Goal setting and the law of attraction


He never said, “The Law of Attraction,” but when Earl Nightingale recorded “The Strangest Secret,” that’s what he was talking about. Throughout history, the phenomenon has been described in many ways, but they all mean the same thing: “We become (attract) what we think about.”

So if you think about money all the time, you should attract plenty of it, right? In theory. But in practice, when we think about money, we’re usually thinking about the fact that we don’t have enough, why we need it, and why it has eluded us. We’re not thinking about “more money” we’re thinking about the absence of more money and that’s exactly what we attract.

We attract what we think about. Think about wellness and you attract wellness. Think about illness (or, more properly, the absence of wellness), and you attract illness.

if this concept seems like “new age” folly to you, think about it in terms of what we know about the human brain.

Our subconscious mind cannot distinguish between reality and imagination. If you walk up to a closed door and hear the sound of a roaring lion on the other side of it, you will have a physiological response to that sound (fear, rapid heart rate, sweating, etc.) and you will hesitate to open that door. If you believe the lion is clawing his way through the door, your subconscious will inject adrenalin into your bloodstream and give you the urge to flee. It will direct more blood to your leg muscles to make that easier.

You will have the same response to the sound of the lion whether it is made by a real lion or a recording.

Your subconscious mind works to protect you and your perception of reality. Our nervous systems plays a role. In a previous post about “Why goal setting works,” I said that the Reticular Activating System (RAS) filters the stimuli around us, making us more aware of threats and opportunities.

If you think about getting more money, your subconscious, in conjunction with the RAS, helps you spot opportunities, wake up earlier, and remember to smile when you meet the right people. On the other hand, if think about your lack of money, your subconscious mind will guide you towards behavior that is consistent with that reality. You will find yourself missing opportunities, or sabotaging them.

What does this have to do with setting goals? Well, we are told that, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream,” so when we set goals, we are told to set a date for their accomplishment. The deadline starts the clock ticking and whenever we think about the goal, that ticking clock reminds us to get to work.

That sounds like the right idea, but in the context of the Law of Attraction (or it’s physiological equivalent), the impending deadline may actually cause us to attract the opposite of what we want.

Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say your goal is to earn an additional $50,000 in the next 12 months. If you believe that this is possible and you have the resources and plan to accomplish this, fine. But too often we set goals that are out of our reach and instead of rising to the occasion, we fail to accomplish them.

You start thinking about why your goal is difficult to achieve. You think about all of the things that could go wrong. You might think, “I don’t have enough time,” “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” or “I’m not going to be able to do this by myself.” You’re not thinking about reaching your goal, you’re thinking about not reaching your goal, and “not reaching it” is what you attract.

In setting my own goals over the years, I’ve found that “what” and “why” are more important than “how” and “when”. When I think about what I want and why I want it, it feels good. As long as I stay with that feeling, I move forward. When I think about how I’m going to accomplish my goal, or when, those good feelings often dissipate.

So, should we set our goals low enough that we’ll be assured of achieving them? No. It may feel good to accomplish them, but if the bar is too low you won’t be accomplishing much. The answer is to set goals that you really want, but not let yourself get caught up in their achievement. Today I focus more on what I want and less on how I’m going to get it. I don’t get hung up on deadlines. I trust that my subconscious mind will take me where I want to go and that I’ll get there at the right time.

I let my feelings guide me. If what I’m thinking feels good, I keep going. If it doesn’t, I change what I’m doing or I change my thoughts.

Some say this is God’s hand at work. Others stick with the physiological explanation. Some say the Law of Attraction is the answer. I don’t know how it works. I just know that when I listen to my instincts, I’m almost always guided in the right direction.

I still have goals. But I don’t let my goals get in the way of my dreams.

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Designing the perfect legal career


In Steven Covey’s, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” habit 2 is, “Begin with the end in mind“. Determine your destination before you begin so you wind up where you want to go. Covey says, “If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.”

So, where do you want to go in your career?

I assume you want to be successful. Well, what does success look like for you?

Take some time today to answer this question:

“If my practice/career/job were perfect in every way, what would it look like?”

Write down your answer. Here are some additional questions to help you clarify your “destination”:

  • Where would you be living?
  • Who would you work for?
  • What kind of office would you have or would you work from home?
  • How many hours would you work?
  • What services would you offer?
  • How much would you charge?
  • How much would you earn per month or per year?
  • What kinds of clients would you work with?
  • How many people would you employ?
  • What systems or tools would you use?
  • What makes you different from other attorneys?

Once you’ve got something on paper, take a step back and look at what you wrote. Did you write what you think you should be doing based on where you are right now or did you turn on your dream machine and “go for it”?

Forget logic for a few minutes. Quiet the adult in you and let the little kid speak. Ask your inner genie to grant you three wishes.

No rules. No restrictions. No responsibilities. What does your perfect career (or life) look like?

It’s your career, after all, your journey. Where do you want to wind up?


