Where to Look When Setting Goals Makes a Difference
I grew up on my uncle’s dairy cattle ranch in Northern California. We lived in a 100-year old “hired hand” house that did not have level floors, or paint, or insulation. But it did have an artesian well…and rats. We were poor, but happy.
The horse barn had old rusty tools and the milking barn had hay. The long gravel driveway was lined with trees, some apple trees, and there were fields of tall, tall grass. My brothers and I had to be creative to find “toys” or fun things to do. Such memories. But I’ll refrain from reflecting. Telling about everything we came up with just might put a new wrinkle on “dysfunctional.”
Being the older brother, I guess I was the ring leader when it came to coming up with creative ideas of play, and I loved to build forts. I got my cousins and brothers to help me build all sorts of forts. We used bailing rope to wrap around branches in the trees to make tree forts. We made forts with rooms out of the hay bales in the barn. One time we even made a tunnel to climb through to access our hay fort. But these hay forts never held our attention long. The hay was made out of field grass that had a lot of stickers in it.
The beginning of summer was a fun time since the fields had a lot of new growth at that time. Every year we would create an underworld in the grass in the orchard. Since the grass was tall enough and we were short enough, we could trample down sections for “grass forts.” We’d make trails to crawl through to the next opening, which was nothing more than a large trampled down grass section. At crawling level, you couldn’t see over the grass so this fun game became our own world of trails, and places to sit, and places to meet and talk and have fun. We had a name for each large trampled down section.
One day, I wanted to divide the orchard in two with a central trail that would eventually lead to a bunch of side trails and grass forts. I started on one side of the field and trampled down grass as I walked to the other side. But when I looked back the trail was very crooked; zigzagged really. I went to another starting point and tried again. Same result.
My dad saw me. “What are you doing, Billy?” I told him.
Nodding, he said, “Come here.” He took me to a starting point and said, “See that fence post over there?” “Yes,” I replied. “Don’t look at your feet, Billy,” he said. “Keep your eye on that fence post, “and your trail will be straight.” At the age of seven I experienced the third Law of Achievement. It worked – perfectly
There are five Laws of Achievement. Each law is engaged when you attempt to achieve anything. The third law is the Law of Waymarks which has to do with direction. It says, “Direction comes from internal response to external input.” The waymarks, the places along the way, are places to stop and determine what your next step will be. And your next step depends on your response to what you’re looking at. This is the law of waymarks in action and it does make a difference where you look.
If you’re looking at your waymark, you have a very small frame of reference. If this is the only place you look, it is ripe for making potential mistakes that can keep you from reaching your goal. If you are looking at the current moment, the current crisis, the current interruption, the current difficulty – this narrow focal point, and your internal response about it, will drive your next step. This step, then, becomes a reaction to the moment, and this reaction could actually take you off course; way off course. This is not unlike the scenario of making a quarter-inch mistake in the direction of a missile launch when it leaves its pad. That small mistake can make the missile miss its mark by miles.
When you set a goal, it’s important to calibrate by the goal not the waymark. If you look at your feet, you’ll be calibrating by your feet and that can give you a zigzag journey which wastes time, energy and resources. Calibrating by the fence post keeps you on track. If you want to reach your goal, always reach your goal, at each waymark do these three things:
- Consider the waymark and take the data as input, not judgment. Realize that this waymark is only input. There is no judgment or criticism about you as a person, your performance, or your choices. Naturally, your previous choices along with what life has thrown at you have brought you to this waymark, but it’s still only input. If you succumb to feelings of defeat, helplessness or failure you become stuck at this waymark. This is true if you’ve been blown off course by external forces or you made an unfortunate choice. This place, this waymark, is still only input. You will never hear a GPS unit tell you where you are then add the words – “you idiot” or even “well done.” It’s just input!
- Re-calibrate your direction by your goal. After you consider the input of the waymark, no matter where you are, be it closer to your goal or farther away from it due to some unfortunate circumstances, re-calibrate by the goal. The more you can focus on the fence post the more you can make a straight line of progress toward it. Never react to the moment. Always respond with an eye on the goal. The rule here is to consider the waymark but calibrate by the goal. Briefly, look at your feet, but focus on the fence post. Then, and only then, do you take your next step.
- Maintain a positive attitude. There is no such thing as failure. You can zig and you can zag all over the place due to external forces or elements that are outside your control. But you cannot fail at getting to your goal if you keep your eye on it and make every step, every course correction, every decision; all based on your goal-calibration.
This is how you work with the third law of achievement and not against it. Since the third Law of Achievement says your internal response to external input determines your next step, then YOU choose your internal response and your external input. Your internal response should be to objectively receive input from the waymark as to where you are in relation to your goal. Your external input is a quick considering of the waymark, then a focus on the goal – then you make the decision about your next step. You do this and you can’t fail.
So, what is your fence post? Choose it, and then choose your focal point. It does make a difference where you look.