Setting Goals That Drive Success


The third of my articles 6 years ago written for Gulf News built on the second article. My argument was simple – if young people want to live exceptional lives, achieve and fulfil their potential then they need to be willing to stand out.

Next, they need to set goals, but to learn from what’s known in the world about the best ways to make goals that work. Not all approaches to setting goals are as effective as others.

(Click on the link above to open the pdf document in a new tab or page of your browser)


I Was Going To Write About Procrastination, But ……………………

….. no, I didn’t put it off. Or not too much!

Fast company and others in pursuit of the ever more efficient worker who can get more and more done in less and less time (without seeming to suffer any undue stress) are fond of writing articles with simple tips for overcoming procrastination, like this one;

Fast Company – 9 Realistic Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Stress Less

I think there’s nothing inherently wrong in suggestions such as; breaking a task down in to bits, taking baby steps, setting a deadline and getting competitive with yourself or having an accountability obligation to someone else. However, those ofus who have ever acknowledged our procrastination to ourselves and stopped to ask hard questions know there are two elements that are much less often talked about.

Firstly, in my experience people who procrastinate are rarely people who procrastinate on everything. Therefore, there’s a point at which tough questions need to be explored about the tasks that are being postponed and put off. Sometimes it can be that we need to really dig down and explore what’s happening at the unconscious level – there may be very valid reasons why we feel uncomfortable with a particular task. Issues of values misalignment come to mind. It could even be that there are aspects of the place, time or circumstances that make a person so uncomfortable that a normally dynamic, action-oriented person starts to hold back, withhold effort or procrastinate on taking actions where they feel the stress of doing something that is incongruent with their values. eople normally think of stress as a negative and unfortunate byproduct of procrastination. However, I’d suggest that sometimes the stress comes first and gives rise to the procrastination.

Secondly, what if procrastination is seen sometimes as our intuition’s way of saying, “Not yet.” That the task, if done now might lead to overly hasty actions that would be regretted later. Impulsiveness, action taken without enough research or evidence/ justification can be worse than no action. Sometimes we need to listen to our intuition and what it tells us. In such circumstances there could be very valid reasons to wait a while. Haven’t we all had the occasion when that burning issue that sits on our ‘To Do’ list for some time becomes a job that didn’t really need to be done and can simply be scrapped? As time moves along, yesterday’s burning issue may become today’s inconsequential matter.

So, in short, I’m making excuses for nobody here. However, let’s acknowledge that not all procrastination is bad. The starting point is honesty with ourselves to determine the right response.

Sleep Like a Winner?

When it comes to issues of how to be more successful n life, how to be more productive, achieve more etc. it’s inevitable that people cast around for every possible little factor that might make a difference. Recently, one that’s received lots of focus is sleep – from the perspective of simple quantity, quality and patterns.

One argument has been that if we replicate the sleeping habits of the rich and famous/ successful, then we too can have a better chance of achieving more. With this perspective, here’s a fun and interesting article that unearths lots of interesting things about the sleep patterns of successful people, both now and in the past:

NPR Article – Successful People’s Sleep Patterns

If we can draw any firm conclusions they are;

a) In terms of basic amount of sleep, successful and ‘normal’ people really aren’t vry different. Therefore, if sleep plays a part, it’s likely to relate to aspects other than the simple length of time spent sleeping.
b) In another article i read recently, there was discussion of the quality of bed and sleeping environment. Considering how much time we spend sleeping, this is something that few people pay attention to. Nevertheless, I can’t help suspecting that successful people can afford better beds and mattresses (or choose to spend more money on them), as well as maintaining a clean, healthy and positive sleeping environment.
c) Provided a person is getting around the right amount (for them), in line broadly with the figures in the article, much then depends on how we use the time before going to sleep and after getting up. My guess is that these factors have a far greater effect on productivity and effectiveness. Things like, planning for the next day and shutting down electronic devices before going to bed, healthy breakfast, exercise and prioritising in the morning.
d) There is no simple ‘magic bullet’ to fame, success and living our most effective and productive life. Instead of going looking for one, I think good reflective perspectives on what works most effectively for us and then the discipline to do more of those things is a far better route to take.


Happiness, success, a good life – these are best found through a life of meaning, a life with a purpose. With good reason, I once entitled a Graduation Speech – ‘What is My Why?’

