BY JACK CANFIELD
What could you achieve if you created a major, life-changing goal, and then focused all your effort and actions on accomplishing it? Have you ever wondered what your life would look like if you achieved such a success breakthrough? Would you get a promotion, start a new career or double your income? Would you travel the world, retire early, start a charity or something else?
The good news is that everything you want is possible. In fact, much of what you can envision for your life has already been accomplished by other people whom you can follow and emulate.
So why doesn’t everyone achieve at the level of their dreams? Unfortunately, most people get stuck in their own comfort zone. They know that achieving a breakthrough goal requires learning new skills, having difficult conversations, and working in new ways. It requires them to become a more expanded and evolved person. Often times, they believe it’s simply easier to maintain the status quo.
Another reason people may be “stuck” is that the right opportunity, person or situation simply hasn’t become available yet. The perfect scenario or circumstances may not yet be ready for you.
That’s exactly what happened for me and my Chicken Soup for the Soul® coauthor, Mark Victor Hansen.
In the early 1990’s, we had very busy speaking careers and seminar companies. As we delivered our talks—and the inspiring stories they contained—audience members would approach us afterward asking if those stories were in a book somewhere.
“My daughter would love that story about the puppy,” I’d hear. “That story about the three pennies gave me goose bumps,” people would say. Mark and I knew these were stories that people wanted—heartwarming, uplifting, true stories—at a time when people were overwhelmed, hurting, tired and worn. As more and more people asked me about the stories, I hit upon the idea of compiling them into a book that would help heal the soul.
Unfortunately, anthologies of “feel-good” stories simply weren’t selling, we were told. After being rejected by 144 publishers, our literary agent gave the book back to us and wished us the best in pursuing another path.
Were we disappointed? Yes. But we were also committed to bringing Chicken Soup for the Soul® to market. We persevered. In fact, we decided to start pre-selling it ourselves at our speaking engagements and workshops. We thought that if we compiled enough pre-orders—at least 20,000 books, for example—we would look like a much better risk to a publisher. We asked our audiences to fill out a form with their name, contact information and the number of books they pledged to buy once Chicken Soup for the Soul® was published.
In the end, we decided to attend BookExpo America—the largest publishing tradeshow in North America—to talk with publishers in person. If we didn’t find a publisher, we told ourselves, we’d self-publish the book just to get these life changing stories into people’s hands.
On the last day of the trade show, we gave a copy of the manuscript to Peter Vegso, the cofounder of HCI Books in Florida, and showed him some of the completed forms representing nearly 20,000 pre-sold books. He agreed to read the manuscript on the flight home and wept at the poignancy, emotion and hopefulness of the people and lessons in the stories. It was the first book that had caused that reaction for him, and he immediately sent us a contract.
Getting a publishing deal for Chicken Soup for the Soul® and turning it into a bestseller was a major success breakthrough for Mark and me. It literally changed our lives forever. It took us from being known in a few narrow fields to being recognized internationally. It created greater demand for our audio programs, speeches, and seminars. The additional income it produced allowed us to improve our lifestyle, secure our retirement, hire more staff, take on more projects, and have a larger impact on the world.
So how can YOU create a similar success breakthrough in your own life? There’s a multi-step formula I recommend, and it starts with deciding what you want.
BREAKTHROUGH STEP 1: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT
One of the main reasons why most people don’t get what they want is they haven’t decided what that “want” is. They haven’t defined their goals—exactly—in clear and compelling detail. After all, how else can your mind know where to begin looking, seeing and hearing if you don’t give it specific and detailed goals to achieve?
Clarify Your Vision and Your Values
In just a moment, I’ll give you a powerful technique to help you decide what you want in vivid, colorful and compelling detail. But before using this technique to define the compelling life you want for yourself, you first must know what your priorities are. Priorities are “wants” that are personally important to you—not those you believe should be important or those you believe the world expects you to value—but what’s truly important to you from the deepest place in your heart.
Once you know your “wants,” you must also determine your core values. What kinds of activities and priorities are in alignment with your integrity? Which are outside your acceptable limits?
