“Goals without a plan are just dreams” What is a Goal?
A goal is pretty easy to define. It is something we want to achieve. For example a goal might be; to get an A in class or become a state champion in a sport. Goals are great and they are very important in any pursuit within our lives. A life without goals is like going down a river without a paddle, you may go somewhere but you ultimately are just going with the flow. Now, there’s a big difference between setting a goal and making the plan for the achievement of that goal. There’s also a difference between some goals being more like desires or preferences. While some goals are a mission, a part of who you are. At Centurion Wrestling Club I teach that goals must not be preferences but a mission. We don’t “want” to be anything, we don’t “want” to achieve anything. Those are preferences, those are just wishful thinking. We “WILL” achieve our missions in life. We “WILL” succeed now, or in the future.
Knowing your Mission and making steps to achieve it:
As with many things in life there are many ways to go about setting your missions in life. Goals have a plethora of acronyms and structures for writing them down and memorizing them. Prime examples that are likely the most popular are S.M.A.R.T and B.H.A.G. Lets start with what S.M.A.R.T means; Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely. Now, I’ll admit I am not the biggest fan of this system, it’s a little bit more likely to lowball a mission, specifically that “Realistic” part. Everything is impossible until someone does it. When British runner Roger Bannister became the first person to break the four minute mile, running 3 minutes and 59 seconds, 46 days later another person broke his record. I myself have witnessed a sub 4 minute mile in person and it is something special. But had Bannister listened to someone to “be realistic” he may have not been the first person to run that fast, thus opening the door for others. Another example of why I dislike this framework is “Attainable” similar to “Realistic” I hate that this makes it seem like goals should only be something others have done. Despite being amateurs and knowing little about engineering, having no funding, and basically a million reasons to fail the Wright Brothers were able to make a plane fly before anyone else in human history. Like “Realistic” I believe that “Attainable” makes this framework a bit too short sited. Now lets go to the other side of the coin, B.H.A.G.
What is B.H.A.G? Good question, it means Big Hairy Audacious Goals. First coined by Jim Collins, the legendary author of the business book Good to Great. Collins created this framework mostly with businesses in mind but it can also apply to individuals as well. The purpose of the B.H.A.G framework is to create a goal, or vision, so ambitious it’s borderline unachievable. For example, a B.H.A.G goal for a company like Amazon when it was first founded was to “Compete with Walmart.” Now, obviously when Amazon was only selling books online it was barely competing with Barnes and Nobles let alone the biggest store in the world. But now, Amazon is a dominate force in just about every way. That B.H.A.G would seem like just another Tuesday at Amazon now. Now, I love the idea behind B.H.A.G more than S.M.A.R.T because I feel that it is actually more relatable to achieving a goal. It is better to shoot for the moon because if you miss you still land amongst the stars. Big Hairy Audacious Goals have their place in setting your mission, just as S.M.A.R.T goals do as well. But lets elaborate on the difference between a goal and a mission.
Maybe Statement vs. Mission Statement:
When I teach athletes to write down their missions I teach them to write them down as definite statements. As if they have already happened, an example “I am the 2022 State Champion” rather than ” I want to win the 2022 State Championships.” The first mission statement is definite, it inspires belief, actions towards that goal as if you have already done it. The second statement is a “maybe statement” because you use “want to” or any other word that makes it seem possible but not certain. “Maybe I’ll workout, maybe I’ll be rich, maybe I’ll find the love my life” etcetera, etcetera. When you leave room for chance; when you leave room for the possibilities of not achieving your mission, you invite failure to the party. When a company has a mission statement they are stating something definite that they will achieve. For example here is most of our mission statement at Centurion: “Our mission statement is simple, to make all of our athletes better in every way we can. Beginning with becoming better wrestlers, forging them into better leaders, and ultimately the best version of themselves they can be. Success on the mat is assured when you focus on success for life. “ Notice we don’t say we “want to make them better” We say we “make” and we give specifics as to what ways we want to make them better. This is our mission, there’s no room for “maybe” in a mission. We don’t set goals at Centurion, we set out on a mission! That said, sometimes missions fail. But as I stated in Centurion Mindset: Win or Get Better we don’t lose; we win or get better. We don’t fail missions, we regroup and plan to achieve it!
Mission failure does not exist, learn the lesson and restart the mission!
US Navy SEALs are some of the best trained and well armed military units in the world. They are some of my favorite people to learn from because they are just so different than anything in life. Unlike athletes these men operate in some of the most deadly environments in the world. What makes them special is how tough they train, they make training more punishing than some actual combat scenarios, testing their bodies and their minds. They have very high success rates on any missions they conduct, prime example, killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011. But they also experience failures as well. In one of the first stories in perhaps one of my favorite books of all time, “Extreme Ownership” by Former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, he illustrates the point of accepting responsibilities for failure, learning the lessons, and making sure it doesn’t happen again. In one of his first days in one of the most dangerous cities in the Iraqi conflict one of Jocko’s units had a friendly fire incident. In the military, especially in special operations, this is a near career death sentence for the commanding officers. However, not for Jocko. For Jocko it was a lesson, their mission failed, they lost an Iraqi soldier to friendly fire. Jocko had a million and one reasons he could’ve deflected blame on others, a lot of factors led to the incident after all. But rather than do so, he took extreme ownership of the situation and claimed responsibility. This action saved his career and earned him a tremendous amount of respect, but it was also an important lesson for him, and one he passes on to this day in his content. But what’s the point of this story you ask? That even the best, most elite warriors in the world fail a mission sometimes. However, we must not let failure define us, we must not let it cripple us. We must take the failure and learn from it, get stronger, and come back harder. Failing in the gym makes us stronger, failing in life makes us successful.