So, today, I thought I’d share this very good, practical, step by step process for determining one’s purpose that I came across a while ago. There are many similar processes around. Which one you choose doesn’t really matter half as much as that you actually put in the effort to do the hard thinking, opening up to possibilities and stilling the voice of nagging doubt that can so easily blind many to their true purpose.

Then, what the article doesn’t say, but is really quite obvious – the objective of the exercise isn’t some beautiful ideas on paper. None of this is worth anything, unless we follow up with action – as much as it takes.

How To Find Your True Purpose In Three Days or Less

Here’s to a life lived ‘on purpose’ in 2016

Don’t Just Think It, Ink It

Through my involvement in Jaycees International (British Junior Chamber, BJC), I was involved in delivering goal setting workshops over 20 years ago (I know, I’m showing my age). I have personally been using written goals for over 25 years. So, I can fully understand the findings of the research outlined in this article:

NPR – Mindshift – Writing Down Goals Can Empower Struggling Students

The article highlights the benefits experienced by undergraduate students, but also suggests that the researchers have gone on to test the experiences of high school students.

In our school, through the student almanac, our students are encouraged to use goal setting for themselves in age appropriate ways. Time is made available each week for the children to review their earlier goals and to work on fresh goals. We encourage them to have goals both directly related to their learning/ studies and, as they get older, related to other aspects of themselves. So, whilst one student might write a goal that relates to their relationship with family members, another might have a goal related to managing their mood/ anger or strong emotions.

With regard to academics, the children are encouraged to have a mix of ‘outcome goals’ – end goals that they want to reach, and ‘process goals’ – those that relate to acquiring or practicing particular learning skills that will help to take them towards their end goals.

Even younger children join in, often using pictures rather than the written word to focus their minds on what they want to do.

My own belief about why this works is because it emphasises for the child, at all times, that they own their own learning, that it’s an active process in which they remain fully engaged. It prevents them falling in to the traps of leaving the effort to the teacher while they simply make themselves passive recipients of knowledge.

We never get too old to benefit from goal setting. I have a diary note for this coming weekend to review mine!

Educating the Whole Child

The article linked below says a great deal about where we are in education today and, I believe, what still remains so very wrong in the system (regardless of which country you’re looking at).

The article sets out to share some research that suggests that an emphasis on empathy skills, emotional intelligence, approaches to social skills and understanding one’s own learning process are required in the higher classes in schools, as well as Kindergarten and primary – as though these findings are a big shock!

KQED News – Mindshift Blog Article

I’ve seen this and how it manifests for myself. It represents a kind of schizophrenia in school education. Even many highly regarded educators will reconcile themselves to espousing ‘whole child’ education, holistic education and a nurturing, child-centric approach whilst children are in KG and lower classes. But then, somewhere when the children reach middle school those same supposedly child-centric educators will snatch back the learning ‘power’ from the children and take over, shunning child-centricity for a hard nosed, syllabus based approach where the educators will drive and the children are expected to compliantly accept. So, this begs the question – did we ever really believe in child-centricity and holistic learning, or did we just go along with it because everyone else was talking in those terms? Or, does it come down to a lack of faith in the teenage child to do the right things for themselves? If we leave them to their own devices, let them make choices etc., they might make the wrong ones! better that we take over and drive the learning!

To my mind, among teachers who teach in higher classes in schools there is way too much interest in their subject, the facts and knowledge contained within it and themselves as jugs to fill empty glasses. There is one way in which this is understandable – the secondary teacher who teaches children ‘the stuff’ meticulously, has them memorize the stuff faithfully and reproduce the stuff in an examination gets the simple endorsement and validation represented by their students’ examination scores. (Ironically, of course, all the evidence is we don’t really know what “stuff” will be important in the lives of these children)

To focus on equipping a young person with the skills for life, the emotional intelligence, social and inter-personal skills can’t necessarily be measured and that makes it less comfortable for the educators. Ironically, it’s also less comfortable for the parents and for those in government who want/ need to believe that they can drive education as a driver for economic progress. So, all parties collude in ‘the game’. And all the time they continue to swear allegiance to holistic learning, developing the whole child whilst reliant upon the elementary classroom for the evidence and proof of that commitment.

My belief – plain and simple, educating the whole child and maintaining a focus as much on process as learning outcomes is as right with the 15 year old as it was with the 5 year old.

Gulf News – Article 3

here’s the third and latest of my weekly columns for the Gulf News.

In this piece i share some thoughts I feel are useful to young people when it comes to setting goals for what they want to achieve in their lives:

gulfnews article 3 992013

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