Think about it. You might “want” all the riches and material wealth that could come from selling illegal drugs, but you might find it very difficult to convince your mind and body of your enthusiasm, especially if breaking the law and contributing to broken lives went against your basic values. In fact, engaging in an activity you don’t agree with often causes low self-esteem, depression, despondency, even anger. So be sure that what you want matches your values and your life purpose.
Don’t Live Someone Else’s Dream
Be certain, too, that what you “want” isn’t someone else’s version of what you should want.
I once met an anesthesiologist who made $350,000 a year, but whose real dream was to work on cars. He had wanted to be a mechanic, but he knew his parents, both of whom were doctors, wouldn’t approve. My solution for him?
“Give yourself permission to buy a bunch of cars and then work on them on the weekends,” I said.
What the anesthesiologist wanted in his heart didn’t match his picture of what he and his family thought he should be. Unfortunately, the sad reality for most people is they simply aren’t honest with themselves. If they were, they would realize their “want to’s” are almost always bigger than their “shoulds.”
Make an “I Wants” List
One of the easiest ways to begin determining what you truly want is to ask a friend to help you make an “I Wants” list. Have the friend continually ask you, “What do you want?” for 10-15 minutes, while pausing to write down each answer and then again asking you, “What do you want?” You’ll find at first that your “wants” aren’t all that profound. In fact, most people usually hear themselves saying, I want a sports car. I want a big house on the ocean. But by the end of the 15-minute exercise, the real you begins to speak: I want people to love me. I want to fully express myself. I want to make a difference. I want to feel powerful—wants that are deeper expressions of your core values.
Is “Making a Living” Stopping You?
Of course, what often stops people from expressing their true desire is that they don’t think they can make a living doing what they love to do.
“What I love to do is hang out and talk with people,” you might say.
Well, Oprah Winfrey makes a living hanging out and talking with people. And my friend Diane Brause, who is an international tour director, makes a living hanging out and talking with people in some of the most exciting places in the world.
Another woman once told me that her favorite thing to do was to watch soap operas.
“How can I make a living watching soap operas?” she asked.
Fortunately, she discovered lots of other people loved watching soap operas, too, but often missed their favorite shows because they also had to go to work. Being very astute, she created a little magazine called Soap Opera Digest. Every week, she watched all the soap operas, cataloged the plots and wrote up little summaries, so that if a viewer missed their soap operas that week, they would know who got divorced from whom, who finally married the doctor, and so on. Now this woman makes a fortune watching and publishing information about soap operas.
See how it’s possible to make a great living doing what you want to do? You simply have to be willing to risk it.
Visualize What You Want
In addition to the “I Wants” list above, you can also decide what you want (and write it down) through visualizing it. Have a friend read the following exercise to you (or audio-record it yourself on your smartphone or on your computer in a slow, soothing voice, and then listen to it with your eyes closed). If you record it, be sure to pause for a minute in between each category so you’ll have time to write down your answers.
Begin by listening to some relaxing music and sitting quietly in a comfortable environment. Close your eyes. Then, begin visualizing your ideal life exactly as if you are living it.
1.First, visualize your ideal financial How much money do you have in your savings, how much do you make in income? What is your net worth? How is your cash flow?
Next, what does your home look like? Where is it? What color are the walls? Are there paintings hanging in the rooms? What do they look like? Walk through your perfect house visually putting in all of the details.
At this point, don’t worry about how you’ll get that house. Don’t sabotage yourself by saying, “I can’t live in Hawaii because I don’t make enough money.” Once you give your subconscious mind the picture, your mind will solve the “not enough money” challenge. Simply be honest with yourself about what you truly want.
Next, visualize driving your ideal car and any other possessions you want to own and enjoy.
Open your eyes and write down what you see, in as great a detail as possible. Or give your friend the exact details to jot down.
2. Next, visualize your ideal What are you doing in your career? Where are you working? With whom are you working? What kind of clients do you have? What is your compensation like? Is it your own business? Do you have partners? Staff?