In setting missions for our lives we have to be deliberate. It is okay to set high goals, to undertake difficult missions, if we are deliberate in our reasoning for it. If one of my missions in life is to become wealthy there needs to be a deliberate reason behind it; “I will become wealthy to allow my family to live a life of wonderful experiences and change the lives of others around me.” In this statement I have a mission, but I have reasons, “WHYS”, for the mission. Understanding why a mission, or goal, is something you want to complete is just as important as the actual completion. However, sometimes you will fail these missions. If my mission as a wrestler is to win 25 matches this season, and I get hurt and miss some time and prevent myself from being able to achieve that mission, I may consider that “failure” but if my “WHY” for achieving that mission was strong, such as “I will win 25 matches because I want to help my team win dual meets” I can still complete part of that mission by helping my team to win the duals I compete in. Last year I helped coach a kid at Super 32, one of the toughest pre-season wrestling tournaments in the country. He was eager to prove he is one of the best in the nation, however, he *ONLY* took 6th place out of a bracket of nearly 120+ of the toughest kids in the country. He was distraught because he wanted, and believed he is one of the best. In talking to him after the match I explained that his other goals were still on the table, to be a NJ state champion was a mission he could still complete. He said that winning NJ States was a given, it was something he had never done before but he believed he would. He did go on to win his state title that same year, dominating all opponents in his way. Now, I don’t coach him regularly but I can tell that he took the lessons he learned at Super 32 and made sure that he was successful on his next mission. He is one of the pound for pound best wrestlers in the state now and likely a favorite to win a Super 32 title this year! There is no failure, there’s only lessons to be learned, and the next mission to complete!
The Importance of writing down your “Mission Statements”:
Having a goal, a mission, is great. Having it sit in your head and drive you to work hard and do all you can to achieve it is great. But, writing it down, putting it somewhere you will see it, dream about it, and visualize it every day is the best thing you can do. Goals with a purpose are goals that will be achieved and if you don’t write them down they don’t have a purpose. They are just thoughts, memories until you commit them to written form. In writing down your mission statements as I previously stated, you must be deliberate! They can not be “maybe statements” they are certain, like you have already achieved them! An example of a good Mission Statement for a wrestler might be this: “My mission is that I will be the 2022 New Jersey State Champion, I will become the champion through hard work and dedication as well as great habits in training, school, and life in general. I will become a champion to help earn a scholarship to college to better my life and opportunities for my family and myself. I am the 2022 New Jersey State Champion.” The affirmation of the mission twice, at the start, and at the end, combined with the “WHYs” and “HOWs” are what make this a powerful mission statement. HOWEVER! Knowing this statement, and writing it down make it two different things. My teammate at Penn State Nico Megaludis his senior year had “I am the 2016 125lbs National Champion” taped to his steering wheel all year. See the picture of it:
Now, his goal statement is a little different than the one I gave but that was more of a reminder of his goal than the actual full visualization of it. But you can see how specific he was, the city “NYC” the arena “MSG” these specifications made it real. That is one way to write a reminder of your mission down. But for your actual Mission Statements you should write down the mission as if you have already achieved it. You will write down WHY you will, and HOW you will. Additionally, you may write this in different forms to remind yourself in different ways. Write the mission statements in a notebook or journal, and then put the main statement on a post it note you hang on your mirror. If you mission statement is my previous example, add in some details but keep it simple. Mimic Nico’s reminder. If my mission is to be the 2022 NJ State Champion, I will put that, and my weight, and the location on a notecard and copy that a few times, putting it all over my room, my locker, wherever I need to to make that mission purposeful and to remind myself to take the steps towards its completion. I write down my own mission statements at least once every week, to reinforce my actions to complete the steps towards mission accomplishment. That said, some will suggest writing them down daily, I don’t think it’s super necessary as the missions tend to be the same, but it is also good to have daily missions to write down.
I try to have three minor missions to earn some W’s each day. This might be as simple as eating three meals and reading 20 pages in a book. Small wins over time add up. Eating three good meals a day leads to me having a good workout, which leads to me getting stronger, which means I can progressively lift more next time. All that lifting might be used to one day lift something heavy off of someone, and those three meals that day that formed a habit of eating well created that. 20 pages of a book a day is 7,300 pages a year, the average length of a nonfiction book is around 250 pages, so that’s nearly 30 books a year. The point? Small goals add up too.
Mission Accomplished, Enjoy it, then ONTO THE NEXT!
If you have read this far than thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I hope that this post helps you, your son or daughter, the athletes you may coach, or maybe anyone you find might benefit from this information. I really enjoy writing these and helping in any way I possibly can. So if you enjoyed it please share the post with someone else who might learn something new!
When you accomplish your mission, remember the work it took to achieve it. Be grateful for the help you received along the way, help those who are chasing a similar mission! Be proud of what you have done, but more importantly look forward to all that you will continue to do! You are wonderful you are awesome, ENJOY IT! Love the moment, but know that there’s always the next mission. We are never finished, never final! When one mission is completed, we regroup and set course for the next mission. When we become the State Champ we become the National Champ too! Most importantly, WE WRITE THOSE MISSIONS DOWN! I hope you enjoyed the rambling, the anecdotes, and the shear utter nonsense at times. I am honored and grateful to have you reading this, you are awesome and I am damn proud of you! Be all you can be, do amazing things, and have fun chasing down your mission objectives! All the best -Coach Pat Higgins