A Goal Without A Date Is Just a Dream

My grandpa Jim (my mom’s dad) was full of witty quotes and one-liners.  Anyone who ever knew him can tell you just how much he loved to tell a joke or tease someone or make someone laugh.  He was also an avid card player and a pretty decent cook as I remember.

One time Grandpa Jim was driving my buddy Curt and I to school.  Curt and I were discussing our school project.  We had to write a paper together on the best way to set goals and achieve them.  Without so much as a second’s pause Grandpa Jim blurted out a simple and profound quote that has stuck with me ever since, “A goal without a date is just a dream”.

What a great quote!  I had no idea who originally said it until recently, but I loved it and it has stuck with me for decades.  Turns out the originator of that quote was a man known as  Dr. Milton H. Erickson.  Dr. Erickson was a psychiatrist and the founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis.  Sounds like he’s a pretty smart fella if you ask me.

Grandpa Jim continued driving Curt and me to school for the next several weeks.  Each day Grandpa Jim would prod us about the paper we were writing together.  He asked us to set goals.  He said, “If you’re writing about goals, maybe you should consider setting some?” and “Have you set a date for this or that yet?”   The experience really stuck with me.

My grandpa was a great man in my mind, but never before had he taken an interest in my school work.  Our rides to school were usually just filled with old man humor like “pull my finger” or something else just as corny.  LOL

So what is it about this quote that still sticks with me today?

I think it stuck with me for a couple reasons… 1) a grandpa taking an interest in what a child was doing is a big thing and 2) it was profound!  It cut through me like a knife. Its teaching was so incredibly clear.  I could see the value of it instantly.

But seeing the value of it and living by its instructions have been a different story throughout my life.  Oh sure, I’ve set goals and achieved them.  But I have to admit, when it comes to setting a date on my personal goals it has been a real strain over the years.

This morning Ranae and I had a discussion about a couple of our goals and where we stand with regards to our life plan that we both agreed to when we got married.  Suffice it to say, we are revamping our goal list effective immediately (that’s a date!) and going to do our best to move towards them in a more decisive manner.

smart goal setting conceptBack in school, Curt and I found another tidbit that has stuck with me for all these years too.  It’s called “SMART” Goal Setting.  You can see the meaning of the acronym on the chalkboard to the left of this text, but I would like to take a brief moment to talk about each letter.

SPECIFIC Your goal must be clear and well defined.  Vague goals are unhelpful and next to impossible to achieve.  Define precisely what you want to achieve or how will you know when you have achieved it?

MEASURABLE Be as precise as possible.  If you’re trying to lose weight, for instance, then write precisely how many pounds you want to shed.  If your goal is to “reduce spending” it’s much harder than if you write it as “reduce spending by $200 per month”. If you can’t measure something then how can you possibly celebrate the victory?

ATTAINABLE Why set a goal that you can’t possibly attain?  I like to take this step a little further too but making this letter mean “attainable in the next 30 days”, but longer range planning is ok.  Just make sure you can indeed attain your goal or don’t set it as a goal at all.

RELEVANT Goals should coincide with your life choices.  Some people would say life choices are merely bigger goals and that may be true.  Either way, setting a goal for something that just isn’t you is a mistake and rarely reachable.

TIME-BOUND Like Grandpa Jim and Dr. Erickson always said, “A goal without a date is just a dream”  If you don’t set a deadline, your sense of urgency will fail you and it will almost always take longer to reach your goals.

If you need help measuring the amount of time you have put toward your goals, I highly suggest you read one of my previous blog posts A Simple Notebook Makes All The Difference

I sure miss Grandpa Jim, but his teachings have made a big impact on me.  Maybe someday I will write a blog post about the proper way to make Carp dough bait or the best way to mow a lawn and the Lord knows I could write about the game of Pitch.



4 thoughts on “A Goal Without A Date Is Just a Dream

  1. Very wise Grandfather. I remember very clearly a life teaching my mother gave me. One of these days I will have to send it to you. It took place in our Jr High years! lol.. very nicely written and I will be using this logic wisely now!! thanks Vern!

  2. We spent an entire afternoon going over the definitiion of a S.M.A.R.T. goal one of the years I was on the Board of Directors of MSBA. I think the “measurable” aspect is the one I often don’t apply! I tend to make my goals a little too vague….it’s easier to procrastinate that way! 🙂

    Good blog, Vern!

  3. Howdy!

    I actually teach a two-hour class on goals and goal setting. We use SMART goals all the time. It has become my yardstick of how serious people are about their goals.

    Good stuff!

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