Category Archives: Goal Setting

The Confirmation I Received in June of 1959

Gary North

June 29, 2009

Fifty years ago this month, I graduated from high school. As part of the graduation liturgy, the school held an awards ceremony for seniors.

I won a California state scholarship for college. Several students did. There were other awards. I don’t remember them.

I remember a remark by another student. “I wish I had won an award.” That was an honest statement.

The student was a goof-off. He had never shown any interest in academic things or athletic things. He had never distinguished himself at anything. He had drifted through high school. He had been in only one class with me. He had never said anything in class. He just sat there.

At the time, I thought to myself, “this guy never understood what it takes to achieve anything.” Today, half a century later, his statement to me is the only thing I remember about him.

That incident confirmed my determination to set plans and execute them. A year later, I set my lifetime goal: to find out what the Bible says about economics. I am still working on this project. I have written over 30 volumes on this topic. I have many more to write. This took planning.

Maybe he changed. Maybe he attained something significant. But unless he changed, it is unlikely that he achieved much. Habits set at an early age stick with us. We must actively seek to replace them with better habits.

Goal-setting is rare. Setting plans for attaining these goals is more rare. Sticking with them for a lifetime is exceedingly rare.

Start with lifetime goals. Then shorten the time limit. You attain lifetime goals by mid-term and short-term goal-setting, planning, and execution.


You Need Goals Beyond Debt Freedom if You Expect to Attain and Keep Debt Freedom.

Gary North

 “There is more to life than staying sober.” — James A., AA member

An Alcoholics Anonymous member wants to stay sober. But there is more to staying sober than wanting to stay sober and having a plan to stay sober.

James A. got sober in 1955 and stayed sober until he died in 2005. He told others who wanted to get sober and stay sober that they needed to have goals beyond staying sober. Then they needed a plan to reach these goals.

Similarly, there is more to staying out of debt than wanting to get out of debt.

There are negative sanctions for being in debt. They range in intensity. There are far more positive sanctions for being out of debt. They range in greater intensity.

It’s kind of like Adam in the garden. There was only one thing he was not allowed to do. Everything else was legitimate. There was only one negative sanction facing him: death. The positive sanctions were so numerous as to be effectively infinite. He ignored these goals and went for this one: to know good and evil. Especially evil.

You need goals. You need a plan to reach these goals. You need positive sanctions in your plan to reach your goals.

You know all about negative sanctions for not paying off your debts. But at some point, if you follow the advice on this site, you will reach the goal of being debt-free. Then what?

It is like a fat person who sets a weight goal and reaches it. Then what?

To stick to a plan for getting out of debt and making the negative sanctions go away, you need a plan for achieving personal goals that will produce positive sanctions.

Your first step in setting your lifetime goals is to understand what your calling is. What is a calling? This: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace.

It takes action to convert a to-do list to a changed life. Taking action is the difficult part. Taking systematic action over a lifetime is rare. This is why so few people leave behind the legacy that they could leave. Their lives dribble through their fingers.

Your Job or Your Calling: Which Comes First in Your Life?
Gary North
This is the story of a man who died well . . . and amazingly. . . . keep reading
The Confirmation I Received in June of 1959
Gary North
It was something a fellow student said. . . . keep reading
Life Expectancy. When Setting Lifetime Goals, Begin Here.
Gary North
I did this years ago. It has helped me focus. . . . keep reading
What’s Holding You Back?
Gary North
Debt is not the main restraint. But it’s a big one. . . . keep reading
Calling vs. Occupation: Get This Distinction Straight.
Gary North
If you are like most people, your job is not your calling. What is your calling? To find out, start here. . . . keep reading
Muley Sykes: A Man Whose Job Was His Calling
Gary North
Muley Sykes is fictional. The song about him is real. . . . keep reading
Money Is a Result. It is Not a Wise Goal.
Michael Masterson
Here, a multimillionaire tells why money is not #1. . . . keep reading
Cheating Yourself for a Lifetime
Gary North
Focus. Focus. Focus. . . . keep reading
Success in Life: Imagine Your 75th Birthday Party. Prepare an Outline for Your Speech on Your Greatest Successes
Gary North
I gave this assignment to a group of high school students. . . . keep reading
Goals Come in Stages. Smaller Goals Should Precede Big Goals. Becoming Debt-Free Is a Fine Preliminary Stage.
Gary North
We all know this, but most people don’t plan their lives in terms of it. . . . keep reading
Update Your Resumé Soon
Gary North
This is always a good idea. In a bad economy, it’s crucial. . . . keep reading

Get Expert Career Advice for Under $1.00 (2009).
Gary North
In a multitude of counselors, there is safety, says the Proverbs. Counselors are cheaper than you think. . . . keep reading

Career Plans

Gary North

If you have concrete plans, you will find it easier to reduce your debt. Make these plans concrete.

