, if you are moving in the right direction.” This little story makes a big point. From wherever you are, you can go anywhere you want to go if you pick the right roads to travel. The roads you travel in life are selected and determined by the goals you set for each area of your life. The key is to pick the right roads!

Now you might be thinking, “Zig, how do I know what goals to set, and how do I know they are the right goals that will put me on the roads I need to travel to get where I want to go?” Well, I’m glad you asked, because I most certainly plan to tell you! I have a proven seven-step process you can apply to your goal setting, and if you follow each step correctly, you will create goals that are tailor-made for you and what you want to achieve.

I’ve been teaching this process for my entire career, and the proof of its effectiveness is in the lives of the people who have followed my advice and done it! Before we get started, I want to clearly say that you must do the seven steps for each goal that you set.

The Seven Steps of Goal Setting

1. Identify the goal.
If you don’t identify a target, you will never hit it. When you identify a goal, it means that you write it down and describe it clearly. Don’t set any nebulous targets. If you want to have specific success, you must have specific targets. A goal “to increase my annual income” or “to spend more time on my spiritual life” is not specific. A specific goal would be “to increase my current income by 20 percent” or “to read the entire Bible from cover to maps.”

2. List the benefits: what’s in it for me?
Once you identify a specific goal, you need to list the benefits you will receive when you reach that goal. Let’s face it, we only do the things we want to do and are willing to do. If there are no personal benefits, your motivation for completing the goal will be diminished.

Remember that changing your life is not always easy, and you will hit some rough spots in the road as you move forward. You will need all the personal motivation you can muster, and understanding what’s in it for you is vitally important. Don’t skimp on this step!

3. List the obstacles to overcome.
I believe I just mentioned that there might be some rough spots on your journey as you work to achieve your goals. Many of them can be anticipated, and if you can anticipate something, you can prepare yourself in advance to overcome it. So think it through and make a complete list of all the things that can prevent you from being successful. Ask a trusted friend who knows you well to help you finish the list.

4. List the skills and knowledge required.
Knowledge gives us the power to accomplish things we would not otherwise be able to do, and skills give us the tools to take advantage of our knowledge. There is a direct relationship between knowing and doing, and successfully accomplishing your goals will require that powerful combination. For example, if your goal is to increase your proficiency on the computer, you will need to know specifically what the computer can do for you (knowledge). Once you know what you want the computer to do for you, the skills you will need to be successful must be identified. The skills might include learning to type on a keyboard with two hands instead of finger pecking. This would trigger setting another goal of learning to type! Never forget that knowledge and skill will be required to successfully complete any goal.

5. Identify the people and groups to work with.
We do a better job when we have the help of others. They can help us with knowledge and skill and can offer valuable advice we need to be successful. So when you set your goals, always consider the people and the groups you can work with that can help you be more successful.

6. Develop a plan of action.
This is the most critical step, and it involves thinking through the details of how you will achieve your goal. In my younger years I was thirty-seven pounds overweight. I had put that weight on one bite at a time, and I was going to have to lose it the same way. That required a plan! I wanted to lose my weight over a ten-month period and that was the first step of the plan. Thirty seven pounds sounds like a lot, but when you realize it’s only 3.7 pounds a month over a ten-month period it sounds a lot better. So, I planned to lose 3.7 pounds a month for ten months. Then I included a daily running and exercise plan in the goal, as well as a diet that would limit my caloric intake. With those details planned, I clearly knew how I was going to have to live each day to be successful. I prepared diligently to succeed. I stuck to my plan (which means I never made the first exception), and ten months later I had lost thirty-seven pounds.

Success would have eluded me had I not planned the details of what I would do each day to reach my goal. In this case, reaching my goal may not have changed the world, but it surely did change my world.

7. Set a deadline for achievement.
In the example above, you notice I gave myself ten months to lose the weight I wanted to lose. I had a great reason for setting that deadline—I believe in goal setting, and all goals need a completion date to be effective. I was in the process of writing my first book, See You at the Top, and I had ten months left to complete my book by my goal date when it struck me that I was not a good example of the very things I was teaching. Nobody who saw me was going to believe a word I said, because I was not taking care of the health portion of my life. There was no way an overweight fat boy could effectively tell other people how to change their lives without first changing his own! My integrity was on the line . . . so I sought help at Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s Aerobics Center, where Dr. Randy Martin told me the true state of my condition. With his help, I made my ten-month plan.

If you don’t set a deadline for completing your goals, you will not be accountable to yourself or anyone else. If you are not accountable for your goals, you will not achieve them.

Goal Setting is About Becoming
I want to be certain you have the right attitude about setting your goals. Don’t think of goal setting as a tiresome activity that requires you to do things that are difficult. The real benefit of having goals is what you become by reaching them. When you successfully complete your goals, you change specific things in your life. I can tell you factually that your life will be radically changed for the better, and the person you become will be highly successful in all that you do.

Are you convinced that you need to become a goal setter? Have you started thinking about where you are and where you would like to be? Have you started listing the obstacles that stand between you and success? I hope you are sufficiently motivated to begin the goal-setting process, because goals represent the action tools you need to be able to plan to win. I teach people you have to be before you can do, and you have to do before you can have. Being a successful goal setter is the process that enables you to be the person you need to be, by doing what you have to do, so you can change yourself and the world for the better.

Author's Bio: 

"The Master of Motivation" Zig Ziglar has been described as "one of America's Icons," "the salesman's salesman," and "a legacy that will forever impact our history." Helping people to achieve long-term balanced success based on his philosophy of character, attitude and skills, he has impacted more than a quarter billion people and continues to make a difference in the lives of those who act on his philosophy. His new book, Born to Win, is sure to become a beloved classic. Read the first chapter here.