If we’re not setting goals that are within our reach as part of finding our beacon, we will find ourselves doing a lot of aimless wandering in the fog. I’ve always been motivated by the goals I’ve set; in fact, every year I see to it that my family gets together and makes goals. These are not your garden-variety New Year’s resolutions; these are actual goals we plan to achieve, individually and collectively. We make short-term goals, mid-term goals, and long-term goals. (Personally, I have set goals until the end of my life.) It has been fun to see the kinds of goals our children come up with each year.
We do not judge each other’s goals. We just write them down and post them on the refrigerator. As the year progresses and each goal is met, the children ceremoniously cross off each goal, which brings a huge sense of satisfaction. Sometimes we will put up goals that are a big stretch to reach. Other goals might be much more simple. Over the years my family has found that the best way to make goals is to keep three things in mind. A goal needs to be: 1) written down, 2) measurable, and 3) realistic. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful this simple process of creating and writing down goals ends up being. Of course, times change, priorities shift, and we all do our fair share of zig zagging toward our goals. So while there are a few goals that end up not being completed, most of what we’ve committed to gets crossed off by the end of the year. What I find more gratifying than just checking off goals is seeing how their goals provide my children with direction and motivation throughout the year.
I’ll admit there have been times when a family member’s goals have left me wondering how they are ever going to achieve them. But I’ve also seen many examples of how having that beacon in the fog provides a powerful reminder and sense of purpose. A few years ago, my seven-year-old son had us write down a goal that really made me chuckle. When we asked him what goals he wanted to pursue, without hesitation he blurted out, “I want to go chicken chasing!” We all laughed; but, in keeping with family policy, we wrote it down and posted it on the fridge.
Now we do not live anywhere near a farm, nor do we have any chickens nearby, so my wife and I were not sure how this goal was going to be met. I suppose we could have driven him to a petting zoo, but in reality his achieving this goal was not a big priority for my wife or me. When we did think about it, we just figured this would be a goal that would sit on the list and at the end of the year we would say, “Well, sorry, but that one just didn’t happen.”
The year progressed, and of course there was no chicken chasing. In fact, we thought he had forgotten all about his goal. Then one day in mid-October, my wife called me on the phone, laughing uncontrollably. She and our kids had stopped at the Post Office to pick up some mail. As they got back in the car, the son who wanted to chase chickens got really excited. He and his younger brother then bolted out of the car and started chasing two wild roosters that had been sitting in the bushes at the Post Office. My wife and the older brothers watched as these two little boys chased those birds around for a good five minutes. My son was so excited when he got home that the first thing he did was grab his big red crayon and cross off “Chicken Chasing” from his list of goals.
While you may never have a goal of chasing chickens, my son’s experience exemplifies the power of identifying and then writing down those things that are going to serve as our beacons in the fog. While everyone else in our family had pretty much forgotten about his goal, he kept looking toward that beacon—and for the right opportunity to achieve his goal. I have found that if you put a goal out there and write it down, it is amazing what the universe will return to you.
Your beacons in the fog are generally longer-term goals that your short-term and mid-term goals will lead you toward. You can have several beacons you are working toward in different areas of your life. When I began college, I had identified several beacons in the fog I intended to pursue. One was to graduate from college. Another was to meet the woman I would marry. Still another was to find significant ways to render service. I must say that the day I started college, I had no idea how I was going to accomplish those goals, but they provided me with guidance and motivation as I developed the short-term and mid-term goals that kept me moving toward the light. After graduating from college (and accomplishing my other two goals), I came up with a new set of beacons that centered around building a strong family, finding success in my career, continuing my education, and finding additional ways to serve. As I’ve found myself approaching fifty, I’ve wanted to find an additional beacon that would motivate and guide me in ways that transcend the businesses I’ve been involved in building and the financial goals I’ve established for myself and my family.