This will take you at least an hour if you do it correctly. Think through all aspects of your present career.

First, write down where you are today. Consider why your employer keeps you on the payroll. You must be clear about the benefits you sell to your employer. Your goal should be to add to these benefits. Replace one only by something more valuable to your employer. This is called a promotion.

The focus should be two-fold: benefits suppled and responsibilities accepted. You must be able to specify these. If you can’t, you are flying blind.

When you have written a numbered list of benefits/responsibilities, you will be in a position to add to both sides of each existing reference. Again, be specific. What will you provide in five years that you are not providing now? What new responsibilities will each benefit mandate?

Your goal is to provide ever more benefits by accepting ever more responsibilities. How much can you provide?

Focus on output. With respect to input, salary is the main one. How much more should you be paid? Here, you must guess. You don’t know what your competition will be. You are competing against other suppliers of these benefits.

When you have written down a detailed multi-part description of your career in five years, including such things as your own website, YouTube channel, and mailing list, you are ready to outline the steps you must take to reach these goals.

The steps list should probably be annual. At the end of each year, what is plausible? Be specific.

Review your mid-term plans annually — quarterly if you do not set up annual goals.

Family Plans

Gary North

If you have concrete plans, you will find it easier to reduce your debt. Make these plans concrete.

This will take you at least an hour if you do it correctly. Think through all aspects of your present tasks.

First, write down where you are today. How many children. Where they are in their development. Problem areas. Success areas.

When you have written a numbered list of successes and failures, you will be in a position to add to your successes and decreasing your failures. Be specific. What will you attain in five years that you have not attained yet? What new responsibilities can you take on?

Your goal is to increase your level of responsibility. How much can you take on?

When you have written down a detailed multi-part description of your family in five years, you are ready to outline the steps you must take to reach these goals.

Focus on time. Where will you get it? The allocation of time is crucial. This should be part of your short-term plans. But the overall estimation of time required must come here: planning for medium-term action.

How large a house will you need? What neighborhood?

What about your children’s education? Public schools? Christian schools? Home schooling? With home schooling, it is time vs. money, as usual. (The cheapest curriculum in terms of both time and money is here:

The steps list should probably be annual. At the end of each year, what is plausible? Be specific.

Review your mid-term plans annually — quarterly if you do not set up annual goals.

Personal Influence Plans

Gary North

Success is not easy to define. But this much is sure: it is something to be shared.

If you are working on your career goals and your family goals, you should be working on your personal influence goals. As you move ahead, you should be sharing your program with others.

This is the case with debt-free living. You should be recruiting new people to the program that delivered you.

Part of your success in getting out of debt will involve setting goals. Show others how to do this. Show them how to review and revise plans.

Who will listen to you? People you know. This means that you must go out of your way to get to know people. Are you doing this today? If not, why not?

What steps must you take to increase your circle of influence? Join a service club? Get involved in church activities? Start a blog?

You must share your strategy of success after you have attained success. But don’t wait until then to start networking. People will see your improvement. It’s like those before and after ads. They work because people can see improvement.

Don’t remain isolated.

You want to get a hearing. Identify target audiences now. Think through this question: “When it comes time for me to show others how to achieve success, who will listen? Why?

I suggest reading Nock’s essay, “Isaiah’s Job.” It is here.

You Should Set Goals for the Next Five Years. Review and Revise Them Annually.

Gary North

Your five-year goals should be governed by your lifetime plans. They should serve as stepping stones to your lifetime plans. This means that you must write down your lifetime plans before you begin working on mid-term plans.

With five years to get out of debt, you should be out of debt by the time you achieve this goal, except for your mortgage.

Still, to provide positive motivation, you need goals.

These plans are impermanent. They require annual revisions. I think January 1 is a good day to review and revise your plans. It is traditional. Don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Revise your plans instead: lifetime, five-year, and short-term. They should be consistent with each other. They should be realistic with respect you your circumstances.

