There’s a story about a World War II German U-boat that contacted headquarters to inform them that they were lost. When asked by headquarters as to where they wanted to go, the U-boat responded, “We don’t know.” Headquarters replied, “Then you’re not lost!”

If you’re not getting anywhere in life, maybe it’s because you’ve got nowhere to go!

Before you can get what you want out of life and your career, you have to decide what it is that you actually want.

I’m not crazy about the term “goal setting,” because it’s a “motivational speaker” term, which can translate to artificially and superficially psyching people up, but not really providing any practical, substantial advice they can use to improve their life.

How To Set Goals
Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I’ll take that 2,112,000 steps further and say that a journey of a thousand miles requires that you concentrate on making each and every step the right one to take you to where you want to be.

Unless you’re really into taking the “scenic route to success,” the most efficient way to get where you want to go is to plan it out.

While it’s necessary to step back and take a look at the big picture, you’re not going to achieve your goals until you devise a believable and workable plan.

The way to get anything done is to decide on the ultimate achievement, then break it down into smaller increments, like this:

  • Lifetime or ultimate goal
    • Five-year goal
      • One-year goal
        • 12 monthly goals
          • Four weekly goals
            • Daily goals
              • Hourly goals.

Some hourly goals can and should be broken down into smaller, 15 minute tasks.

At this point, you see that we can substitute the word “goal” with “plan;” so, “goal setting” is not really a “motivational speaker” term — it’s nothing more than planning . . . and planning is huge!

Notice also that, when you plan it all out, some very vague sounding goal, such as, “I want to be able to retire comfortably at the age of 65,” transforms into a plan consisting of a series of small, doable steps, such as saving an average of $6 per hour, per 40-hour work week, and scheduling a weekly deposit of $240 into a savings account. Do that, stay out of debt, pay off your house, and you’ll have a very comfortable retirement.

Scheduling Your Success
Until a goal is scheduled, it’s just some vague notion of something you would “like to see happen.”

Once you’ve broken your larger goal into smaller, 15 to 60 minute tasks, schedule them in your daily planner.

I call this step “scheduling your success.” You don’t hope that someday you’ll become successful, you schedule it in.

Your goals don’t always have to be financial. People say they want to spend more time with their children, their hobbies, or their religion. Have they scheduled it in?

Start using a daily planner and scheduling your activities, and you’ll find out how many hours there are in a day, and just what you can and cannot do. You start prioritizing things differently.

If you really want to hold your own feet to the fire and make yourself miserable, start scheduling in advance — in writing — your television-watching schedule.

If you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, schedule in what you’re going to drink and when, days and weeks in advance. You’ll find deliberately scheduling your alcoholism to be a sobering experience.

In order for goals to work, they must be time-specific.

When I entered sales back in 1972, I had what I thought was a bona-fide goal to pay cash for a brand new Cadillac. By mid- 1998, I realized that the problem with my “goal” was that it had no schedule. A goal is not a real goal until it’s planned out and scheduled. I wrote out a plan and, by the end of 1999, I had the money for the Cadillac.

For the record, I never bought the car. That’s one reason why I say you’ll spend your money more wisely if you make it a personal policy to stay out of debt and only pay cash for everything but your house. There was no way I was going to blow more than 27 years worth of savings on a car! I took the money and put a down payment on my current home.

The Key is Commitment
Another point about goal setting is your attitude toward your goals. Are your goals something you would like to happen? Are your goals a guideline? Or, are they mandatory?

In order for goals to work, they must be mandatory.

In 1987, I decided I wanted to make one sale per day, six days per week. In order to force myself to succeed, I also decided that I would not eat on any given day until I made a sale. Here’s where it gets complicated. I was given a total of 157 leads that year. I closed 143 of them.

Now the question is, did I go hungry most of the time? The answer is no!

That was the year I started driving through working-class neighborhoods. I was looking for homes that had two things: an air conditioner in the window and a late-model car in the driveway. The window air conditioner told me they needed central air. The newer car told me they had a credit rating.

Why, in this day and age, would anyone not have central air conditioning? Is it because they don’t know they can get it with no down payment and very affordable monthly payments? Is it possible they still think that central air conditioning is a “rich man’s game”?

The only way to find out was to knock on the door and ask.

How many doors do you think I had to knock on to make a sale? Let me put it this way, I was usually eating breakfast by 10 a.m., and never went hungry.

The point of the story is that a serious, inner commitment is required to hit your goals.

Achieving Success
Success does not happen by accident. Success happens on purpose. Success is not a matter of luck or good timing. Success is a result of planning, followed by deliberate right action. Set career, financial, and personal goals.

Plan your work, then work your plan.

Everyone knows you should set goals. However, it’s like exercise. Everyone knows you should, but only 8% of the population do it.

People who set mandatory, time-specific goals, and schedule them into a daily planner, tend to hit them much sooner than they’d planned.

Staying Motivated
Goal setting is the answer to the age old question of, “How do you stay motivated?”

When you’ve got long-range goals, you’re no longer working, per se. Every day, you’re consciously and intentionally taking one step closer to achieving your ultimate career goal, which is a very nice feeling.

Do you know why they pave the roads? It’s so you can’t see the rut you’re driving yourself into.

Set some goals and make certain you take one step toward achieving them every day, and you’ll start having a good reason to get up and go to work in the morning, because you’ll be making progress. You’ll drive yourself right out of that rut and actually start getting somewhere every day.

You might think you’re working for someone else, but you’re not. One way or another, you’re working for yourself. You’re not in a dead-end, low paying job.You’ve got a good job, and it can be better. It starts with planning the steps to your own success, scheduling them, then taking them.

Charlie Greer is the creator of “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD; the Lazy Man’s Way to Succeed in Residential Replacements” and “Tec Daddy’s Service Technician Survival School on DVD.” For information on Charlie’s products and speaking schedule, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or visit him on the web at www.hvacprofitboosters.com. E-mail Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.