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How to Find Success and Happiness: The Importance of Having a Vision and Setting Goals

I am a graduate of engineering who enjoys writing, public speaking and motivating people to be the best they can be.


The most astoundingly bizarre story I have ever stumbled upon is that of an American farmer's chicken, dubbed Mike the Headless Chicken, that lived for 18 months after having its head severed! As a student of science, I know that this happened by rare, complete chance: the cut somehow managed to occur at the right place to leave parts of the animal's brain responsible for controlling vital life's functions intact, but that is not what I intend driving home.

What really struck me, and from which I derived vital life's lessons, was how the macabre episode illustrated what it really means to run around like a headless chicken; it resonated with me as a classic example of how to exist without actually living.

Although it was not dead, the lobotomised bird was bereft of every sense of purpose; confined in a pathetic state of utter helplessness for the rest of its life. As expected, it could only move around crazily without any bearing. Moreover, it had to be fed with liquid food dropped directly into its oesophagus, while its throat had to be cleared of mucus to prevent suffocation. In fact, it was the laxity in performing this duty by the poor bird’s owner that led to its eventual death.

Be a Visionary and Goal Setter: Don’t Live Like a Headless Chicken

As a human, God designed you to live; don't just exist. With no iota of offence intended, I make bold to posit that to live without clearly defined vision and goals is tantamount to living like that headless chicken. Such a life is in a rudderless state; entirely devoid of purpose and direction, which are the main drivers of the motivation to conduct one's affairs in such a way and manner that will culminate in happiness and success.

To achieve something worthwhile or extraordinary with your life, you must have a concrete vision. In other words, you must form a mental picture of the type of life you would like to have or the trajectory you would like your life to assume. Once you have conceived a vision, the very first step to bringing it to fruition is to set clearly defined goals. According to Tony Robins, a renowned life and business strategist, ‘Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.’ Aspiring to success and happiness is a lofty vision that is akin to embarking on a journey; goals are what you must achieve–the milestones that must be reached–for you to get to your envisaged destination.

Dream Big; Set Well-Defined, Realistic Goals

Some examples of goals include creating family harmony; to develop better conflict resolution skills; volunteering at a charity fundraising; to become a professional such as a doctor or high school science teacher; to become an entrepreneur and job creator; to lose 1 kg of weight every week; to wake up early for work every day; to get straight A's in a semester; to spend more time with family and friends; to become a better spouse; to raise successful children; to break into the sparsely populated world of billionaires; to be a better, selfless leader; the list is endless.

You shouldn't have just any goals on your bucket list; they have to be good goals. One of the cardinal traits of a good goal is that it's achievable or realistic. Goals that are far removed from reality amount to mere wishful thinking; it will avail you nothing. It's thus important that you tailor your goals to reflect all pertinent constraints or limits, such as availability of funds, time, skills, talent, environment, health, etc.

Admittedly, it's good to dream big. But you should by no means allow it to disconnect you from reality. Thinking big, in practical terms, entails taking cognizance of one's limits and working one's way around them. The late American statesman and former President Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.’ Setting unrealistic goals is antithetical to success and happiness: it breeds, among other things, frustration, failure, heartache, unmitigated disaster, desperation, criminal mindset, incompetence, social ills and loss of credibility.

For instance, planning to become an engineer when one's maths skills are irredeemably bad will lead to no success. Moreover, planning to start up a business that requires a humongous budget is of no immediate benefit to one who is just eking out a meagre living. One's goal should be, in the latter case, to start small with what one has, and work one's way gradually to the top.

You Don’t Have to Lose Your Humanity to Achieve Success and Happiness

Another important fact to embrace with all seriousness on your life's journey is that setting illegal and morally unsound goals will most likely get you into serious trouble, instead of helping you to attain the ideal life you crave. It's, in fact, a sure way of screwing up one's own life and bringing shame and distress on one's family and friends. For example, planning to kill, whatever the reason, could be the very first step towards being incarcerated for the long haul or the dreadful inevitable appointment with the executioner. And when one begins to flirt with the idea of earning a living by some obnoxious means, such as defrauding people or engaging in prostitution, one could well be laying the groundwork for a bleak, miserable future in which one's bad decisions would come back to hunt one with dreadful fury.

Although short-term imperatives could make the immoral and criminal path strikingly alluring and seemingly the surest and easiest to tread, but, as enunciated earlier, it will backfire in the long run. You should, therefore, as a matter of principle, never allow your desires, however compelling, to stifle or squeeze the space for good values like patience, discipline, hard work, courage, optimism, dependability, delayed gratification, empathy, concern for others, compassion, etc.