I suggest using 5 by 8 note cards for specifics. Name the goal. Write down a sentence or two as to why you selected it. Then write down some specifics by which you will measure your success in a year.

When you have filled in all of the cards, sort them in order of priority: must do, may do, and could do. Put them in a box. You can also use a data base program to sort them, but this seems like overkill.

Personal Influence Plans
Gary North
If you are successful only in your career and your family, you have missed out on helping others to achieve what you have achieved. . . . keep reading
Family Plans
Gary North
Family planning must be comprehensive. . . . keep reading

Career Plans
Gary North
Write down where you want to be in your career in five years. This means that you must write down specifics. . . . keep reading

The 72-Hour Rule

Gary North

I used to hold small conventions of 250 paying attendees at $495 each. I made good money doing this. But I stopped. Why?

One reason was that I realized that people were not getting their money’s worth. Why not? The information was good. The presentations were motivational. Yet people would not take action.

Why not?

Procrastination. Fear of failure. Loss of enthusiasm. Lots of things.

After a lot of reading about reasons for non-starting, I began to see a pattern. A person is serious about making a major change for 72 hours. This is three days. After this, his enthusiasm cools. The tyranny of the urgent takes over. His normal routine takes over anything left over by the tyranny of the urgent.

This pattern has a name: the 72-hour rule. Here are some articles on it:

72-hour rule
Getting the most out of goals

The average person means well. He knows he must change. But he delays for 72 hours. That de-rails his plans.

I encourage you to decide today to a one step in your debt-reduction plan. Any step will do. Take it within 72 hours. Then take the next step within 72 hours.

Family Plans

Gary North

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

You must begin to set goals. Start with your lifetime goals. Then your mid-term goals on the path to your lifetime goals. Then set your one-year goals.

The three sets of goals are really one plan. But you must work toward your lifetime goals one day at a time.

You want to get out of debt. Good. You need motivation. To get out of sin should be your main one. To start fulfilling your goals is another.

What goals must you fulfill over the next 12 months that will enable you to fulfill 20% of your mid-term goals? This is your challenge.

Think about these areas of your life: debt, tithe, overall finances, career, family, education. How do these fit together in your life today? Haphazardly? You need to think through your goals. Get them organized in terms of your priorities.

Do you want to be out of debt, paying a tithe, and have a savings program one year from today? These are fine goals. Are they realistic? Will it take two years? Three?

Write down your one-year goals. Then write down what you must do to achieve each one. Be specific.

If you must plan month to month, do it. Or quarterly.

Write down the goals and your plan of action on a 5 by 8 note card. File it. Review it regularly. If you are not on schedule, modify the card’s plan of action.

Career Plans

Gary North

I assume that you have written down your personal five-year plan for your career. This will help you achieve it.

What goals can you identify that will provide evidence to you and your employer a year from now that you have moved ahead? You want each step in the process to reinforce the five-year plan.

These plans are service/responsibility plans. These are small steps that will move you closer to your mid-term goals.

Is a promotion possible? If not, why not?

Is a step in the stairway to promotion possible? What is it? How can you get authorized to take it? Do you need such authorization?

Does your employer offer training that will help you advance your career? Find out.

Can you increase your circle of influence? How?

Can you increase your level of expertise? How? Are there specific indicators that you have achieved this, for review purposes?

Time budgeting is crucial. You must find time to achieve each step.

Write down every step. Provide success indicators. Then review this four times a year.

Short-Term Goals Can Be Stand-Alone Goals or Goals Leading to Fulfilling Mid-Term Goals.

Gary North

Short-term goals must be consistent with mid-term goals and long-term goals, but they need not be steps in a stairway. They can be for stand-alone goals. A family vacation is such a goal.

In contrast, if you want to write a book, your short-term goals are cumulative. These are important for the achievement of a longer-term goal. These might include writing several chapters or starting a blog site that could later be used to create chapters.

These goals, like your other goals, should be written on 5 by 8 note cards. On the each card, write down why this goal is on the list. Also include measurable criteria for future evaluation. Review these cards four times a year.

The 72-Hour Deadline
Gary North
If you delay implementation of anything by over 72 hours, the odds are against you. . . . keep reading
Family Plans
Gary North
How are you doing as a parent? Spouse? How will you do better in three months? . . . keep reading

Career Plans
Gary North
What can you do better in a year? How? . . . keep reading