3. Then, focus on your free time, your recreation time. What are you doing with your family and friends in the free time you’ve created for yourself? What hobbies are you pursuing? What kinds of vacations are you taking? How many times a year?
4. Next, visualize your body and your physical Are you strong, flexible, pain-free? Are you exercising regularly? Where and with whom? Are you playing sports? Running a 10K marathon?
Now focus on your ideal emotional and spiritual life. Are you free and open, relaxed, in an ecstatic state of joy all day long? Are you meditating, spending time in nature, and going on retreats? What does that aspect of your life look like?
5. Then move on to visualizing your relationships with your family and friends. What is your relationship with your primary partner like? What about the rest of your family? Who are your friends? What is the quality of your relationships with your friends? What do those friendships feel like? Are they loving, supportive, inspiring, empowering? How much time do you spend with your friends?
6. What about your personal growth and development? Do you see yourself going back to school, taking workshops and trainings, working with a coach, reading more books, taking online classes, seeking therapy for a past hurt, or growing spiritually?
7. Move on to the community you live in, the community you’ve When it’s ideal, what does it look like? What kinds of community activities are you participating in? What about your charitable work? What are you doing to help others and to make a difference? How often do you participate in these activities? Who are you helping?
Remember to take time to write down all the details of what you are imagining in your vision of your ideal life—either as you go along or all at once at the end.
BREAKTHROUGH STEP 2: SET GOALS
Once you’ve made your “I Wants” list and visualized your perfect life in the seven areas above, it’s time to refine them by making them measurable and targeted.
It’s time to set some goals for creating your success breakthrough.
Experts on the science of success know that the brain is a goal-seeking organism. Whatever goal you give to your subconscious mind, it will work night and day to achieve. To make sure a goal unleashes the power of your subconscious mind, it must be specific and measurable. In other words, a stated goal must include two criteria: how much (some measurable quantity such as pages, pounds, dollars or points) and by when (a specific time and date). Your goal must be stated in a way that you—or anyone else—would be able to measure it. For instance, if you say you want to lose 30 pounds by June 30th, you can step on the scale today, then again on June 30th and know for certain that you’ve achieved your goal—or not.
Where there is no deadline or basis for measurement, that goal is simply a good idea, a wish or a vague intention. And one of the best ways to guard against getting stuck at the level of simply having good ideas is to be very clear about a goal of something you want to be, do or have and write it down in clear and compelling detail—always adding how much and by when. If there is a certain house you want to own, write down its specifics in vivid colorful detail—its location, size, style, landscaping, furniture, artwork, and floor plan. Then provide a date by which you want to own it.
Create a Breakthrough Goal
Goal-setting is such an important step to becoming more successful, but unfortunately, most of the goals we set focus on small improvements to our life in the immediate future. Get the house painted. Finish my sales report. Clean the garage. Lose 20 pounds.
But what if instead you were to focus on a single goal that would amplify everything you do—from your career to your relationships to your income to your lifestyle?
Wouldn’t that be a goal worth pursuing with passion? Wouldn’t that be something to consistently focus some time on each and every day until you achieved it?
Think about it.
If you were an independent sales professional and knew you could get a better territory, a substantial bonus commission and maybe even a promotion once you landed a certain number of customers, wouldn’t you work day and night to achieve that goal?
And if you were the coach of a football team, whose typical strategy was to gain four yards on every play, what if your players instead worked toward completing a breakthrough 60-yard pass?
If you were a stay-at-home mom whose entire lifestyle and family finances would change by earning an extra $1,000 a month, wouldn’t you pursue every possible opportunity until you achieved that goal?
That’s what I mean by a breakthrough goal. Something that significantly changes your life, brings you new opportunities, gets you in front of the right people and expands every activity, relationship or group you’re involved in.
I call this kind of goal a Breakthrough Goal—a goal that will quantum leap your life and your results, and that will require you to grow to achieve it…and that can be achieved within one year from today.
Some breakthrough goals that my students and past clients have set are: write and publish a bestselling book, double my income, double the number of the people in my multi-level marketing company downline, get twenty new coaching clients, get my realtor’s license, get my MBA degree, learn Spanish, get my product sold on Amazon.com, have my own internet radio show, start a podcast, and hire an assistant.