Instead of setting goals this year. . .


goal settingDo you like setting goals? I never have, although I’ve set plenty of them. I been a goal-setter for most of my life. I’ve studied goal setting, trained and written articles on goal setting, and know quite about the right and wrong ways to go about it.

After all, goal setting is a key to success, isn’t it? “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will know when you get there?”–that sort of thing. So every year, I set aside time to write my goals for the coming year.

But I never liked it.

I never liked the chore of crafting the right goal. Too many variables.

I never liked the deadlines for reaching those goals. Too much pressure.

And I never liked not reaching my goals. Too much disappointment.

Looking back at decades of goal setting, I can honestly say that formal goal setting has not helped me achieve more, or made my life any better. It’s only made me anxious.

That’s not to say I don’t have goals, I do. I know what I want and I like thinking about it and working towards it. I like achieving those goals and setting new ones. No, goals are a good thing and I’m not giving up on them. What I am questioning is the efficacy of the formal goal setting process.

I know many people who have been successful using a formal process. Maybe they’re built differently. Maybe they thrive when the pressure is on and the days are counting down. Me? Not so much.

So instead of setting formal goals this coming year, with specific details and deadlines and metrics and such, I’m going to be much more relaxed about everything. I know what I want to do this year, or at least the direction I want to go, and I’m going to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking in that direction.

How will I know when I get there? I don’t know, I might not, and that’s just fine. Because the goal really isn’t the point. What’s important is being happy, and as long as there is a smile on my face, I know I’m doing  just fine.


The surprising truth about written goals


I was at a presentation last night. The speaker cited the now infamous 1953 Yale University goal setting study which conclusively proved that having written goals dramatically increases the likelihood of achieving them. I was familiar with the study and made a note to post it on this blog:

In 1953, researchers surveyed Yale’s graduating seniors to determine how many of them had specific, written goals for their future. The answer: 3%. Twenty years later, researchers polled the surviving members of the Class of 1953 — and found that the 3% with goals had accumulated more personal financial wealth than the other 97% of the class combined.

Amazing, isn’t it? The only problem is it’s not true. The study never took place.

Okay, that’s disappointing but it doesn’t matter, everyone knows that written goals are important, right?

A few minutes with my Uncle Google found a different study that purports to prove the hypothesis of the fictional one. In this study, the researcher found that,

. . .people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

I’m no scientist, but I don’t think this is dispositive of the issue. For one thing, they didn’t test a group who agreed to be accountable to a friend and provide weekly updates but who did not have written goals.

In the early 1920s, Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich, et. al.) conducted exhaustive interviews with 500 of the most successful men of his day. Hill concluded unequivocally that written goals were a key factor in their success and articulated a six-step process for creating them. These include putting them in writing and reading them aloud twice a day. But was it the writing of their goals that made their achievement more likely or was this simply a common trait among these highly driven individuals who would have achieved their goals anyway?

Here’s what I think. I think the value of a written goal isn’t in the written document itself (or in the continual reading of it) but in the process of thinking about and choosing the goal. As you spend time thinking about what you want and what you don’t want, as you winnow down the multitude of possible goals, you go through a process that leads to clarity. Clarity leads to focus, and focus leads to making decisions and engaging in activities that are consistent with achieving the goal.

Simply put, if you know what you want and you continually focus on it, you are more likely to get it. Putting the goal in writing isn’t necessary.

In fact, putting a goal in writing might actually make it harder to achieve.

How often have you chosen a goal only to later realize that it was not what you really wanted. It might have been your parents’ goal or a goal you thought you should be aiming for, but in reality, it wasn’t what you really wanted. If you write and stay focused on a goal that you don’t really want, you’ll either achieve it and be unsatisfied, or not achieve it and wonder why goal setting doesn’t work for you.

Goals should be flexible, not engraved in stone (or on paper). They are a starting point; only sometimes are they your true destination. Feel free to change your goals, written or otherwise, if they no longer serve you.

How do you know if you chose the right goal? That’s simple. When you think about it, how do you feel? Your feelings will tell you, unfailingly, whether it is or is not something you really want.

Be honest with yourself about how you feel and trust your feelings. If you don’t feel good when you think about a goal, or if you don’t feel good enough, don’t try to change how you feel, change the goal. It might need only a small change–the due date perhaps or the amount of money sought–or you might need to choose a completely different goal–but choose a goal that feels good when you think about it.

The answer is inside you. Put it on paper if you want.


Every law firm must manage only these three things


John Jantsch’s post today is about the three things every business must manage: Purpose, Projects, and Process:

  • Purpose: create and tell the story about why the business does what it does.
  • Projects: create actions steps and assemble resources to fulfill the business purpose.
  • Process: implement the action steps.

These three functions obviously apply to every attorney and law firm. However, while we all need to manage purpose, projects, and process, we’re not all in the same business (practice area).

A few years ago, I wrote a post, “The Three Things That Matter Most,” about finding and focusing on the essence of what you do. The three things that matter most for you are the “twenty percent” activities that deliver eighty percent of your (desired) results. When you focus on these three things, you can eliminate (delegate) or curtail everything else, freeing you to do more of your “twenty percent” activities, getting more results.