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Make Life Exciting With Some Weird Goals

Moreover, it's worth remembering that you have got only one life to live. This undeniable fact makes it a good idea to explore life beyond the sombre plane by spicing up your life with some weird, exciting goals. Since what counts as exciting depends on personality, some exhilarating experiences, for me, will be travelling to space in my lifetime; being a philanthropist extraordinaire; travelling the world with my family in a car; taking hilarious pictures, such as the one in which I will carry my wife on a bicycle; having a degree in both engineering and medicine; and managing to survive in this digital age without a smart phone.

That said, you should avoid weird goals that will add no value to your life. A goal like ‘I would like to get a tattoo of my lover's name’ or ‘I would like to swim in a crocodile-infested river’ or ‘I want to have my face done to look like a cat’ or ‘I want to marry my ghost friend’ or ‘I want to slap the President in order to become famous’ is not only ludicrous, ridiculous and hazardous but also verging on foolhardiness and insanity.

Goals of the aforementioned sort are characterised by serious pitfalls and profound consequences. What happens when a relationship unravels? Who will employ one who looks like a weirdo or psycho? How do you conduct business with one who claims to be married to a ghost? What if one gets killed?

For example, on a fateful day in 1991, a Nigerian prophet named Daniel Abodunrin, in a daring bid to replicate the biblical story of Daniel, sneaked into the lions' enclosure in the University Zoological Garden, Ibadan. He was mauled to death. In a similar case of bravado, a French tailor and inventor named Franz Reichelt was so confident of the efficacy of the wearable parachute he invented that he jumped off the Eiffel Tower to test it. But, unfortunately, his invention failed him, as it failed to deploy. He plummeted 57 metres to his untimely demise.

Prioritise Your Goals

Furthermore, in order to boost your chances of success, it’s imperative to get your priorities right by focusing on the most important things of life. This will help you to avoid setting goals that conflict with what should normally be your primary pursuit. Misplacing one's priorities amounts to a serious distraction; it takes one off course, preventing one from focusing on goals that have the greatest positive impact on one's life. For example, a student should aspire to achieve academic success by working hard to pass examinations and other course requirements. But once they are lost in distractions such as technology, relationship and social activities, their academic pursuit could become greatly hampered; failing to culminate in anticipated success.

Structure Your Goals into Manageable Bits

That said, it's pertinent to point out that attempting to take many steps at a time could make a goal overwhelming and unattainable. For this reason, learn to take one step at a time, and you will discover that goals are much easier to accomplish when broken or structured into manageable bits.

One way of structuring a goal into tractable pieces is to devote some time to it every day until it's accomplished. For example, as a Christian, I have always aspired to build up myself spiritually in order to explore the world beyond the terrestrial plane. For this, I have set myself a task: to pray frequently and read a portion the Bible every day.Besides, a goal can be made more workable by breaking it down into actionable steps or milestones. Consider, for example, some of the various steps I took in order to accomplish my dream of studying abroad, which, I suppose, should serve as a guideline for anyone nursing the same ambition:

  • I set myself the goal of studying abroad tuition-free in a country that has a long-standing reputation for qualitative education.
  • I searched the Internet for a country that would best meet my set criteria.
  • I chose a specific country.
  • I chose a specific university.
  • I checked the application guidelines on the school's website.
  • I handed in my application.
  • I checked the requirements for student visa.
  • I applied for student visa.
  • I travelled abroad after obtaining my visa.
  • I enrolled at the university.

Thirdly, no matter how daunting or humongous a goal or task is, it can be accomplished if one does a bit of it consistently. This is analogous to forging: it requires several strikes of a hammer to forge a metal, with each strike forming a small dent until a work piece eventually assumes a desired shape.

To write a book of any length, for instance, one only needs to pen as many words as possible at a stretch and keep at it until the project is done. Moreover, to pass an examination with flying colours, one needs to start preparing way ahead by studying the materials to be assessed in bits. Leaving it too late and trying to learn too many things at a stretch will take one to less depth than required to succeed.

Set Deadline

In conclusion, it's important to set the deadline for achieving your goal. This promotes success and happiness by helping you to remain focused and motivated, measure your progress, keep a project on track, enhance your time management skills, push requisite actions, meet pertinent expectations, and make deliverables as at when due. Without a set deadline, there is the danger that tardiness and procrastination will confine a project in the pipeline forever.

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