I met Brian Tracy for the first time when I hired him to speak at a company conference some years ago. I was shocked that his fee was considerably less than I expected. This man had written more than 60 books on everything from time management to sales to leadership and was in demand at the majority of Fortune 500 companies. When I asked him why he wasn’t charging more, he replied instantly, “I like to work!” His point being that he could charge more, but that would limit how often he could speak. At that point he had between six and eight bookings a week. Most professional speakers are proud to have that many gigs in a month.
Tracy was a high school dropout who chose a career in sales, which wasn’t going well. He decided to make a change that started with him writing down a goal of making $1000 a month in commissions. That was a king’s ransom at the time. Amazingly, he soon began to achieve this goal. This simple exercise taught him the power of goal setting that changed his life forever.
The process he describes begins with the simplest question: “What do you really want out of life?” Shockingly, most people have never really answered that question. The fact that the majority of the population will spend more time planning a two-week vacation than they will planning the rest of their existence says a lot about our culture.
The focus on what you want is part of the Earl Nightingale maxim, “You become what you think about most often.” This is a core principle in Tracy’s philosophy. He mentions it regularly and believes that thinking about what you want and how to get it will naturally result in you getting what you want. So carefully considering this question sets the groundwork for the rest of the process.
This is just the first of what Tracy refers to as “Six Questions to Uncover Your Potential.” The other five are:
- Which are the activities that make you happy?
- What’s the one thing you would change about your life?
- Are you a positive or negative person?
- Which things are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve your goals?
- What do you think is the first step you should take right now?
Exploring desired change and imagining the results these changes would create can be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Again, thinking about what you want is the first step to getting there. Tom Hopkins once stated, “Goals are the fuel in the fire of achievement.”
An unwritten goal is just a wish. There is a visceral connection between putting pen to paper and driving the goal into your subconscious mind. Tracy recommends a spiral notebook in which you record your top ten goals on a single page. The next morning, turn the page and re-write the list from memory. Repeat this process every day for the rest of your life. Once a goal is achieved, replace it with another. The result will be a concise set of goals rolling around in your subconscious all of the time. What will you think about most often?
The next segment revolves around “Six Questions to Rethink Your Present”:
- Which are your most important values?
- What do other people think about you?
- On which values do you base your relationships and your finances?
- What would you like to be if there were no obstacles?
- Write yourself a eulogy. Is there anything wrong with it? (Change it!)
- Which of the things that you’re doing is inconsistent with your values? (Change it!)
This section is designed to define your current state of being. Knowing where you are is equally as important as knowing where you want to be. Progress can only be measured if you have a starting point. The fourth question is my favorite. It can be restated as, “What could you achieve if you believed there was no chance of failure?” Powerful stuff.
So you have decided you are going to begin (or maybe begin again) to set goals. Tracy provides four more questions to help you out:
- What would you do if you learned you would die six months from now?
- If you suddenly won a million dollars, what’s the first thing you’d do?
- What would you do if you had no fear of doing it?
- What do you enjoy doing most?
Again, this should be a lot of fun. Take your time, dig deep, and scribble a bunch of thoughts and ideas. Then get your spiral binder ready and get started. Your future is waiting.