BREAKTHROUGH STEP 3: TAKE ACTION
When Mark Victor Hansen and I published the first Chicken Soup for the Soul® book, we were so eager and committed to making it a bestseller. But candidly, we were overwhelmed by the many tasks and methods for promoting the book. We didn’t know where to start, plus we both had our speaking and seminar businesses to run.
We sought the advice of Ron Scolastico, a wonderful teacher and guide, who told us, “If you would go every day to a very large tree and take 5 swings at it with a very sharp ax, eventually, no matter how large the tree, it would have to come down.”
How very simple and how very true! Out of that we developed what is called The Rule of 5. This simply means that every day, you commit to doing 5 specific things that move you closer to completing your goal.
What might you accomplish if you were to do a little bit—five things— every day for the next 40 years toward the accomplishment of your goal? If you wrote 5 pages a day, that would add up to a total of 73,000 pages of text—or about 243 books. If you invested $5.00 a day at 6% interest, at the end of 40 years you’d have amassed a small fortune of $305,357.
Do your dreams for your life seem overwhelming, too?
A lot of people tell me, for example, that their dream is to own a house in Hawaii. While I’m excited for them, I also have to ask them to get clear about all of the steps they’ll have to take to get there.
You have to find out where the best locations are, decide which island, find out how much homes cost there, determine how much money you’ll need to save, research where you can get financing, furniture, any renovations or repairs needed…and on and on.
Once you break down your big goal into “bite-sized” pieces, you can begin accomplishing the small tasks that you’ve determined will lead to achieving your breakthrough goal.
Preparing to Move Forward Isn’t the Same as Taking Action Itself
Preparation, research, planning, getting it perfect—these are all areas where people get bogged down in the “take action” process. Don’t let that be your outcome. Practice The Rule of 5 and ensure that you consistently move forward a little bit each day.
BREAKTHROUGH STEP 4: CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES
Finally, once you do accomplish these steps—and especially when you accomplish your breakthrough goal—be sure to celebrate.
That’s right, have some fun!
Not only does celebrating help you acknowledge each success to your subconscious mind (which loves winning), as humans, we simply don’t feel complete until we’ve been acknowledged and recognized. That recognition is particularly important. For instance, if you spend weeks producing a report and your boss doesn’t acknowledge it, you feel incomplete. If you send someone a gift and they don’t acknowledge it, there’s this little incomplete taking up attention units inside of you. Our mind’s natural cycle needs to move to completion.
Of course, even more important than completing, the simple, enjoyable act of rewarding our successes causes our subconscious mind to say, “Hey, succeeding is cool. Every time we produce a success we get to go do something fun. Jack will buy us something we want or take us someplace neat. Let’s have more of these successes, so Jack will take us out to play.”
Rewarding yourself for your “wins” powerfully reinforces your subconscious mind’s desire to want to work harder. It’s just basic human nature.
Whatever you choose to do, be sure it’s fun, safe and nurturing. Don’t go out and get drunk, overeat or buy yourself something you can’t really afford yet.
As you start down your path to future success breakthroughs, my final advice to you is this: you have control over just three things in your life … the thoughts you think, the images you visualize and the actions you take. How you make the most of them determines the outcomes you experience in life.
If you don’t like what you are producing and experiencing, choose now to change your responses. Change your negative thoughts to positive ones. Change what you daydream about—only visualize what you want to happen, not what you don’t want to happen. If you don’t like the way people treat you, stand up and say something about it or spend your time with different people. Remember, nothing will change for the better until you change your thoughts, what you imagine, and your behavior (which includes what you do and the words you speak).
If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. In fact, if what you are currently doing was capable of producing the “more” that you are seeking in life, the “more” would have already shown up. If you want something different, you’re going to have to do something different!1
The day you begin to do that is the day your life will begin to change for the better.
- For more principles and techniques to create the ideal life you want, read The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer. (New York: William Morrow, 2015)