If you want to earn more and work less, you must focus on the things that matter most. Therefore, once you know and are prepared to articulate your purpose, take the time to reflect on what matters most in your practice before you create any projects or engage in the process of fulfilling that purpose.


Register for this free goal setting webinar and achieve your goals in 2011


“Most people fail to achieve the goals they set,” my mentor and personal coach David Byrd told a group of 2000 entrepreneurs over the weekend. You probably already knew that. But do you know why?

The first part of the answer is that they don’t know how to set goals in the first place.

Should you choose goals that are so easy you know you will accomplish them? Well, if you do that, you’ll feel good about accomplishing a lot of goals but you won’t see much growth. So how about choosing huge, lofty goals you will probably never accomplish? Is that the answer?

I used to think so. For years, I set goals I never came close to achieving. Year after year I would set the same goals and year after year, fail to accomplish them. It was discouraging and eventually, I lost interest in goal setting.

Now, things are different. I know how to set goals that are both inspiring and achievable and I am achieving them. But not just because I know how to set them properly. You also need a system for goal achievement.

On Wednesday, January 19, I’m hosting a webinar featuring David Byrd who will teach you how to set goals and achieve goals. You’ll learn a system he has used for more than thirty years working with professionals, executives, and business owners, as an executive leadership coach.

The webinar is 100% free and I promise you will learn a lot that you can use to achieve more in 2011.

Click here for details and to register.


The cure for the overworked and overwhelmed attorney–part two


So it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back to work. If you’re like most attorneys, you’re excited about all of the plans you’ve made for the future but feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to do. You’ve got “too many”.

  • Too many articles and blog posts to read (not to mention the books piled up on your shelf (or floor) and in your Kindle or iPad
  • Too many people to call, letters to write, lunches to attend
  • Too many projects you’ve been putting off but promised yourself (spouse, partner) you will (finally) do
  • Too many continuing education seminars you don’t have time for but must do because your compliance group is “due” (guilty)
  • Too many commitments you’ve made that you know you can’t possibly keep

And let’s not forget your legal work. You know, the stuff that actually gets you paid.

In a previous post, I wrote about how I dramatically cut my work hours (and stress) by delegating. If you’ve ever emptied a closet or a desk drawer, all that empty space feels good but you know it won’t last. It’s only a matter of time before that closet or drawer is once again filled to overflowing. Once you get good at delegating as much as possible and have more time available, it’s the same thing: you find more and more things to fill your time and before you know it, once again, you’re overwhelmed.

I’ve still got “too many”. I have a backlog of hundreds of articles I need to read and I’ve bookmarked so many web sites to visit my head is spinning. I glance at the updates in my Twitter stream and wonder how I could possibly read even a fraction of the tweets that go past me, let alone follow up on the relevant ones, let alone connect with the people who sent them.

I think it’s safe to say we all have “too many”. So how do we avoid being overwhelmed?

First, take a deep breath. Exhale. Once more. Now, repeat after me, “I can’t do it all, I will never get everything done, and that’s okay.”

None of us will ever get it all done. We’ll never read all those articles or complete all those projects. There’s too much and there will always be more and the first thing we need to do is acknowledge that we’ll never get it all done AND THAT’S OKAY.

So relax.

The key to success and a well-lived life  isn’t doing everything, it’s doing the most important things. It is the 80/20 principle: a few things matter, most everything else doesn’t; the ones that matter are the ones that produce most of your results. Focus on doing a few important things, and don’t worry about the rest.

Success comes from achievement, not from being busy.

About a year ago, I started working with David Byrd, an executive coach, who helped me get clear about what I wanted to accomplish. He taught me the value of being driven by vision–my vision of the future I want to create–instead of being driven by circumstances. The idea is to start with the end in mind and then set goals that are consistent with that vision. In doing so, we cut through the clutter of “too many” possibilities and focus on the most important ones. The system gives me a place to come back to whenever I find myself wandering. WhenI feel overwhelmed or losing clarity about what to do next, I revisit my vision and my goals and I’m back on track.

David Byrd also taught me a system for achieving my goals. I plan each month so that my activities (projects, actions, etc.) move me forward towards my goals. I also plan each day. As a result, I always know what I need to do.

In short, the system helps me put one foot in front of the other and continually move forward towards my destination. I don’t get distracted by all of the side roads or billboards.

So, as we begin a new year, have you chosen your most important goals? Have you put them on paper? And do you have a plan for achieving them?

If you are driven by vision, have goals that support that vision and a plan for achieving them, you’ll have clarity about what to do and what you can let go of. You’ll be empowered, not overwhelmed. And you’ll be excited because you know where you’re going and you have a map that will get you there.

On January 19, Mr. Byrd will be conducting a free goal-setting webinar for my subscribers. Please join us. Register here for this free webinar and make 2011 your best year ever.


How to achieve your New Year’s Resolution in 59 Seconds


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Are you pursuing your dreams like Paul Potts did?


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